My good friend Paul, who heads up a brilliant ad agency in Toronto, emailed me that he's really a writer but started out as an art director because art directors don't work as hard. That tickled me.
I started out as a writer because I thought writers don't work as hard.
The truly hard part for both is coming up with the idea. The concept. Something that will get people to look at a product or service a whole new way. A mind-changer. That part isn't easy, and has been known to drive creative people into something more predictable, like brain surgery.
Then, once we have the idea and agree on it, I get to go back to my quiet office and write the copy for the ad or commercial. Meanwhile, the art director has to do the layout, the "comp" (comprehensive layout), choose the typeface, go somewhere to shoot the photo or work with the illustrator, prepare the ad for the publication, and check everything a hundred times.
By the time it's done, I've had days to sharpen my pencils, read magazines and the awards annuals, replenish my stock of Oreos and M&Ms, look at reels of directors who do TV commercials, check in with the art director to say "that looks great", and probably start work on another ad or commercial.
At various stages, the writer and the art director make the decisions together, but the principle is the same. The art director works while the writer walks around with a coffee cup, telling his peers about a movie he's just seen.
Don't get me wrong. Writing advertising isn't easy. It looks easy, but most ads are poorly written. If it seems easy, you're probably settling much too early or doing something superficial. Besides, writers have to walk around and drink coffee and talk about movies, to give their brains time to organize, prioritize, and click into gear.
I am in awe of art directors. They usually have the most difficult thing to do in all of advertising: get people's attention and interest them in a split second, because if he or she doesn't, all is lost.
No matter how sharp the writer's pencils are.