“Creative” is Not An Adjective (A Public Service Announcement for CDs)

By The Denver Egotist / /

Creative Directors, please, for the love of God, do not, I repeat, DO NOT, tell your copywriters to pen something more “creative.” It doesn’t help you – or me. And it does absolutely nothing for the client.

When I hear the word “creative” I envision an out-of-touch, in-house middle manager who would never admit that he himself doesn’t really understand the word and uses it as a way to say, “just make some shit up.”

Vagueness, by definition, is unfocused and imprecise. It won’t lead me to something more inspired. It won’t lead me anywhere.

How could the Cadbury Snapchat filter and experiential pop-up shop, courtesy of Elvis, have been created without the terms “happy-go-lucky,” “mischievous” or “kaleidoscopic?”

(Remember, “edgy” isn’t a great substitute for “creative” either. Don’t make it your default. Not all campaigns need to use the words “awesome”, “genius” or feature the belligerent playboy laughter of Will Ferrell. We can’t all be Jesters.)

Instead, tell your copywriters to write more like the way Jack Kerouac thinks. Or the way Willy Wonka speaks. Or the way the Gorillaz sound.

Know the etymology of the client and product. Get really, really, really close to the end user. (Like so close that you can smell their B.O.) Know their intuition and be their advocate.

And then guide your copywriters with specificity.

That is all.

Marly Beste is a senior copywriter and junior account planner who has served in-agency and in-house, creating standout customer experiences that drive loyalty. You could say she’s obsessed.


  1. Anonymous September 1, 2016

    I used to be told to make it
    I used to be told to make it more “writer-ly.” Sadly, I now know what he meant.

  2. Chris Maley September 1, 2016

    Thanks for writing this. It
    Thanks for writing this. It needs to be said more often.

  3. Jordan September 1, 2016

    OPEN ON:
    Applause. Standing

    OPEN ON:
    Applause. Standing ovation. The response is thunderous. One man, in the back, is clapping particularly loud. He is the most excited by this post. And he continues to applaud long after the rest of the crowd has returned to their seats. He thinks “Thank god someone has written down what he is always thinking.” He claps even harder.

  4. Anonymous September 2, 2016

    Hey Jordan, your comment was
    Hey Jordan, your comment was way over-written. Tone it done.

  5. Riposte September 2, 2016

    This is an interesting
    This is an interesting article (albeit from the VFX world, not the advertising world) where artists describe the best direction they ever received from a Director.


    The ability to visualize what you want, verbalize it to others in a way that they can understand, and help draw it out is what separates leaders from everyone else. Not everyone can make the leap from the visualize part to the second and third part… and that is okay.

  6. Marly September 2, 2016

    I thought it was awesome.
    I thought it was awesome. Thanks Jordan!

  7. Anonymous September 22, 2016

    You might consider adjusting
    You might consider adjusting your ego, and having a little more gratitude for the work, Marly.

  8. Anonymous September 22, 2016

    Written by a millennial with
    Written by a millennial with only a couple years of experience.

    Written to a general audience of people with decades of experience.

    Good luck getting hired after publishing that little ditty.

  9. Marly September 23, 2016

    Thanks for the comments.
    I am

    Thanks for the comments.

    I am truly appreciate for every opportunity I’ve been given. Regardless, I think it’s important to share experiences of inequity when encountered.

  10. Chris Maley September 23, 2016

    You rock, Marly.

    You rock, Marly.

    Thanks again for sharing. Ignore the dill-holes who write fearmongering statements but can’t attach their names to those statements.

    You’ll get hired by somebody who will say, “Thank goodness you’re cool. I just had to fire this dill-hole who spent all day posting anonymous bullshit on The Egotist instead of working.”

  11. Anonymous September 24, 2016

    Marley, honestly how many
    Marley, honestly how many CD’s have you worked for in your illustrious copywriting career? Funny how you have “clients” listed in your website– which you actually didn’t write a single creative word for. (Some of the clients you have listed were clients that my associates poured blood sweat and tears into.)

    Reading this rant, and the subsequent conversation is a perfect example of how ridiculous this industry is. “Egotist” is so fitting for this site. You people are all so full of yourselves.

    If you could step away from your ego, you would understand that stereotyping all creative directors (for an isolated incident with one or two CD’s you have had in your short career) is short-sighted on your part. It also demonstrates a stereotype that you probably hate–which is “millenials are entitled, lazy and self-centered.”

    For contrast, if someone like Jim Glynn were to write this same editorial, we would all have to respect his experience and clout in making such statements.

    But alas, someone like Jim would never write such nonsense because HE HAS PAID HIS DUES, and he would simply tell that CD that his direction sucked. (Not dragging Jim into this, just using him as a shining example of a “Sr. Writer” who successfully operates in truth.)

    Your “editorial” rant seemed to be nothing more than a passive-aggressive attack from an inexperienced aspiring professional–who would be wise to be more patient and humble about the career path you have chosen.

    A wise person doesn’t stereotype.
    A wise person is truthful, patient and direct.
    And most-importantly, a wise person knows that everyone knows everyone in this town and especially in this small creative community we work in.

    And a wise person never listens to Maley.
    No. Really.

    Take the advice or leave it.
    Best wishes to you.

  12. Anonymous September 25, 2016

    “Know the etymology of the
    “Know the etymology of the client and product. Get really, really, really close to the end user. (Like so close that you can smell their B.O.) Know their intuition and be their advocate.”

    That’s not just the job of the creative director. That’s also the job of a senior and mid-level writer.

    Experienced writers shouldn’t have to be spoon-fed from their CDs. They know who shops at Target and who shops at Nordstrom. They know who drives a Lexus and who drives a Jeep. They know how to connect and communicate to these audiences.

  13. Anonymous September 26, 2016

    After peeping her portfolio,
    After peeping her portfolio, all I could do was roll my eyes. Life tip for you Marly—all the truly “experienced” copywriters don’t have to make it their tagline. They let their work speak for itself.

  14. Anonymous September 26, 2016

    wow, you’re a petty douche.
    wow, you’re a petty douche. why not post your portfolio so we can make really stupid critiques about it.

    You’re part of the reason why everyone hates the people in our industry.

  15. Marly October 5, 2016

    Solid advice. I appreciate
    Solid advice. I appreciate the critiques – even the harsh ones. I’ll take this and run with it.

  16. Grant October 13, 2016

    People on the internet are
    People on the internet are angry about opinions. Go figure!

  17. Marie Ostarello December 9, 2016

    Funny, I read Marly’s article
    Funny, I read Marly’s article because I assumed it would literally be about “‘Creative’ is not an adjective.” The word “creative” in the agency world is a noun, as in “He’s a creative” or “Is the creative ready to show the client?” In over 20 years of ad agency experience in both Chicago and Denver/Boulder, I can honestly say I have never heard anyone say copy or design should be more “creative.” That would be redundant.

  18. Anonymous January 4, 2017

    Geez. If you are getting this
    Geez. If you are getting this kind of feedback, it means you need to look inward, not outward. This means, “you are so far off and I can’t believe how bland this is… I am not a writer and I am leaning on you and your expertise”. Those who excel in this world need to be reigned in, not pleaded with to make something interesting.

  19. MC Millennial MikeD September 6, 2018

    Please don’t mention JG in the same breath as MC Millenial Marls


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