In advertising, art direction is not just the skill of putting an ad layout together. It begins with the ad concept, the idea that takes the advertiser's Key Message and distills it through a notion that is not only interesting or entertaining but more importantly compelling in how it conveys its point.
In creating ad concepts, art direction combines graphic design and strategy. It used to be that graphic designers and art directors were considered completely separate species. The Dot-com bubble changed that by basically mashing both terms together to mean someone who deals with images. Prior to that, and to some degree this continues, graphic designers were held to account for making things look really cool without having to be too concerned with "the message" while art directors were held to account for conveying the message (the headline, basically) clearly, while not being held to account for how cool their layouts turned out. I've always been a "designy" art director. I was hired at my first job because of that fact.
The campaign on the right for Barra Financial software was done several years ago. The challenge was to make a distinctive and even bold claim without exaggerating. The solution was to exaggerate the opposite side of the claim. Instead of saying that Barra's software would certainly give you million dollar stock tips the campaign focused on the iffiness of the alternative sources for investment information.
If you're trying to market a product, service or business, you need someone who understands the larger scope of your marketing effort and its challenges.
—This ad campaign was done for the financial software company, BARRA. While these ads actually had short copy the layouts were made to look "editorial" and substantial, suggesting a "long-copy" look without imposing a long-copy demand on the reader.