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Agencies Agency Culture What Do They Do All Day?

What does a creative exellence director do all day? Nord DDB’s Joel Ekstrand explains

By Joel Ekstrand, Creative excellence director

February 9, 2024 | 5 min read

As we continue our series demystifying the ad industry’s myriad job titles, we dig into the role of a creative excellence director.

Joel Ekstrand

/ Nord DDB

Tuesdays are probably the worst day of the week. They always begin with the realization that there are tons of things you should have done the day before but didn’t because it was Monday and you allowed yourself a lazy start after the weekend. This leads to regret because now it’s Tuesday and you’re stressed, realizing there are only four days left in the workweek and you’ll probably have to work over the weekend. Today, when writing this, happens to be a Tuesday and I had a client presentation for a new project that I’m leading creatively. After that, my day was primarily consumed by various check-ins and editing approvals. However, every day is different.

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When people ask about my job title, I can’t help thinking about a line delivered by the character Red in The Shawshank Redemption, portrayed by Morgan Freeman. ”It’s just a made-up word so that young folks like yourself can wear a suit and tie and have a job.” I don’t wear a suit, but I do have a job.

Honestly, I’ve never been particularly fond of the term ’creative excellence.’ It almost sounds a bit corny. So, when people outside the industry ask what I do for a living, I simply say I work in advertising.

I’ve been working as a creative excellence director for about a year now. Before that, I was a creative lead for various clients and projects. My responsibility is to create opportunities and provide guidance to achieve higher-quality work within the agency. Additionally, I work to foster a more creativity-driven culture, especially in terms of proactivity and idea generation.

To break it down, it’s about elevating big ideas that are likely to gain publicity or fame. Sometimes, an idea is merely a thought or an insight. Other times, it’s just a headline in a print ad or a new piece of technology. The key is to identify what’s good, make it great, amplify it and package it correctly. Essentially, it’s about raising the creative standard.

A combination of things led me to this role. I’ve always been driven by proactive ideas and have been working towards a more proactive culture in the agency at large. Alongside that, I have been award-focused and have always been pushing ideas to their utmost potential. This role, being relatively new, is tailored to a particular work style that aligns well with my approach.

The campaign ’Škoda Conversion Choir,’ which originated from a proactive sprint for the client that I led alongside my creative partner Petter Dixelius, serves as a great example to illustrate the role. The spot shows a children’s choir – the renowned Adolf Fredrik’s Music Classes, led by conductor Tony Margeta – surprising customers of rival car brands to encourage them to switch. We selected this idea for further development and collaborated closely with the creative team responsible for the initial concept, guiding it through to production. And it’s all about teamwork; I collaborate with people rather than manage them. However, I do assist many of our creatives in executing their work and maximizing the potential of their ideas. And hopefully, that is something that at least takes ideas closer to creative excellence, which is what I focus on all day, every day.

As told to Sam Bradley.

Agencies Agency Culture What Do They Do All Day?

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