6 New Skills For Ad Creatives in 2024

By Tom Christmann, Executive Creative Director, Catch+Release

“I’m a creative in advertising.”

What a strange sentence. Advertising is the only industry that refers to a subset of its practitioners as “creatives”. That’s right. We’re not nouns. We’re adjectives. And, fittingly, we are often very strange people. You know, the Misfits. The Weirdos. The Round Pegs in the Square Holes. The “Crazy Ones” that Steve Jobs talked about in a commercial about “Think(ing) Different”. (Ad creatives actually wrote that for Steve, by the way. And if you know any of their names, then you are also a very strange person. And I’d like to be your friend on Linkedin.)

Yes, advertising creatives are strange people. They’re super curious. And their brains really do work different(ly) than others. They have an ability to connect more dots and tell better, simpler stories. But now, thanks to shrinking budgets and new technologies, the holding companies and big agencies are letting a lot of these strange people go. Which means there’s about to be a lot of new, strange things happening in the world. Because that’s what ad creatives do. They create.

In fact, ad creatives have been leaving their big agency benefactors behind and using their big creative brains to make big things happen for themselves for a few years now. Some are starting their own brands, like Andy Pearson of Liquid Death water. Some are starting their own shops, like ex-BBDO creative Greg Hahn’s Ad Agency of The Universe, Mischief. Some are building online ad schools, like ex-Wieden creative Jason Bagley is doing with The Audacious School of Astonishing Pursuits. Then there’s the online Freelancer Network Working Not Working, started by ad freelancers Justin Gignac and Adam Tompkins. Each one of these amazing creations only became possible when smart advertising creatives stopped giving their time to the agencies that used to be their only outlet and started creating for themselves.

But you don’t have to leave your agency and start an iconoclastic canned water company to level up your creative skills into something new. For example, I like to teach ad creatives to think in new ways like using content from the internet, whether that’s through influencers, affiliate marketing, or even licensing. When I first arrived here, I noticed that “content curation” was a creative skill that I hadn’t thought about. Gathering existing content to tell a story had always been part of my creative abilities, I just hadn’t noticed it before.

So I started thinking about the other skills that ad creatives could use to navigate the new advertising world. And I found 6 new creative jobs that I present here not as ways to escape the advertising industry, but as a way to reinvent yourself as a veteran creative thinker in 2024 and still tap into the things that make ad creatives so darn awesome. Here they are. But, remember, whatever you do, stay crazy.

1. Content Curator

As a Content Curator, you’re not just collecting content; you’re shaping the narrative of a brand across digital platforms. This role requires a keen eye for detail, an understanding of audience preferences, and the ability to forecast trends. Content Curators must sift through the vast amounts of information online, select the best content that resonates with their audience, and present it in an organized, engaging manner. Content curation can even be done from home.

2. Content Contributor

You don’t have to know how to dance or make memes to create content for social media. All you really need is a smartphone with a camera and a few apps. Social media personalities are the storytellers of the digital age. They use words, images, and videos to craft compelling narratives on TikTok, Linkedin, Instagram, X and everywhere else on the internet. This role requires versatility across various mediums and a deep understanding of how different types of content perform on different platforms. But you learn that as you go. If you can shoot a movie with your phone, you got this.

Honestly, for a creative in advertising, who is always curious and loves making things, this would be a dream job. And more and more brands are going directly to social media personalities for their content, which means you could make a lot of money, if you tell the right stories. Creativity is key, as is the ability to produce consistently high-quality material that stands out in a crowded digital landscape. If a brand wants to use the picture you took of your silly dog two weekends ago, you get paid.

3. Brand Journalist

Brand Journalists merge the investigative approach of traditional journalism with the strategic objectives of marketing, creating content that informs, educates, and entertains while subtly reinforcing the brand’s values. This requires not only excellent writing and storytelling skills but also a good grasp of the brand’s identity and the interests of its audience. These are skills that every good advertising creative has learned from day one. I found this cool guide to Brand Journalism on Hubspot. I love Hubspot.

4. Brand Evangelist

Brand Evangelists are the passionate voice of a brand, embodying its values and vision. They build and nurture relationships with the community, engaging with customers and fans across social platforms, events, and other channels. This role demands deep brand knowledge, excellent communication skills, and genuine enthusiasm for the brand’s mission. This is actually what I do as part of my day job, so if you have questions about it, feel free to contact me.

5. Online Community Manager

Online Community Managers foster vibrant communities around a brand or interest, facilitating conversations, sharing relevant content, and engaging with members. They’re pivotal in building brand loyalty, providing insights to the brand on community sentiment, and helping shape brand strategy based on community feedback. You could start an online community on YouTube or Reddit and monetize it once it grows to a healthy amount of subscribers. Or start a substack like Rob Schwartz did.

6. Social Media Manager

Social Media Managers strategize and implement campaigns across various platforms, aiming to increase engagement, build community, and drive marketing objectives. This means you need some skills of the content creator and the content curator and the brand journalist. You can practice easily by starting with your own social media. Tell stories that will get you freelance jobs. Make creating TikToks and Instagram stories and Linkedin posts part of your daily routine. Figure out what your audience responds to best. Learn to analyze performance data and build and tweak strategies. Learn to manage content calendars and stay up-to-date on platform algorithms and trends. Before you know it, you’ll be calling yourself a social media agency and then you could be bought by Omnicom. High five!

What about you?

How will your creative career change in the next 1, 5 or 10 years? What are you doing to prepare? What do you think will happen to the weirdos in advertising? Let us know in the comments or by sharing this article on social media.

Image: Alison Wu @alisonwu via C+R Creative Community.