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Mark Tutssell

Chief Creative Officer | 05 Jul 2013

I am a great believer in brilliant thinking; creativity is just the logical conclusion to brilliant thinking. If you don’t have the thinking and the real understanding of people, and an understanding of the purpose of the brand in people’s lives, you will never get to creative excellence. You will get to the execution, but you don’t get to communication. Communication is designed to work, while advertising just talks at you. We don’t have the divine right to people’s attention, we have to give them something in return for their investment.

Mark Tutssel is one of the most-awarded creative directors in the industry. As Chief Creative Officer of Leo Burnett, Tutssel oversees the work of Leo Burnett Worldwide and its 95+ global offices. He is passionately dedicated to finding and cultivating the very best creative talent and spreading the global company’s commitment to HumanKind communications.

Under Tutssel’s creative leadership, Leo Burnett continues to be recognised for its new-world thinking, consecutively topping the ‘All Gunns Blazing’ category in the annual Gunn Report for the past three years.

In conversation with exchange4media’s Priyanka Mehra, Tutssell talks about the business emphasis of award shows, Leo Burnett’s approach to turning data into ideas, the appetite of the Indian market for modern communication, amplifying human ideas through social and more...

Q. On the back of Cannes Lions 2013, which took place last month, what is your view on the importance of awards shows?

Award shows are important; they are not about the shiny metal objects, but about business. We are in the business of creativity, and creativity has never ever been more valuable; it is the primary asset of business. Over 3,000 major clients descend on Cannes to extract the best of the festival, to be inspired by it, to find the people behind the most innovative and brilliant ideas that are connecting with the human race. Working in the world we are in right now, creativity is not an option anymore. It is not a ‘nice’ to have anymore, if you don’t have it, you are not communicating. If you are not creating content that is creative in itself, you are not communicating. Clients come to Cannes to embrace this creativity.

Q. What is the philosophy that drives Leo Burnett Worldwide today?

Leo Burnett Worlwide is driven by human behaviour and creating human value, for me there are four tenets of what we do:
• People – People come first and foremost.

• Purpose – Purpose is not about what a brand is or what a brand does, but what a brand means to people. It is not a disposable thing nor is it a tagline. It is why a brand exists, what the brand intent is, what a brand is committed to. Great brands have a set conviction – brands such as Coca-Cola and McDonald’s have a very clear, concise purpose, both the brands are hugely successful as businesses, they are people’s brands, and both are constantly looking to connect with people in new ways.

• Participation – Engaging people is one thing, entertaining people is another, but inviting people to participate in a brand story and grow that brand story – that is when you get to that fantastic content. At the end of day, the best media directors in the world are people. Take the example of the ‘Dumb ways to die’ campaign, which literally had the wild fire effect, because it was so rewarding, meaningful and shared.

• Populism – Populism is when it is woven into the fabric of the society, populism is fame. Just like the way the ‘Dumb ways to die’ campaign created such a surreal link between the subject matter and the people. It wove its way beautifully in society and wove its way into popular culture and has worked.

Q. What is your approach and focus on the India market?

India is hugely important to us. Given its growth potential and appetite for modern day communication, in order to grow brands within our custodianship in that region, it is really important that we deliver against that. Coca-Cola is the best example from India in terms of modern day thinking – be it the communication for Thums Up or branded content in the form of MTV Coke Studio – it’s fresh, it’s new, it ignites, and unites the Indian population in such a powerful way. Pops, Arvind, Nitish and Sai really do understand human behaviour and getting under the skin of the people; we are constantly talking to each other and practising creativity without borders. Pops’ new role is also about how we interconnect in the region.

Q. What are the initiatives or best practises executed by the agency to enhance the philosophy of creativity without borders?

On a quarterly basis, I get to see every single piece of major work produced by every single office; I sit down and evaluate that work on a scale of 1 to 10, 7-plus is the standard that I expect the work to be, we religiously focus on quality. Moreover, the people that I get around that table from our offices, come from all walks of life, which creates a creative community that knows no borders. So, when I put a team together for Coca-Cola small world machines, they all know each other. They all share the same values and focus and standards as people; the dividends paid out of this are second to none. Our product gets better, and for me, that’s quality control. I am not just there to evaluate the creative product, but also the thinking that led to that creative product.

Q. You have been a great believer in brilliant thinking...

Yes. I am a great believer in brilliant thinking; creativity is just the logical conclusion to brilliant thinking. If you don’t have the thinking and the real understanding of people, and an understanding of the purpose of the brand in people’s lives, you will never get to creative excellence. You will get to the execution, but you don’t get to communication. There is a distinct difference between advertising execution and communication – communication by definition has to be brilliantly creative, human and valuable. Communication is designed to work, while advertising just talks at you, and advertising is dead, we no longer talk at people and expect them to listen. We don’t have the divine right to their attention, we have to give them something in return for their investment. You have to be immediately rewarding, consumers need instant gratification.

Q. What is your approach to big data from a creative perspective?

Turning data into ideas is the goal. Not data into data amplification, like facts and figures. When you write down the word ‘data’, write the word ‘idea’ next to it, they are not dissimilar. To transform one from the other is very hard, because it requires distillation. We require people who can distil data down to its essence and meaning, to create insights and meaning that can ignite people’s imagination and allow people to create ideas that are relevant and have the ability to influence and change consumer behaviour.

Q. What is Leo Burnett’s approach to social and mobile in communication creation?

We are placing a massive focus on social as everybody else is in the industry; it is the way people communicate. We recently announced a new social – mobile head for Leo Burnett, James Kirkham, and his role is to really be a ‘human amplifier’ to take the ideas that we have and amplify them in every single channel. Consumers live their lives in real time, we live in the ‘live’ age, people are always on, and for communicating in such a rich, new way, brands have to be far more spontaneous and responsive. We have to create content that really delivers fresh new content that is rewarding.

Of course, in most parts of the world, particularly in the Asia-Pacific, mobile is the first screen. We’ve got to find new ways of producing new valuable content.

The industry is looking for ideas that take us to the next level. I don’t see that many brilliant ideas out there that really excite me, given the importance of the mobile medium.

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