For this post, something about me not on the “michael ratcliff” page. Below is a smattering of work and brief overview of my career for the past 20 years. With pictures!
June 2015 to current
Creative Director, Schlumberger Ltd.
While serving as Schlumberger’s Creative Director, I have been working on one of the toughest design assignments I have ever undertaken — organizational design. Keeping my staff motivated and managing project costs during the worst downturn in the oil & gas industry, perhaps ever, has been incredibly challenging. Through it all we have managed to find new ways to keep costs under control and do more with less, but also elevate the quality of the work. Our efforts into new channels that Schlumberger has historically not felt comfortable entering, such as LinkedIn, have yielded significant results.
January 2015 to May 2015
Schlumberger — Drilling Group Creative Director
My tenure as Group CD was short lived as I was promoted into the role of Creative Director after six months on the job. I managed a small staff of creative and web professionals who took pride in pushing the boundaries of Schlumberger’s marketing efforts. Notably we created a highly interactive multimedia experience that conveyed the complete integrated nature of the Drilling Group. This 4K experience launched at the IADC Show in London, but was designed to be scaled down to an iPad, thus making the content available to the greater sales organization.
November 2013 to December 2014
Schlumberger — Art Director, Drilling & Measurements
The CD who hired me away from PULSE told me he brought me in specifically to work on a new product launch that would change the world. I spent my first five months at Schlumberger laboring on a technology that would be named GeoSphere, a measurement tool that had depth of investigation into a reservoir deeper than anything else on the market. The launch was held in Abu Dhabi, included a multimedia presentation to combining live action and animated segments. The launch had unmatched success, with so much demand for the tools that they could not be manufactured fast enough.
June 2010 to October 2013
PULSE — Project Manager, Marketing Design
In my second week on the job at PULSE, the Dodd-Frank Act was announced, which included strong language heavily regulating the debit card industry. As a company we had to find new ways to help customers navigate these rough waters while increasing our shrinking market share. The effort became known as Debit Marketing Services. As part of the service, we would help financial institutions promote internally and externally the inherent benefits of Discover Debit, a prime offering from PULSE. We pitched and won our first account, Cadence Bank, and the Vice President said the tipping point for the decision to go with PULSE was the excellent marketing and graphic design we provided.
October 2008 to June 2010
Ratcliff Creative — Creative Director, Designer & Optimist
When the economy went south in 2008 and I lost my job, I thought I could go on
the dole or hang out my shingle and work for myself. It was fun and very hard work with long hours, but by the time I shut down in 2010 to get a full-time job I was servicing Shell, Emerson Process Systems, FMC and I worked extensively for a political consultant helping get candidates into office during the mid-terms. My favorite client was a small biotech that I named OpenAlgae. They were developing technology that extracted hydrocarbons from algae, thus creating a renewable energy alternative to conventional oil. The name worked so well because it was so descriptive of the action that took place as electricity was shot through the algae during the extraction process.
October 2006 to October 2008
Unleaded Communications — Creative Director
During my tenure as CD, I built the creative department at Unleaded from the ground up, and was recognized by the BMA as Agency of the Year for those two years. Our client based included oil & gas,engineering, industrial services and commercial power generation. My biggest achievement was for Aggreko, for whom I developed a brand and led a direct response campaign that shattered all previous sales records.
September 1999 to October 2006
Croxson Design — Associate Creative Director
It is hard to say what is the highlight of working at Croxson Design because Steve took care to have a small stable of clients that allowed us to do fantastic projects. Six annual reports for Cabot Oil & Gas? Creating the ad campaigns for Weatherford International? Maybe the book I designed that was given to the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia by ExxonMobil Chemical? I did some of the work I am most proud of while working for Steve, but after seven years I needed to stretch my wings.
September 1997 to August 1999
J. Walter Thompson — Art Director
I worked for a group in JWT that focused on B2B and recruitment advertising. Recruitment work, the red-headed stepchild of advertising, was fun because of the instant gratification you get from it. Creative brief on Monday, pitch the ad on Wednesday, ship it on Friday, run on Sunday, count resumes the following Wednesday. The most successful ad I have done to date was a campaign we launched for Compaq. When the first ad broke, Compaq received more than 2,000 resumes that first day, where historically they would receive less than 100. Crashing their server was one of my finest moments.
No one outside the advertising industry had ever heard of a Creative Director until Mad Men came out, than Don Draper became that iconic figure and suddenly the role became crystal clear. When I introduce myself as a CD people often ask me if I am like like Don. My stock reply is that we’re exactly alike but I don’t smoke. To know me is to understand the humour in that statement.
I would like to say that the job is all about 3 martini lunches, naps in the afternoon, brainstorming all night and all those things that sound so glamorous to young people in the business. It’s all about leadership.
Despite what you read here, I identify with Don Draper on many levels. Perhaps another post for another time.
It took me a while to understand what a CD actually is, though. For the longest time I thought the job was the next rung on a tall career ladder. Back in my days at Unleaded, I definitely had that mindset. I felt I had to be the quarterback, much like Don Draper, pushing myself and the team across the field to score. But that is hardly what the job is about, and a large part of what makes me laugh when I see some 25 year old telling me they are a CD. You’re barely out of diapers at that point kid; there’s no way you’re a leader.
The Creative Director is not the quarterback. Furthering the football analogy, the CD is actually the coach, and if you’re lucky you have a good solid quarterback working for you. Your role as CD is to get the team ready and set them in motion to score. (A little more irony: I don’t really like football that much, but like most sports, games often help tell stories.) Being the CD is all about putting the right people in the right place at the right time to achieve a goal. Sounds simple, but when you’re team is comprised of creative folks, here is where it gets interesting.
Simon Sinek said it best in the title of his book, “Leaders Eat Last”. That one sentiment captures the very essence of a Creative Director. There’s very few Don Drapers out there who swoop in to save the account, or be the mighty creative force who everyone relies on to win. Rather, if you’re doing your job right, you are often invisible because the machine is humming along smoothly. No one will see the inner workings. Or at least they shouldn’t, especially your boss. The downside is that you don’t get all the glory, and you will get the blame should things go south. It ain’t easy, but I find it all strangely rewarding.
My team entered 15 pieces into the BMA Houston Lantern Awards and eight were accepted into the show for the presentation on 16 Nov. I could not be more proud. The younger version of me would have been jealous. Most of my creative efforts this year are still on the proverbial cutting room floor, or buried deep on the archive drive never to see the light of day again. Not to say I did not do anything this year, that is just how the year shaped up. Instead, I look at the current environment of the oil and gas industry, which I’m in the middle of, and I see what my team was able to accomplish despite these challenging times. Let me reiterate: Put the right people in the right place in the right time. And defend them, shield them for outside forces. Give them the room to succeed. I’m lucky that I have some good quarterbacks, and running backs and linemen, etc. I had to do my job so that they could do theirs, and it worked.
That’s being a Creative Director.
For other’s insights into the job:
A primer on creative direction as compared to art direction and design… and what they all mean in a digital context.
How to be a great creative director
What qualities do you need to become a top creative director? Five leading creative directors offer their views.
Managing Designers on Two Different Tracks
FROM TRADITIONAL TO DIGITAL – THE MODERN CREATIVE DIRECTOR
The Power of Creative Cross Training: How Experimentation Creates Possibility
Pick up another creative habit and see your main hustle in a whole new way.
Creative Lives – the Lecture in Progress podcast exploring creative careers
Unlock Your Ideas With Mind Mapping In Just 3 Minutes
5 Top Designers On How To Create The Ultimate PowerPoint Presentation
Slide presentations usually suck—but a good designer can turn that around. Here are four tips for selling your ideas.
How Designers Get a Seat at the CEO Table
Our Q & A with Christopher Simmons, director of MINE, where we discuss how designers can go deeper than the creative brief.
How to Fix Design
Design leaders from across the world come together to figure out what the problems in the field of design are and provide the opening for solutions, which in turn give you a leg up on your career.
THE NO-PROCESS PROCESS
by Marty Neumeier
Digital Brand Unification
Building Brand Awareness: 3 Basics for Good Design
Taking Pattern Libraries To The Next Level
15 Mistakes That Are Sabotaging Your Content Marketing
6 Top Reasons Your Employees Are Not Creative at Work
Sometimes the dumbest rules can drive away the best employees.
Alex Schleifer: Designing the Perfect In-House Partnerships
Airbnb’s VP of Design on how to establish creative partnerships inside of a large company.
And for fun…
If Didot Were a Woman, She’d Be Audrey Hepburn
AN ART OF LOOPHOLES
How the French artist Philippe Parreno studiously avoids having ideas.