In February this year, Mark Tutssel became the first creative to lead the agency since its founder, Leo Burnett. The global chief creative officer was appointed executive chairman. Creative excellence has never been more important at Leo Burnett globally.
The Stable thought it was only fair to ask him the toughest questions possible. He accepted graciously.
The Stable: What are the greatest challenges right now that “creative excellence” needs to solve?
Mark Tutssel: Creativity is simply the most valuable asset in business today. Whether you’re an established, iconic brand or a fledgling start-up, creative excellence will be paramount to solving whatever challenge is on the horizon.
From a broader perspective, the world faces enormous challenges that creativity can help solve. This summer, I’ll be chairing the jury for the inaugural Sustainable Development Goals Lion at Cannes. The program is a partnership with the United Nations, which means the work we evaluate will address one of the 17 global goals adopted by its members as critical to ending poverty, protecting the planet and ensuring prosperity for everyone. It’s a remarkable opportunity, and we’ll be working to reward truly sustainable ideas that can create cultural impact at scale. We will seek to identify and celebrate great, transformative ideas that contribute towards a better, fairer, and more sustainable future for all.
TS: Agencies are going through a tough time. What roles do awards like D&AD have to play?
MT: Many marketers have been facing enormous headwinds. So much of what our industry is facing stems from the challenges of a rapidly changing business environment for our clients. The new media landscape also means those clients are being courted directly by platforms, publishers, influencer networks and myriad other new players. To top it off, some marketers are taking functions in-house, and as everyone knows, the management consultants are at the gates with promises of digital marketing transformation.
Clearly our business is facing challenges, but when the dust settles, I expect that agencies will retain the creative torch. They’re best positioned to guide brands across the myriad touch points that make up the modern consumer journey. Creativity is the glue that binds a brand’s identity, and I still believe agencies are uniquely suited to shape and steward that identity.
Awards like D&AD are important because they set the bar for our industry and help foster the next generation of talent. They challenge and stimulate the industry to do better. They encourage innovation, experimentation and risk taking. They hold us to the highest of creative standards — and it’s critical we maintain those standards because it’s creativity that will ultimately make our business endure.
TS: Advertising has embraced creativity for good with gusto. Is its importance being diluted through “overkill”?
MT: As an industry, we need to use our collective talent to empower the brands we work with and give back to altruistic efforts. Approaching creative challenges with an inventive spirit has never been more important. Powerful ideas can indeed change the world, and that’s why it is so important that we as an industry strive to work with brands to do valuable and meaningful things in the world we live in. Of course, our creative solutions must make a real impact. Awards are here to keep us honest about that impact, and I suspect juries will increasingly lose patience with any efforts that undermine the real positive change that we can deliver. The D&AD White Pencil symbolises the power of creativity as a force for good, it means you’ve contributed to the betterment of our lives.
TS: Should advertising be political? Should advertising use its power to promote or undermine governments/politicians?
MT: This question is being hotly debated in the U.S. right now, thanks to a polarising administration that can unexpectedly thrust a company into the public spotlight at the speed of a tweet. The generation coming of age right now expects companies to take a stand, to have values and principles. At Leo Burnett, we believe that all iconic brands have — at their heart — a core purpose; a reason for being in the world, and a clear understanding of the role they play in people’s lives. In a rapidly changing world, a clear brand purpose is more important than ever.
TS: Gender equality is being addressed. Is it time to tackle ageism and age stereotyping?
MT: Stereotyping of any type is wrong, and discrimination in all its forms should be something we strive to eradicate. In our role as contributors to popular culture, we have a responsibility to ensure that we treat all people fairly and embrace positive social change. Collectively, we should also be leveraging our creativity to fight against the scourges of inequality and prejudice everywhere.
TS: As the creative head of one of the most powerful ad agencies in the world, what are the most pressing things on your to do list right now?
MT: My priorities are twofold: To ensure that our creativity is driving business for our clients in all corners of our global network, and to never let our creative standard fall short of the ambition articulated by Leo Burnett himself — to be “Best in the World — Bar None.”