Is Being a Celebrity the Only Qualification of a ‘Creative Director’?

For a time there, it seemed like every week a company was announcing their newest creative director. Instead of announcing some highly-qualified person who graduated from business school and has a Ph.D in consumer behavior or marketing, it was a celebrity. I don’t know about you, but I was under the impression that you had to be a celebrity in order to be a creative director, but turns out it’s just a myth.

Hopefully, this isn't the guy you hire to be your creative director!
Hopefully, this isn’t the guy you hire to be your creative director!

The next question I had after“who can be a creative director?” was “what does a creative director do?” For that question I had to do a little research. Turns out, this job isn’t as elusive or vague as it sounds. According to several job descriptions I found, someone in this role is the “go-to” person for all things visually representing a company’s identity. Every brand has a voice and this person is in charge of making sure the right voice is being used when it comes to talking to the public.

Of course a regular Joe or Jill Schmoe is able to do this job, and most of the time that’s how it’s done. But for some brands who really want to up their cool factor, a celebrity is the way to go. Why? Well, who wouldn’t want to buy a product or brand that their favorite celebrity is working for and attaching their name to? If it’s good enough for Mr. Timberlake or Miss Gaga, then maybe if I use their item I’ll be as cool as them?

Yes, it’s an elementary (or, rather, a high school) way of looking at it, but reality isn’t always perfect. What companies have scooped up the best talent for their creative director role? Keeping up with all the updates is a full-time position in itself, so here are the biggest celebrities (in no particular order) who have added “Creative Director” to their resume.

Justin Timberlake: Bud Light Platinum & MySpace

Timberlake has had a very busy year. He helped bring MySpace back from the brink of obsolescence it was heading toward (it would have ended up like cassettes and AOL CDs we received in the mail), he got married to the beautiful Jessica Biel, and was chosen to be Anheuser-Busch’s (AB InBev) newest creative director for their Bud Light Platinum brand. Not too shabby.

Why did AB InBev give this coveted position to Timberlake? Paul Chibe, vice-president of U.S. marketing at AB InBev said, “Justin Timberlake is one of the greatest creative minds in the entertainment industry, and his insights will help us further define Bud Light Platinum’s identity in the lifestyle space.” Makes sense. You want a younger and more hip demographic, then go after a young and hip celebrity — a.k.a. Justin Timberlake.

A rather dapper looking bottle of Bud Light Platinum
A rather dapper looking bottle of Bud Light Platinum, and his creative director is pretty dapper man, too!

Alicia Keys: BlackBerry

Yes, yes we can all pretty much belt out the lyrics to “Girl on Fire,” but can we name one of BlackBerry’s devices? If you said no, that’s exactly why they tapped Alicia Keys for the creative director role of their company. The Canadian tech giant has had some rough patches with consecutive quarters of losses and tumbling stock prices, so it’s no shock they went to this Grammy-award winning singer-songwriter.

It’s still up for debate whether they made the right decision hiring her, but we’ll leave that to the industry insiders to bicker back and forth with.

Alicia Keys on a BlackBerry that she's creative director for. Mind blown!
Alicia Keys on a BlackBerry that she’s creative director for. Mind blown!

Lady Gaga: Polaroid

Three years ago Polaroid announced a multi-year partnership with Lady Gaga to serve as their creative director for a line of specialty Polaroid Imaging products. In 2011 at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Gaga unveiled a portable photo printer, a pair of camera glasses, and a new instant camera. This pair seems to be a match in heaven; she is on the cutting edge of fashion and technology, and after Polaroid’s rather rough past they could use a heavy dose of cutting edge anything to stay afloat.

Miss Gaga in all her glory with her Polaroid Sunglasses on
Miss Gaga in all her glory with her Polaroid Sunglasses on

will.i.am: Intel

As a technology company, who would you trust as your “Director of Creative Innovation”? You would most likely want someone who uses technology with their day job and who has a huge fan following. Intel was looking for those two qualifications and found it with The Black Eyed Peas’ front man, will.i.am.

He not only has a passion for technology, but he’s able to engage his fans and Intel’s customers in one fell swoop. will.i.am collaborates with Intel with their laptops, smart phones, and tablets to bring “the ultimate experience” between entertainment and technology, according to Deborah Conrad, Intel vice president and chief marketing officer.

will.i.am seems to be working hard as creative director for Intel
will.i.am seems to be working hard as creative director for Intel

It’s not required that you be a celebrity in order to become a company’s creative director, but it certainly helps. Companies like it because it gets their name out there to entice their target market to give their brand a try and customers like it because it makes their decision for which company to consider easier, if being “cool” is a major concern.