5 Minutes with… Mark Tutssel
Chief Creative Officer / Leo Burnett, Worldwide
Interviewed by LBB editor, Gabrielle Lott
LBB> What is it about Leo Burnett that makes it such a unique and successful network?
MT> I think the one thing that differentiates Leo Burnett and the one thing that I find incredibly unique about it is its culture. Most big advertising agencies have a culture and have a founder but I have never seen a culture, a behaviour and spirit that weaves its way so deeply into the veins of a company. This is a company not held together by a logo over the door, it’s held together by people. The spirit of Leo Burnett himself, what he stood for, still resides everywhere, not just a retrospective look back to the past, living in a bygone era, it’s the spirit of what he represented and what he believed in that is still alive and kicking within the agency today.
If you think of the godfathers of our industry: Leo Burnett himself, Bill Bernbach, David Ogilvy - the three original ‘mad men’ that founded the industry we work within, Burnett passionately believed in people, in community and treating people the way he’d like to be treated himself. And he believed in the power of creativity. Ultimately, he realised that he was in a people business. His success and his failure relied on the people he was working with. I think the culture that he created around him, as a result, is incredibly well bonded, everybody knows each other, there is a real sense of family, even considering there are 97 offices and 9,000 people.
How do we maintain this closely knitted community - the GPC or The Global Product Committee? This was originally set up by Donald Gunn (of ‘The Gunn Report’ fame) and Michael Conrad, who, at the time, was the Worldwide Creative Director. On a quarterly basis, every three months a group of people get together, chaired by myself and I get to see every single piece of work produced by each of our 97 offices. We rate the work on a scale of one to ten and we analyse the work produced. A 7+ is the standard at which I expect the work to be. We always meet in a different place and invite new speakers. There are many advantages to this. To create relentless focus and drive, to ensure we produce the best work and, more importantly, to bring the best minds, creators and thinkers to the table to discuss the merits to the work; not to score the work in a traditional way but to improve it, to make it better, to add value.
As a result, kindred spirits and community are created and people know each other, become great friends and share the same ambitions. Community lies at the heartbeat of Leo Burnett and I don’t know how many big companies of that size have that familiarity and that connective tissue. I’m a great believer in ‘team’. When I think of my team, I think of 9,000 people. When I think of my creative department, I think of every creative department in every one of our 97 offices. I don’t think about geography or location. I just think about talent and bringing them together.
LBB> You are quoted as saying that you believe that creativity has the power to transform human behaviour can you elaborate more on that?
MT> If you distil this industry down to its very essence, we have two important words. One: ‘people’ and two: ‘behaviour’. What we do with creativity is to change behaviour. We change the way people think and feel and act about a brand and ultimately the way they behave. So, creativity has this incredible power to change anything. It can solve any business or social problem. Creativity is the key that unlocks the door; behavioural change is what we do. I believe that every brand has to be driven by a human purpose, not what a brand does and what it is; it’s what a brand means to people and the value it has in people’s lives.
LBB> Continuing from that, can you talk to us about ‘Earth Hour’?
MT> I'm one of the ambassadors for the White Pencil for D&AD and am a great champion of leveraging within our community to create change for the better. Earth Hour started as an idea in Sydney in 2007. We managed to get 2.2 million people to switch their lights off and involved 1,200 Sydney-based businesses. We had this amazing ambition that the Earth could come together for 60 minutes and do something creative and positive to affect change and to combat global warming. Switching the lights off was a very simple universal act that anybody could do, regardless of geography and culture. It has grown into the biggest mass participation event in the history of communication. This year, 1.2 billion people took part. If you think about it, that’s almost 1 in 7 of the human race who spent 60 minutes of their lives doing something positive for the planet. For me it’s one of the greatest achievements we’ve ever had and it demonstrates the power of creativity to change human behaviour, to get people en masse to do something at a moment in time, around the planet. It was a massive, huge undertaking and massive goal.
Simple, powerful creativity solved that. A simple idea allowed people to take part. I’m all for participation ideas; the greater the participation, the greater the effect of an idea in the open world… for me that’s a great opportunity. Earth Hour is owned by everyone; it originated out of Leo Burnett but it is such a large and powerful idea that it was too important not to share with everybody. I’m all for bringing everyone to the table as long as they bring something proactive and positive to the brand and that they really address the problem that we are trying to solve in the campaign.
LBB> You are here in London for the D&AD, which you are a member of, and a long term supporter. Talk to me about the organisation and what it is that you find so important about it?
MT> I think D&AD represents something quite unique in our industry. There are many award shows, too many in my opinion.
LBB> A lot of which you have sat on the panels/juries of…
MT> Yes. I’m talking about the shows that really add value to the industry. I believe that advertising award shows are valuable because they act as a barometer for the health of our industry. They are the only way we can gauge creativity, the success and the potency of an agency. Until we find another way of evaluating ourselves, it will still be The Champions League, the Oscars, the Grammy Awards. If you think of any other profession, they have awards, be it sport, music, be it entertainment - there will always be awards.
I’ve always been a champion of D&AD, not because it is British; but because it represents one word: ‘excellence’. I was reading an article the other day about people who have been huge fans of the D&AD over the years and obviously with the celebration this year of their 50th birthday this is currently very relevant. Alan Parker was saying it was one of the awards he always wanted to win because it represented the best of the best of the best. It is not the best in its category; it is literally the best film, the best poster, the best print ad, the best integrated idea, the best mobile idea. For me it’s the highest accolade I think you can bestow on any creative globally, and it has a standard - it will not lower for any reason.
Just being here this week in London and walking around the hall, bumping into Martin Lambie-Nairn, John Hegarty, Bob Greenberg, David Droga, Mary Lewis, Graham Fink, one after the other...people who are great ambassadors of our industry, all of them here to work and judge. All of them here to champion creativity, and be part of this incredible award scheme. We shall see great work that will inspire everyone, and that will raise the bar to a new height. People will look up to the bar and try to reach it next year. The D&AD award presents the very best of the best.
LBB> How did you get into advertising?
MT> My cousin is the designer Glen Tutssel, who teamed up with Martin Lambie-Nearn to create Tutssel-Lambie-Nearn. They worked on many major brands. I was always fascinated with design and I came to London to meet him. I spent a couple of weeks within various design studios meeting different people. Then I was introduced to a friend of his, an art director at J Walter Thompson who was working on Kit Kat. This was my first exposure to advertising. I had no idea what advertising was and all I knew was that I loved the adverts. I grew up in an era of ‘Beanz meanz Heinz’ and a ‘finger of fudge’. I loved watching the ads but I had no idea what the advertising industry actually did. I had fifteen minutes exposure to it and instantly fell in love, realising that this was what I was meant to do. Then I went on to win a scholarship at Harrison-Cowley which was a sister shop of Saatchi & Saatchi. I had 11 months’ paid fellowship there and won them the biggest piece of business that they’d ever pitched for. They offered me the world to stay there but I left to come to London, and the rest is history. I realised if you wanted to be in advertising you had to be in London because it’s the epicentre of our industry. I knew I needed to be here and my career has continued from there.
LBB> You spend your time between London and Chicago. What is it about these cities that inspires you?
MT> I could be anywhere. London is my home, I am British so I miss many things about the place when I’m not here, but I do love America. I think that no one can ever truly say they’ve worked in the advertising industry unless they’ve worked in America. I think it has massive importance in the industry and to business. My time in America has been hugely important. I’ve learnt a lot about the way the business works and about how clients think. I’ve been exposed to big clients, larger revenue and greater opportunities. I love living in Chicago, it’s one of the most beautiful cities in the world and it’s probably the cleanest city in the world, aside from Singapore. Set on a lake it’s got a great art and music scene, great restaurants and very nice people. I enjoy the fact that I can straddle the Atlantic. Most of my time is spent on a plane looking after our various global offices. My real home is at 37,000 feet and I am probably in the top 1% of flyers in the world. The great joy of this job is that I get to travel, see the world, experience different cultures and meet gifted people from around the world. If you look at D&AD this year, the film winners in particular, you will find that they came from South America, South Africa, Germany, the UK; the days of a couple of centres leading are over. I think now it’s a level playing field for everywhere to come out on top. Amazing work coming out of China… This is again a testimony to the strength of thinking that is coming out around the world. To win a highly coveted award like D&AD speaks volumes because you are competing against the best in the world.
LBB> As chief creative officer, what exactly is it that you do?
MT> The most important thing for me is that I actively work; I have to have ideas, for my own sanity. The last thing you want to be is a coach, you want to be a player coach, so I still run McDonald’s globally, I still work very closely with Coca-Cola and I still work with Procter & Gamble. I still work on ideas and my own projects; basically my role is the custodian of the creative product, to make sure that the quality of work we produce is of the level it should be to bear the Leo Burnett signature.
I work very closely with the creative directors around the world and with the major pitches. I’m there to support and endorse, I’m not there to evaluate it or as a token voice piece for the brand. I’m there as a practising creative who is there to make the work better. The one thing I enjoy doing is making the work better. Work can always be better and I think the GPC keeps a constant laser sharp focus on the quality of Leo Burnett’s work; that’s the standard I expect of the work, and most importantly, for me, that the product is centre stage; that we work focusing on the product, making sure that nothing gets in the way of producing the best work that we can.
Ultimately, I’m in control of product quality and I’m also much more about the future and to see where Leo Burnett is going in the future. I spend most of my time in the future, planning where we are going, making sure we are really producing ideas that are taking us forward. Evidence of that, in the last four years, would be in the Gunn Report, who introduced ‘all guns blazing’ a titanium integrated new world way of thinking into the reports. Since then, Leo Burnett Worldwide has been the number one worldwide creative thinker for ‘new world thinking’. For me, that’s really what I do. We have to think of fresh new ways of thinking, we have to leverage all of the technology we have at our disposal and we have to make sure that we use them to the best of our ability, to make sure that ideas grow and develop constantly.
I act almost like an incubator for the company, seeding new ideas, planting them and letting them grow, letting them develop, not just producing the same old thing. For Leo Burnett to stay fresh and vibrant is important, that we continue to evolve and develop. There are lots of new agencies and professionals out there and there will always be new ways of thinking and ways of expression. If you think of the ‘icon brands’, if you think of Cartier, Mercedes Benz, Jaguar, Chanel, Apple and so forth, they are big ‘icon brands’ that consistently and historically produce world product. Leo Burnett is a big, global, iconic brand that produces world class product. My role is to ensure that product is world class, progressive and forward thinking. If we have enough ideas laid in place we can step into tomorrow’s world. I’m almost chief creative architect; I have to have one foot in today and one foot in tomorrow. The one thing I’ve managed to do in the last six years is move the company from an advertising agency network to a creative communications company. I think the type of work we produce and the type of people involved are more innovative and future facing, and for me that is important; to keep one eye on tomorrow.
LBB> Do you still enjoy working in advertising?
MT> I love it. The day I wake up on a cold Monday morning and I say to myself ‘I’m going to work’, I’ll just get back into bed. I’ve never been to 'work' in my life - it’s a hobby. It’s a privilege to work in this world. It’s so varied, it's so different. Yes, it has its moments, but any creative that truly loves ideas and works in an ideas industry makes things day and night. To create different solutions for different brands, problem solving day to day; its great to work in this business, it’s a privilege.
LBB> What’s been your favourite project in the last twelve months?
MT> Two things: One for the Troy library in Detroit (http://bit.ly/GIpciH
) which was a social media idea that changed the conversation in the city from taxes to saving the Library. I think it's one of the most innovative ideas out there this year. It recently won gold at the Andy Awards for best idea, received a yellow pencil at D&AD and I believe it is going to win at the Clios and the One Show. It's just a brilliant piece of thinking that led to a fantastic solution. We talk a lot about the ability of creativity to change human behaviour - this is a classic example of that. A product of brilliant thinking that flipped the conversation on its head and, at the end of the day, saved the library.
The other piece of work is from our Melbourne office: ‘Slurpee’ for 7-Eleven (http://bit.ly/I6baNQ
). Slurpee was under attack from some major brands. People had lost their love affair with the product and it needed to be re-kindled. ‘Bring your own cup day’ invited people to come to 7-Eleven for one day and fill any vessel with Slurpee, free of charge. From cowboy boots, DD bras and goldfish bowls - a huge array of vessels were used and it just created this incredible buzz and participation around the brand. Litre after litre was sold and it led to record sales. It’s the biggest and best promotion in the history of 7-Eleven and it just shows the power of an idea… acts not ads. Activating ideas that are driven by human purpose. That, for me, is what we do; we create value, ideas that really enhance people's lives. That’s the power of creativity. Some of the best examples, all in different channels, all have one thing in common; they are brilliant in their thinking, powerful in their expression, genius in their ability to capture people's imagination… they change behaviour.