Cannes Lions 2019: FCB has won India’s only Gold and I can’t be prouder: Susan Credle

Susan Credle, Global CCO, FCB, tells us why she doesn’t believe in rushing her team to win awards until they are completely ready

e4m by Neeta Nair
Published: Jun 22, 2019 9:36 AM  | 7 min read
Susan Credle FCB at Cannes 2019

Susan Credle is a different kind of CCO, she sees a side of her employees which perhaps would have been lost in the garb of the professional rat race, she knows how much more they are capable of and she drives them to achieve that goal. The best example of that is clearly the FCB India team which won four Lions in 2018, their very first since the agency’s inception 60 years ago, which clearly was a big victory for Credle.

A year later FCB India has brought home India’s only Gold in 2019, another victory for Credle for which she is quick to give credit to Swati Bhattacharya and her team. In conversation with Susan Credle, Global CCO, FCB on why she doesn’t believe in rushing her team to win awards until they are completely ready. "Big work takes time," she says speaking fondly of Bhattacharya while also narrating a very interesting story on how she met her future India CCO.

It has been a great year for FCB, you have won 5 Grand Prix.

Yes, it is surreal. It’s rare that this happens, and it’s rare that it happens across agencies and across different kinds of work. Like, a lot of times one piece of work will do really well across the festival. And Burger King’s - The Whopper Detour has been that for us this year, but there are also a lot of other things that are picking up Gold and Grand Prix, I am so proud of everybody. We started this creative mission 3 years ago. It was started a little bit before I got here, but Carter Murray brought me on to say ‘Let’s double down on the value of creativity’, and then everybody stepped up. So, it’s really fantastic to see the outcome of a lot of labor.

Did the big wins coincide with the campaigns you were betting on?

You know entering work is expensive, and I think it’s lazy if you just throw all your work in at Cannes and hope. So, we have a global creative council twice a year. It has all the CCOs of our major markets. And we are tough on each other. And we look at the work and decide what as a group we believe represents the kind of work we want to do. At Cannes last year we have had a very good conversion rate, in fact, it was higher than the Cannes conversion rate. So, we kind of knew Burger King - The Whopper Detour was going to do great. The statistic I love the best is that in five years they have gotten 4.5 million people to download their app, and with Burger King - The Whopper Detour, in three months they got 4.5 million people to download the app. We just did something in three months with creativity that took five years without creativity. So, it’s really important to me. I am tired of hearing, ‘a billion impressions, you know everybody saw it, people loved it, people shared it.’ I don’t care. If we can get back to proving that we have an economic value, then creativity will not only be celebrated but even be paid for. We have to pay for creativity to keep creative people in the business. And if we lose creativity to other industries, release people to other industries, it could run the industry into the ground.

So, would you say that now CCOs are not trophy thirsty and they are client solutions thirsty today?

I would say 50-50. I am very conscious of putting awards in their place. At FCB we say they are part of the journey but they are not the destination. Yet they are important because they set a standard for the kind of work we should be doing. And from a creative standpoint, they open up your mind. When you see how your colleagues are thinking about work, it changes you. And it’s just like feeding your brain. I think where we got messed up a little bit with awards is that we got lazy. And we are like, ‘let’s go do some things that are really cool that creative people will love for Cannes, and the real work we will just do whenever the client wants.’ It’s very dangerous to play that game because you may have won a lot of awards here, but the advertising and of all those creative award-winning ideas aren’t seen by the public. All the public is seeing is the average work, because we are lazy, or we think it’s going to be too hard to do it on a big scale. If people can actually see the work, they will be like "Advertising is the coolest industry". It’s amazing to work in the real world and not just in our little world.

For 60 years FCB didn’t win a single Cannes Lion, 2018 was the first year they struck Gold. As the global CCO did you ever put pressure on them to perform at Cannes?

Let me tell you a very interesting story of how I first met Swati Bhattacharya. I ran into Swati Bhattacharya at another industry event, and I was so taken with her. The way she behaves, the way she talks to people, the way she engaged with them. And then she started telling me about some of her film projects like the 'Seven Deadly Sins' that she was doing for women which I thought were brilliant. Later I joined FCB as the Chief Creative Officer. At that point in time, we needed a CCO in India. So I asked Rohit Ohri if we can get her on board. Rohit said, ‘I totally love her work, in fact, we have worked together at JWT but I don’t think she will come owing to some personal issues, she is a single mother, has two girls to take care of, so she is still not sure at the moment.’ And we are talking about parenthood, you know about women not being sure, whatever. I was like, ‘No, she is coming.’ So, Swati and I went back and forth and I told her ‘You have to come to do this.’ I didn’t even look at her book, her portfolio. And I knew her outside of advertising work. And my feeling was that she is the future because advertising shouldn’t look like advertising. I felt maybe Swati, though she had done very well for herself, had not done work as exceptional as her work outside of advertising because she has not been allowed to fly. What I love about Swati is that she is relentless. She has got partners at FCB that understand where she is going, she gets clients to do risky work that works. We have allowed her to fly and do things. Incidentally, the things she has done over here have performed better because we believe in her. She is able to bring her voice to advertising instead of making advertising adjust her voice. She has taken a company which no one thought was creative to one of the most creatively acclaimed agencies in India now. And this is not a fluke. She has done it in 2018 and now she has won a Gold, India’s only one this year.

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