Why Are Creatives Always Late?


There you are…sitting in a coffee shop, waiting to meet with your agency’s principal or creative director. 5 minutes. 10 minutes. 15 minutes! You think to yourself: “How rude! I can’t believe they’re late. I would NEVER be late for a meeting. This is so unprofessional.” Then, suddenly, they show up! Hair tousled and clothes slightly disheveled, but they are ready for their meeting with you. For the next 45 minutes, they dazzle your mind with amazing ideas for the next campaign and then rush off to their next meeting…already late!

Now, if you have read the above paragraph and are thinking to yourself “Yeah, so rude!” I’m guessing you’re an analytical. You are organized, prepared, and always show up early for your meetings. You cannot begin to fathom how or why someone could be late to a meeting or procrastinate working on a project. You might be thinking “It must be because I am Type A and my creative director is Type B.” But, this isn’t a Type A vs Type B issue. It’s something more complex and harder to explain.

Let’s see if I can sum it up in one sentence: Being creative is hard. Imagine going to Michelangelo’s studio with your piece of marble block that several other artists have failed to carve and saying: Ok, we’re on a deadline so I’m going to need that by the end of this week. He would have just laughed at you and said: No way! Not happening. Find someone else.

The reality of our business world is that we have analyticals managing creatives and they couldn’t be more different. An analytical, like an accountant, doesn’t necessarily need to eat, sleep, and dream taxes in order to put together a tax return. There is a defined order to their work. They find a box, they find a number, and they put the right number in the box. Of course, I am oversimplifying it, but in general…that’s how accounting works. Then, you proof your work to make sure that the correct number went into the correct place.

Now, imagine if you had to do your taxes as a creative. Not only do you need to put the right number in the right place, now you need to decide: how large is the number, what color is the number, what color is the box, how large is the box, is the box square or rectangle, how will the boxes and numbers go together, and you start with a completely BLANK sheet of paper. I would imagine it would take you a lot longer to do your taxes.

Therein lies the challenge for creatives. In this highly competitive, analytical-driven world that we live in, we are constantly expected to be creative “on demand.” I need that design by EOD tomorrow. But, but, but…I need at least a day or two to think about it before I can start designing that piece. Unrealistic expectations from the corporate world have forced creatives to be creative 24/7 and to perform their creative brainstorming process in the most unlikely places (hint: it’s not at work).

Which means…we’re daydreaming about that tradeshow booth design in the shower. We’re thinking about the color and imagery we want to use on the website while getting dressed. We forget to eat breakfast because we’re so concerned about how the messaging is not quite right on that print ad that’s going out today! And, we’re wondering how best to explain to our analytical client why the positioning they want to use on their collateral won’t work that we completely lose track of the time. The good news is: When we sit down to work on your project, when we finally get to work, the output is going to be amazing! The bad news is: Oops, we were just late for yet another meeting. And, we tried so hard to give ourselves an extra 15 minutes this time.

So, next time you set an unrealistic expectation for a deadline or grumble about how your creative director is always late for meetings, please remember: Being creative is hard! They just spent two hours that morning brainstorming and imagining so that when they met with you, they would wow you with an amazing concept that not only is going to achieve your marketing goals…but is also going to generate a lot of money for your business.

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