On the MiC with Leo Burnett’s global creative head Mark Tutssel

MiC sits down with Leo Burnett global CCO Mark Tutssel to chat about the growing role of media in creative work and conception. 

Leo Burnett recently held its quarterly global product review at its Toronto office. Creatives representing its offices from all over the world were in attendance, including the agency’s creative head honcho, global CCO Mark Tutssel, who, it was recently announced, will serve as president of the 2010 Cannes Lions Film and Press juries. MiC jumped at the chance to sit down with him and pick his brain about the role of innovative media applications in creative work and the growing role of media in creative conception.

MiC: What are some of the most innovative uses of media that you’ve seen in recent creative executions coming out of Leo Burnett, and what role do new technologies play in creative work?

Tutssel: People have technology at their fingertips and the world has become more fragmented, so connecting to people is easy, connecting with people is very difficult. We always start with the purpose the brand plays in someone’s life. I think days of filling in media schedules are long dead.

A brilliant example from Leo Burnett [Lisboa/ARC Worldwide Lisboa] is for the [Portuguese] Red Cross. At the recent El Ojo Awards in Latin America, which is the biggest advertising show in the Spanish and Portuguese-speaking world, we won three Grand Prix. The purpose of the Red Cross is it gives hope. So they decided to sell hope, and to sell hope they designed Store+. It was this beautifully designed store that looked and felt like Gap or Apple: very minimal, crisp, beautiful modern-day graphic identity. They placed one in a huge shopping mall in Lisbon, housing 150 different major stores. They launched it to the media, to opinion formers, and they opened it as if they were opening a new Apple store. It had packaging, point-of-sale display, except it had no product. There was nothing to buy. What you were purchasing in Store+ was hope for the Red Cross.

Within the first week, out of 150 stores, it got into the top three in terms of highest profit and walk-through traffic. So, this franchise is growing through Portugal and growing through Spain. We’re opening up Store+ everywhere and now it has global ambition. You’re creating a meaningful human connection with people rooted in the purpose of the brand. You’re generating money for that brand in a fresh new way that’s category-defying, really future-focused in terms of its connective tissue with people, and it’s creating hope and delivering hope through the power of creativity. It’s transforming behaviour. Rather than donating to a cause, you’re actually creating something very different.

Creativity has this incredible power to transform human behaviour. Creativity, right now, is the most valuable asset in business today.

The James Ready idea from this office, where they’re turning bottle caps into currency – again, a huge idea connecting with people in a fresh new way – creating these bar programs where they’re going around asking ‘what do you spend your money on in college: do you spend it on transportation, do you spend it on food, do you spend it on clothes, or do you spend it on beer?’ It’s really connecting the tissue.

James Ready is also a great example of combining new and old media. You take the humble poster, the oldest medium of all, and you’re inviting people to share our billboard, and it’s almost YouTube meets the old medium. You’re inviting people to own the brand, and then these people become celebrities in their own catchment areas, and the brand becomes the people’s beer. That’s the magic for me, and that’s the difference between good advertising and great advertising.

MiC: You spoke about how creative executions, these days, really tend to marry categories. How do you see the relationship between creative departments and media departments evolving?

Tutssel: I think media is coming back into the mainstream because I personally think we made a big mistake. I think we chopped ourselves up. We’re a humankind communications company, and our connective tissue between brand and people is critical to the success of any idea.

Creative media is playing a huge part in modern-day communication. Creativity in media is vital; you’ve never had a divine right to people’s attention; and people, frankly, are not interested in advertising. It’s not connecting to people, it’s connecting with people. I think media can help bring to life ideas and media and authorship have to be lock-step.

Outdoor for McDonald’s, one example which was the most awarded poster in the world, was for fresh salads. The brief was they had 16 varieties of [lettuce] in every McDonald’s salad. What we did was create a billboard that had a soil base to it and we grew, over three weeks, 16 varieties of fresh [lettuce] in the poster, forming the words ‘fresh salads.’ Another idea was for breakfast. It was essentially here’s our menu and here’s the times we’re opening – I mean, the dullest brief in the world – and what we did was create an accurate, working sundial. The shadow passed through 6 o’clock, 7 o’clock, right through, and when it arrived at 12 o’clock it was the exact shape of the golden arches, to perfection. And the place where it was perfect to create this billboard was outside Wrigley Field, one of the most popular places in Chicago. It had nothing but traffic day and night. There was a half-hour documentary on the making of the billboard. It was on prime-time TV and on the front pages of newspapers. It generated its own media because it was of real interest to people. That’s generating a personality and a connection with people. That, for me, is new world.

I feel like a lot of the time we graft things onto technological advancement, ideas that we’ve sort of just fused onto it rather than allowing technology and media to serve the idea.

MiC: Taking into account partnerships with media organizations like Starcom, what are you doing within the Leo Burnett network to make sure that all of your departments are organizationally in the right place in terms of media creativity and creative thinking?

Tutssel: I think casting and selection of people around a problem is vital to long-term success. The people at the table, part of the creation process, have to include media people. You have to have media planners, strategic thinkers, who are thinking in a different way. Make them part of the creative process. It’s not a media department, a planning department, an account management department; there’s a creative communications department.

A great media idea can be the spark. It can be a great TV idea, it can be a great digital idea, it can be…a great packaging idea, but everything has to link together. You have to join the dots. Creative media is really the order of the day.

MiC: If you could hazard a guess at a media touchpoint that stands to be an untapped resource, what would it be?

Tutssel: If I was placing a bet it would be mobile. We’re living in the screen age. Gazillions of pixels are circumnavigating the globe and reforming upon different screen sizes.

In Asia Pacific, certainly China, mobile is the primary screen, the primary form of communication. A cell phone is no more than two or three feet away from you 24 hours a day, and I think once we’ve really leveraged the full potential of that, in a meaningful way, not in an intrusive, irritating way…I mean, the last thing you want to do is pollute it…Phones can become human tools to enhance life so you enjoy and love doing what you do. It will become the primary contact point between people and brands. Nobody to date has really exploited that in a highly creative way.