Table of contents
Creative Ops

A+E Networks Latin America’s Javier de Innocentis on building a team that trusts each other

March 22, 2023 · 4 min read

This is part of our 100 Creative Directors interview series. It has been edited for length and clarity. To return to the series homepage and browse other interviews, click here.

What does it mean to be a creative director, for you?

Being a creative director for me means being the eye that sees it all. I’m talking about having your eye on what's happening in culture, what's happening in your brand, and what's happening with your audience. You need to be aware of all this so you can identify the opportunities for creative work that will break through and then execute that. It’s about merging all these inputs to produce work that’s a head above the rest.

My task is, seeing all that’s out there, how can I lead my team to deliver the most effective, entertaining, and universal creative product? We compete against so much other entertainment, so we really need to be able to break through and reach a broader audience. Basically, my goal is to capture attention and try to make the History Channel as sexy as possible, every single day. 

What is the hardest part of getting that effective creative out into the world?

I try not to think about the difficulties and keep my eyes on what we can do, then do it. Being in the Latin American market, we’re not as wealthy or resource-rich as our counterparts in the US. There’s an inherent struggle in these countries, which extends to my team. The artists, the producers, all the people that work with me are really resourceful and good at getting things done with what’s at hand.

That lack of resources can get in the way, of course, but we deliver. You find a way to make something great. It’s nuanced, but budget isn’t exactly a limit. With $2 or $2 million, you can make something amazing. It’s more about how you use the tools and skill sets you do have.

How do you approach building a strong creative team?

I was lucky enough, with the History Channel, to assemble the entire team from scratch. Obviously, you're looking for people that are talented, that are the best in what they do. That’s a given. What’s really important, though, is that they are all good people. You need to be able to tell, when you have a conversation with someone, if they’re the type to — for example — kick a dog in the street or not. When you’re collaborating, you need to be able to trust someone — you need people with strength of character on your team.

Character is really important because in the end, we are creating communication pieces for people, and if you are not well versed in empathy, you’re not going to be a productive part of my team. Whatever specific skills and talents you’re looking for, you can always train up relatively quickly, but to reach people, you have to understand them and essentially be a good person. The work we do is all about empathy.

What are the three things that are most important that you can't do your job without?

Number one is having a family — people to go back to and be a person with when the workday is done.

Number two, my team as a whole. There are people on this team that I could not imagine doing this job without. I would be lost if they suddenly died — it’s good to have people like this, people you depend on.

Number three, food. Specifically, having food with others. A lunch with the team. As a company, you need to budget for this kind of thing. Food for the body, especially eaten in the company of others, is food for the soul. You need to be able to go out with your team, have a meal, have drinks, and have the company pay for it. 

What’s a piece of advice someone once gave you that’s been influential on your career?

It’s something someone told me when I was working in an animation studio a long time ago. One day, I decided I had learned enough to leave and open my own shop. One of the leaders of the studio told me, “I think you have what it takes, but let me tell you something: don't miss a deadline.”

I was sometimes missing a deadline here and there at the time. But hearing that, at that point in time, made a significant impression on me. It’s about accountability, especially when you’re a leader. It’s about prioritizing — what’s the thing you are absolutely not going to fail? It could be a deadline, it could be part of a brief.

One more piece of advice I’d tell people beginning their careers: don’t worry about following the rules so much. I’ve worked in the corporate space for a long time, and there are rules, written and unwritten, that you do have to follow.

What I’m talking about is this allegory of monkeys trapped in a cage. One of them tries to get out, and the rest beat him down, preventing him from escaping. This can happen all the time in creative work, someone comes up with a bold, risky idea and the others don’t let him get it off the ground. You ask why it can’t be done, and the answer is only that this sort of thing isn’t done. That’s not a real reason not to do something.

Don’t be afraid to step out of line and take creative risks. Don’t fall victim to convention. This is something I’ve lived by that’s led me to success many times.

Related posts

Unblock creativity.

Everything you hate, we automate

Need to talk to a human first? Request a demo →

Air workspace