What all does it entail to be a chief creative officer? Our very own Harris Wilkinson shared his bright insights with Adweek –– read their CCO roundup here. Below, we asked Harris to elaborate.
What was it like to make the leap into the CCO role?
I was positive I was ready, until the floodgates opened and I immediately thought, “Holy crap, I’m gonna drown.” On top of that, the CCO role was new for TMA, so there was the added pressure of defining it, and making it work. But I was lucky — I had a lot of support from the agency and Omnicom, and everyone rallied around our creative-forward mission.
What dues did you have to pay to get into the role and how long did it take you to be elevated to CCO?
My path was anything but linear. I started as a copywriter in Chicago, then sold a screenplay to Universal, moved to LA, and spent years toggling between advertising and writing for film and TV. Six years ago, I joined TMA as a Group Creative Director with a mandate to improve our content and TV capabilities. Two years later I started leading creative on all new business pitches. It was a great training ground — I got to help improve the work across teams and brands, while also winning new clients. And of course, both of those things are my daily charge now.
What are the biggest challenges of being a CCO?
The first is scalability. We have 500+ people at TMA, and more than 120 creatives across our LA, NYC, Dallas, Chicago, and OC offices. I can’t join every single meeting, presentation, or production. But damn it, I wish I could.
The second is putting the pen down. Creative expression is, by definition, never really done, so you have to pick your battles. And sometimes you have to step back, to preserve your sanity and clear your mind.
What exactly does your job entail?
The short answer is I’m here to develop and defend big ideas. We work across so many different disciplines, but no matter what we’re making, the North Star always has to be the same — anchor your creative in a big idea, and it’ll shine.
Is it a rewarding role?
Headlines and big wins are great, but I bet the smaller moments will stick with me the most. Like when a junior team gets to produce their first campaign, or a client buys off on an experience we know has never been done before…that’s the stuff. We’re all in this to make things and put them out into the world, and helping it happen will never get old.
What do you hope to accomplish as CCO?
Let’s keep cynicism at bay and burn down the paradigms. Yeah, there are challenges and disappointments — I feel those, too — but we get paid to create commercial art and solve business riddles every single day. How lucky are we?
And I know when we translate that passion onto the page, TMA will become the single best agency in the world at creating cultural resonance for brands.