The creative code: an organisational influence on the creative process in advertising

Mark W. Stuhlfaut

University of Kentucky

Author’s note

Before entering the academy in 2002, I spent 27 years working in advertising agencies. Late in my professional career, I had an epiphany after joining an agency as a senior copywriter. To take the job, I had moved to a midwestern city from a major US advertising centre, and, during the development of a new campaign, I noticed my ideas about what was creative were out of step with those of the copywriters and art directors at the agency with whom I was competing on an assignment. I viewed their work as less relevant to the target audience and more reliant on visual gimmicks than I thought to be appropriate. Of course, this variance was my problem, because if I wished to remain employed, I needed to change my views to fit the culture of this new peer group. Such a realisation was the first time I had fully considered that it was not enough to create advertising that stood on its own merits or even on the approval of the creative director, client and target audience; I had to learn my peers’ creative code.