Lunch With A Creative Director

Recently the folks at the Lab asked me if I could shed light on the subject of what kind of self-promotion gets the attention of a Creative Director. Having been a Creative Director for some of the world’s most influential brands at some of the world’s most influential agencies, I felt capable of taking a crack at an answer. But then I felt you, the artist, deserved something even more thoughtful. So, I went to the source and sat down to lunch with an emailer, a direct mailer, and my landline phone at NYC’s Standard Hotel in the Meatpacking District. The names of their senders (and the number of my landline) will be kept anonymous. This is how our conversation went.

Edk: So, as far as self-promotion goes, it seems that time-after-time emails and direct mailers are the method of choice. Do you think that’s for good reason?

The landline rings. We ignore it.

Email: You know it. You can tweet your lunch and post every time you piss, but nowadays business gets done over email. I’ve been in your inbox, I know how many megabytes you churn through in a day.

Edk: Point taken. But, how do you stand out in that mosh pit? I mean, you’re vying for attention with my clients, producers, Art Buyers, account leads, staff…I have to read and respond to every one of those and it’s a time suck. Technically, I could just delete you and make my day shorter and easier.

Email: Yeah, and I suppose a lot of people do just that. But you don’t — and I suspect there are a lot of people out there like you kid.

Edk: And I’m like what, exactly?

Email: You’re an A-game player. Your ass is on the line every time you get in front of the client. Your life depends on hittin’ ‘em with one idea after another until you land that killer blow. You know that ideas come from anywhere and everywhere. Tell me I’m wrong. Plus, you need to know who’s out there and who can help you bring an idea to life exactly the way you sold it, or better. You don’t get good by sitting in a hole.

Edk: That’s good. I’m writing that one down.

Email: Plus, it’s human nature to be curious. A subject line with some cheek and some gut goes a long way.

The landline rings again. We ignore it again.

Dm: Pardon the intrusion, may I chime in here?

Edk: Please. How’s your lobster roll?

Dm: Lovely, thank you. Call me old-fashioned, but I still think people like receiving something artfully crafted, packaged, and personalized. It shows the artist cares about their work as much as you do yours. When a piece is done well, it’s admired and saved for future reference. Perhaps it’s even pinned to your office wall, positioned in such a way that when you swivel your Aeron just so it pops like a thought bubble come to life—truly bespeaking your genius and attesting to your appreciation for the finer things.

Edk: True, that does happen. But I also think you’re sucking up a little so that I get the check. Okay, unfortunately we have to wrap this up, I just saw my third “u around?” text. Any final word to the artists reading this right now?

Email: Test your message—no dead links, no broken images. Avoid spam filters ( and don’t send work that looks like stock.

Dm: Show your best work. Craft a memorable story. Avoid the trash bin and don’t be distasteful. Images of people flicking off the camera don’t certify that you’re “edgy.”

The landline rings…and rings. A busboy clears the table and takes the tip.

Ethan David Kent

15 years years ago ethan david kent (edk) began developing award-winning advertising work for clients seeking bold new ways to stand up and stand out. His early portfolio includes a cast of global leaders in automotive, CPG, fashion, finance, health, and consumer tech for which his contributions in design, copy, strategy, and user experience were highly lauded. To date he's created everything from award-winning mobile apps to groundbreaking social programs to multi-faceted cross-platform campaigns for J.P. Morgan, Chase, Central Park Conservancy, Kraft, the U.S. Olympic Committee, and others too numerous to mention. For six years he served as Executive Creative Director for the celebrated ad agency, mcgarrybowen. Today, he is creative-at-large for established and emerging companies who enjoy a little bit of awesome in every idea.

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