A chief creative officer (CCO) directs a company's creative output, developing the artistic design strategy that defines the company's brand. The person who holds this position typically exerts internal and external artistic control. Internally, he shapes the look and feel of his company's distinctive style. Externally, he controls the artistic vision and cohesiveness that is sold to clients.
CCOs, also called creative directors or lead designers, are typically employed by companies whose product is some type of artistic or creative output. Advertising firms will ordinarily have a chief creative officer instead of a generic head of marketing. Firms that specialize in marketing, such as an event marketer, will call the head of the creative staff a CCO. Functionally, these sorts of shops often divide their workforce into creative staff on one side and account management, sales, and operations on the other.
The chief creative officer in this sort of bifurcated system has significant authority and reports directly to the chief executive officer (CEO). In some instances, such as with smaller shops and firms that were started as partnerships, the CCO and the CEO manage jointly. The CCO handles everything artistic and the CEO handles everything else.
Functionally, the chief creative officer ensures the firm has a recognizable artistic style that distinguishes it from its competitors. He sets the standards for everything from the typeface to be used with the firm's marketing materials to the consistent application of the right colors for the firm's logos. Staff looks to him for guidance on everything from the design of the website to the decorations at the firm's press parties. The firm itself is treated as a product, and the CCO is the brand strategist.
The CCO also controls the artistic design of the product that is delivered to clients. He manages the staff's response to the client's expressed wants and needs. For example, an event marketing firm not only sells the ability to organize and manage an event with a certain level of participation, it also sells its ability to design the event so that it will look and feel artistically distinct from competing events. The chief creative officer manages his staff to present an artistic vision of the event that is at least as important as what will happen at the event.
An advertising firm operates along the same dichotomy. Advertisements present a certain memorable artistic design while also structured to accomplish functional goals. The CCO ensures that the design and functionality combine harmoniously so the firm can present a product that successfully represents its creative brand.