I am not Don Draper

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

With the advent of Mad Men, I get a lot of friends, family and clients asking me if my work life is anything like the wild, alcohol and nicotine fueled creative rage that they witness on cable.

And with confidence, I can say, "No. No it is not."

Don Draper drinks, smokes, curses and screws his way through his day, while I focus mostly on making sure I don't do any of those things—on purpose or by accident.

But while there are many difference's between Mr. Draper and myself, there are a few similarities:

We both get paid to think... and talk

Since the title of Creative Director is a nebulous concept to most, I think people struggle to understand what it is exactly that I do for a living. Hell, I struggled with it for years. But I have to give credit to Mad Men—and by proxy Don Draper—for bringing some clarity to my job description for the world at large. In the world of Mad Men, creative directors are "idea" men (and women). They create, nurture and bring visions to life. They guide their teams to develop, craft and build the best creative product they can muster. And when necessary, they roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty to get the job done. And when all that is said and done, they help the client understand why the work... works. That, my friends, is what I do for living.

We both have personal style

This one might be a stretch. I don't have new pressed dress shirts in a drawer in my office. I don't wear a tailored suit to work very often—okay, ever. I don't shave every day and my hair is never as quaffed as Don's. But I do—for the most part—take pride in my appearance. So that's close enough in my book.

We can both be a dick

Unlike Don Draper, I have never slapped a coworker or client; though, I would be lying if I didn't say there have been occasions where the thought has crossed my mind. And while the proverbial "buck" generally stops with the Creative Director, it still takes a lot of patience, compassion and wherewithal not to succumb to the urge to throw your team's work on the floor and stomp on it when it doesn't meet your expectations. Being a leader in a subjective industry can lead to a lot of frustration, long tedious conversations and painful compromise. Sometimes it is easier just to be blunt and cut to the chase, rather than debate opinions. My tantrums are rare, but when they happen they are legendary—or so I've been told.

We both have vices

Advertising and other creative industries have a long established and often revered affection for the phrase: "Work hard, play hard." And while I have been known to enjoy a quality bourbon, a fine tobacco product and on rare occasions other nefarious libations, I never allow these intoxicants to interfere with my work. I learned early in my career that I am never "more creative" while under the influence. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Let's all be honest for a moment; any ideas that come from a smoke-filled brainstorm are rarely very good, much less tasteful or actionable.

And in today's mind-numbing reality show fueled world, can any of us really afford for our IQs to drop any lower? Though with that said, I can't wait for my crystal cut decanter and matching glasses set to arrive from eBay. It is going to elevate the atmosphere in my office significantly.

About the author

Theo is an illustrator and filmmaker by design, a designer and copywriter by necessity, and his office is living proof that vintage tin toys and crystal skulls can live harmoniously with deer heads and silver emulsion photo cells.

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