I grew up in Wales and went to Cardiff College of Art & Design to study graphic design. My cousin, Glenn Tutssel, worked in London as a designer and always told me, if I wanted to be in advertising, I had to move to London. I arrived in the Big Smoke in 1980 and stayed for 22 years. I joined Leo Burnett London in 1985 to work with Dawson Yeoman, who had recently moved there from DDB. I was drawn to the agency because of its work on Perrier, The Times and Cadbury's Milk Tray and Flake. I stayed there until 2001, before moving to Chicago to run the mother-ship creative department of 200 creatives.
On my title
As chief creative officer of Leo Burnett Worldwide, I serve as the creative leader of the Leo Burnett brand, overseeing the work created by the network's 94 offices. Our greatest strength is the brain power of a global creative department of 2,000 people. I am a hands-on leader, I'm passionate about the work and I globally run the McDonald's, Samsung, General Motors and Kellogg business.
On creative partnerships
I've worked with some very talented people including Richard Russell, who recently co-created the Honda "grrr" spot. The longest partnership of my career was with Nick Bell. Together, we built the London agency into a creative hub for the company. During that time, both Heinz and McDonald's were named Campaign's Advertiser of the Year. Then I went to Chicago and Nick departed to join JWT.
On my creative vision
I believe that ideas change the world, because they break the rules. They change and redefine the way we see the world. I am a huge fan of the Titanium Lion Award, whose charter is to recognise work that creates a new "space" in the creative landscape.
On that John West spot
I knew we had something special when "bear" swept the award shows, but I never guessed the ad would take on a life of its own. Some say that "bear" was the godfather of the viral effect. It circumnavigated the globe many times over. It was seen in virtually every country in the world. People felt like they owned it, and brought their friends in on the gag. That's when I fully understood the power of the internet to generate buzz for a brand.
On the internet
The days of mass marketing are over. Discerning consumers enact a zero-tolerance policy towards unimaginative brands. The challenge is no longer creating awareness; it is engagement. We have to create content that is entertaining, interactive, useful and interesting. We need big, compelling, multi-sensory ideas that ignite conversations, and weave themselves into the social fabric.
The greater the participation of the audience, the greater the effect of a campaign. After all, this is the age of user-created communities. Audiences are fluid and flexible and are forming tribes online, based on shared interests. We have gone from monologue to dialogue in a nanosecond. Against this backdrop, marketers must be willing to relinquish the control they think they have over the brand in the open marketplace of ideas.
On an internet campaign that excites me
For sheer noise and global PR value alone, it has to be LonelyGirl15.
On the integration of online into the media mix in the US compared with the UK/Europe
Online planning is becoming inextricably linked with content development, driving a more cohesive planning process. Currently, 70 per cent of global marketing budgets are invested in traditional advertising. The US is spending proportionally more on digital, but the UK isn't far behind.
On exploiting the opportunities available online
Empowered by technology, the consumer is now in control. Agencies that embrace the new world and focus on the bigger picture are the ones that will succeed. I say, less fragmentation, more integration. Let's foster a culture of experimentation and reward big, brilliant creative ideas that are rooted in brand truths, and designed with the audience in mind. Ideas that spread like wildfire, and sell, and grow our clients' business. Now that people have been allowed to collaborate with the brands they consume, they won't tolerate advertisers shouting at them from a distance. Those brands that understand this and realise it is a privilege, not a right, to connect with consumers are the ones that are winning today.
On managing 200 creatives
Advertising thrives on the constant infusion of fresh thinking. Without it, advertising grows stale and cliched. We must continually develop the next generation of creatives with a passion equal to that with which we craft our advertising. Students and young creatives today produce advertising that is far more holistic in its thinking. Because they've grown up surrounded by different options. They don't automatically go to TV for the centrepiece of a campaign. Their work transcends traditional "ad frameworks" and stretches media in a fresh, unexpected, inspiring way that makes us all realise we can push a little further and harder.
On the big idea
An idea can be many things and take many forms. The only thing an idea can never be is too big. An idea is daring, bold and utterly disruptive. An idea is much more than a set of words, a picture or a simple phrase. An idea can cause not only the hair on the back of your neck to stand at attention - it can cause people to stand at attention.
On a big idea in advertising
In this new, intensely competitive marketplace, creativity and originality will make a company stand out. Creative brilliance is now more powerful than ever, and average "risk-free" work is invisible. Innovation and breakthrough thinking will once again become the primary assets of agencies and brands. That's why I admire Steve Jobs and Apple - they thought differently about what motivated people in their category. They thought: "Maybe it's not talking about technology"; and in the process, they taught the world to "Think different".
On a big idea for the future in any field
Advertisers are now forced to meet the demands of the new economy and a newly empowered consumer. The paradigm is changing. Maybe the time is ripe for us to re-evaluate the way we measure, and reward the work that we create. Maybe we need to move beyond effectiveness, and beyond judging the ROI of a single piece of work. Let's focus on the wider commercial value that our thinking generates for brands. Let's get back to the heart of why this industry was created in the first place.
- The Yahoo! Big Idea Chair shines a spotlight on people and companies whose creative work is truly remarkable. See yahoo.co.uk/media for more details.
This article was first published on Campaign