What’s the Job?

Anne Saulnier vividly remembers her worst day on the job. Eight months after she’d recruited a junior creative team from an ad school, cutbacks made it necessary to eliminate their positions. Saulnier, svp, director of creative services at Publicis & Hal Riney in San Francisco, had to deliver the bad news. “I started crying,” she says. “And they were like, ‘It’s OK, we understand.’ What I’ve learned is to never cry. Because in a way, you’re in a position to change people’s lives for the better.”

Through bad times and good, making agency creative departments run seamlessly is the responsibility of the director of creative services—sometimes known as the creative services manager. The manager recruits, assembles creative teams, sets budgets and salaries, acts as a liaison between creatives and the rest of the agency and, last but not least, smooths creatives’ ruffled feathers.

“I am a disciplinarian, a psychiatrist, a cheerleader,” says Belinda Pruyne, 43, svp, global director of creative management at Grey, New York. “I have to be all things to all people.”

About 25 years ago, chief creative officers had a more managerial role, and creative services managers were rare. As agencies got larger and creative chiefs (to whom most creative services managers report) became more involved in executive functions, the job became more common. The responsibilities vary by agency: Some managers oversee print production, some broadcast, and some oversee all creative departments.

“We have a huge office, with 212 people,” says Nina DiSesa, chairman and chief creative officer at McCann-Erickson in New York. “There’s a lot of stuff I can’t do myself.” For assistance, DiSesa turns to Sallie Mars, svp, director of creative services. Mars was hired in 1998 in part because of her ability to relate to creatives. “You can’t force creative people to take advice,” DiSesa says. “You have to find someone who’s good at it, who can instill a kind of confidence.”

There’s no straightforward path to the job—managers can come from account services, traffic, even the administrative side of the agency. Paul Schulman, 54, evp, manager of creative resources at Saatchi & Saatchi in New York, was head of TV production before he moved to creative services. Mars, 41, began as an art buyer, and Saulnier, 42, was an account executive.

Consultant Susan Friedman says the salary for the job ranges from $45,000 to $200,000, depending on responsibility and experience. One recruiter estimates that a director of creative services at a major New York shop would earn between $100,000 and $150,000.

It takes a patient personality to manage creatives, and many managers are women. “Creatives can be frustrating; they require a lot of care,” Mars says. “They feel threatened. They’re judged directly by what comes out of their heads. That’s really scary. They do need a lot of nurturing.”

The best creative services managers are organized problem solvers who keep long-term goals in sight. “It’s hard not to get bogged down by day-to-day emergencies: ‘We need a team to do a print ad for Coke—get me somebody!’,” Mars says. “The challenge is to look at where the agency is going three to five years in the future and make sure that the staff is properly equipped.”

Recruiting is a major part of the job, so managers stay in touch with outside talent and screen portfolios. They also work with creative directors to put together teams.

“We’re the biggest marriage brokers in the industry,” says Schulman.

“It takes really delving into people’s personality,” says Mars. “You have to understand the circumstances in which they work best and find the right slot for them in the department.”

Most managers say they don’t mind that it is a position with no clear promotion route.

June Baloutine, 49, has been director of creative services at BBDO, New York, for 22 years. While her title has remained the same, her job has shifted from national work to a more global focus. “I’ve been able to keep it interesting,” she says. “If it stayed the same, I’d get bored.”

And although creative services managers may love working with creatives, not one said he or she would want to be a creative. “Whenever I look at a bad reel, I think, ‘If I was a creative, that would be mine, and I would have a terrible career,’ ” Mars says. “And here, I have a wonderful career.” —MAE ANDERSON