Even digital at JWT is about creative storytelling: Matt Eastwood

The Worldwide Chief Creative Officer of JWT makes a strong case for creativity over hard-core technology and insists the agency will always be driven by ideas, human insight

by Priyanka Mehra and Aditi Raval
Published - Nov 6, 2014 8:50 AM Updated: Nov 6, 2014 8:50 AM
Even digital at JWT is about creative storytelling: Matt Eastwood

Matt Eastwood joined JWT as Worldwide Chief Creative Officer in July 2014, assuming a position that had been unfilled ever since Craig Davis left in 2009. One of the most awarded Chief Creative Officers worldwide, Eastwood’s illustrious career includes working for agencies like DDB New York, DDB Australia, Y&R New York, & M&C Saatchi London.

In a conversation with exchange4media, Eastwood, who believes in being ‘nice to the people, tough on the work,’ talks about the positive pressure that comes with the job, his observations on Indian advertising culture that borders on ‘gossipy’,  factors that give a campaign an ‘edge’ and creativity becoming less of a commodity. Excerpts.

What was your approach to taking on a leadership role that hasn’t seen a leadership since 2009, and was handled by regional leaders prior to your joining ?

The interesting thing is that there are things that have fallen away during that time, things that we haven’t done, that we need to do. The exciting thing for me is that some of those solutions are so obvious so they just need to be put in place. The fact that there hasn’t been a Global Chief Creative Officer for that many years, I have found that people within our network have embraced me in such a fantastic way. They really want creative leadership, when I give creative presentations they are really crying out. People are not angry that they didn’t have anyone but they are excited that they have someone.

What is your agenda?

The big thing is a focus on creativity. The great thing is I have a partner in Gustavo Martinez who is really committed to that idea of creativity being the differentiator. If you look at the fact that he started in February and his major hire was me, it signifies that this is the most important thing for him and for the network. We are a great creative brand and in India we are probably the No. 1 and the most awarded agency this year. It’s not like we have a deficiency but globally putting that emphasis on creativity is a big thing. Playing off that, the second biggest thing is creative consistency. It’s really important; particularly for our global brands. We can’t just be good in 12 markets. We have 200 offices, we have to be good across the world. That’s one of things I am doing, working on creative consistency, how can we bring all our work upto the quality of our best work. It doesn’t happen overnight but holding people’s feet to the fire and giving them a benchmark to judge themselves by and then encouraging them and giving them tools and programmes to be able to get there, is how we will eventually lift the quality across everything. Like any other network, our digital revenues continue to grow. We want to make sure we continually bring in new and interesting talent  in that space to cope with what’s happening.

What are the factors that give a campaign an edge in your view?

The best advertising comes from a really strong human insight. If you don’t have that, you don’t end up doing work that resonates and is relevant to people.  It is all about spending enough time on strategy coupling it with human insight and finding a unique take on it. I think we’re in an era where people are less and less differentiating advertising from content. If you want me to watch your ad, then make it great, interesting, funny, emotional. That’s great for the industry because it puts pressure on clients and agencies to deliver work that consumers are going to want to view, whereas in old days you could just push out whatever you wanted.

How is JWT coping with disruption that technology is bringing in?

For me there’s either a pure sort of systematic technology-driven ideas or there’s story telling advertising… At JWT we’ll tell stories and we will be idea-led in terms of the digital approach, whether Facebook or wherever it might be. There’s a whole other group of companies who are much more about hard core technology and we’ve made the decision as a company that we don’t want to be that. We will always do digital-led idea story telling.

What about  Indian advertising needs to change in your view ?

The thing I’ve discovered is Indian advertising culture can be really gossipy and talk about each other and I much prefer an industry that supports each other. If we’re positive about each other and the industry and don’t say negative things about other agencies and other people, I think the industry gets better. Our reputation gets better and clients value us more.

Do you think creativity is increasingly  viewed as commodity?

I actually think the opposite. Creativity is becoming less of a commodity. I think clients have become much more aware of the value of creativity, particularly driven by social media and digital in a way that a great idea will be seized by people and viewed and shared. Creativity is the differentiator and that’s made evident by some of the world’s biggest clients. In the old days they were with networks that could deliver their work around the world and that was fine but now they are very happy to go to small, independent shops and get creativity from them. They don’t care… they’ll get someone else to do the delivery but they just want great creative. That means creativity is high on their agenda. Pressure is on network agencies, it’s a positive pressure. It’s more of a joyful pressure than a scary pressure.

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