Providing Warm Bodies For “The Most Insecure Business In Existence”

Fast Company interviewed Dany Lennon, president, of the Creative Register Inc. for their October issue. Lennon is a high profile recruiter who has recently placed Paul Silburn, executive creative director, Fallon North America; Dan Morales, creative director, TAXI NY; and Kevin Roddy, executive creative director, BBH.

Creatives managing creatives sounds like a nightmare. What kind of leaders are best at managing creative folks?
The most rewarding trait a leader can have, as far as I’m concerned, is the ability to hire people who are better than himself. It takes a huge person to be able to come to terms with that. I can usually get a good sense of this by asking a candidate what sort of structure he would devise for his creative department. I’m suspicious of people who are more fixated on hierarchies than the purest creative potential of the people who work for them.
Is the ad industry looking for a different type of creative person today than it was a few years ago?
Two years ago, clients would still call me and say, “I’m looking for a copywriter,” or “I’m looking for an art director.” Today, people are saying, “We want creatives, period.” I just got a call yesterday from an agency looking for an executive creative director, and they don’t care if the candidate has a background as a copywriter, art director, or designer. They want a visionary–someone who can see not only what’s happening now but what’s possible in the next 15 to 20 years. Someone who understands what’s beyond the 30-second commercial. Someone who understands participative media and that TV and the Internet are going to be the same thing.
What do you listen for when you interview potential candidates?
I’m very into the tone of the conversation. The words may be all the things I want to hear, but the tone is more revealing. If there’s a roller coaster of emotions going on, it’s usually a sign of insecurity, and I’ve got to say there isn’t a creative person out there who doesn’t suffer from that. The advertising world is the most insecure business in existence. But while some of our greatest leaders have fearful tempers and hotheaded natures, they’ve learned how to monitor and control them. Creativity in itself is temperamental, but leadership can’t afford to be so. For creative people to lead others, they have to learn to restrain themselves.

TV and internet are going to be the same thing? Really? Now, that’s news to me.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.