Creativity is our most important competitive advantage

Written by Payal Khandelwal | Updated: Nov 27 2012, 07:24am hrs
Leo Burnetts top brass Jarek Ziebinski, president of Leo Burnett Asia Pacific and Mark Tutssel, global chief creative officer, Leo Burnett were in town recently. There were various reasons for the visit. One of them was to announce various promotions within the agency. The massive creative shuffle saw KV Sridhar (Pops) becoming the chief creative officer, India subcontinent. Nitesh Tiwari was promoted to the post of chief creative officer of Leo Burnett India. Vikram Pandey is now executive creative director (ECD) responsible for the Tata Capital and HDFC Life accounts. Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari is ECD, handling the Sony Entertainment Television account. Vicky Bhambhani is now regional creative director on Tide. Piyush Gupta, Abhishek Sinha, Nikhil Mehrotra and Shreyas Jain have been promoted as creative directors. Some new talent has also been hired including Timsy Gupta, Rishi Agarwal, Sapna Aluwalia and Rajneesh Ramakrishnan.

Leo Burnett is currently one of the best performing Publicis agencies in India. While other Publicis Groupe agencies such as Publicis Ambience and Saatchi & Saatchi have not really been coming out with great creative work, Leo Burnett has been consistently winning businesses and also various awards. It has been among Indias top two award winning agencies at Cannes in the last decade. It won Global Agency of the Year within the Burnett network twice in the same period. Early this year, the agency also acquired a digital agency, Indigo, which is now being integrated with the main agency.

Ziebinski and Tutssel talk to FEs Payal Khandelwal about what makes Leo Burnett India one of the most awarded agencies, integration with Indigo, and growth in the Apac region. Edited excerpts.

How do you rate Leo Burnetts performance in the Apac region

Ziebinski: I came in 2009 with a mission to grow Leo Burnett across the region, India being one of the markets. We wanted to grow two times faster than the average industry growth and we have delivered that. We have identified markets which are doubling our client base India is one of these countries. We have had double-digit growth in India (100% growth), Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia. The regional growth in 2010-11-12 has been about 40% (revenue growth). This allows us to invest in business and focus on talent and on areas which are becoming important for clients including digital and shopper marketing.

How is the integration with Indigo Consulting coming along

Ziebinski: We acquired the digital agency Indigo this year and its integration with the core agency is coming along well. We dont believe that we can just buy assets which are hanging in isolation. Digital has to become a part of everything 20-25% of Leo Burnett Indias revenues will come from digital next year.

What are some of the other acquisitions that we can expect in the near future

Ziebinski: At the moment, we are happy with what we have got in India and we are focused on smooth integration of Indigo. Integration is a challenge, not just for us, but for the clients too. Traditional advertising budgets will shrink eventually in Apac too like the rest of the world. TV is important, but that doesnt mean you shouldnt go for a more diversified spectrum.

In terms of other acquisitions, sometimes you can grow internally by bringing new talent. We buy companies very strategically and selectively and not just for the heck of it or to buy revenue. For example, shopper marketing is being build organically in the India business. However, apart from India, we are talking to potential partners across the Apac region.

Leo Burnett is currently one of the best performing agencies in India from the Publicis Groupe. How do you feel about that

Ziebinski: We believe creativity is our most important competitive advantagecreativity that is powerful enough to impact how people think and behave and we invest a lot on creativity. And our growth is based on profitability driven by creativity. In India, we have a great creative leader in Pops who brings in a lot of fresh talent. Leo Burnett India is recognised creatively at a global level.

What have been some of your recent favourite works out of Leo Burnett Indias office

Tutssel: Leo Burnett India is a hotbed of creativity and home to a highly passionate and driven community of talented creative people. The agency has won a remarkable 22 Cannes Lions over the last 9 years.

This year I have seen some highly innovative award-winning work for P&G Tide and Bajaj Fans. Beautiful authentic storytelling in film for McDonalds Bus Driver, and a raft of future-facing work for Coca-Cola and Sony in Branded Entertainment. The Coke Studio platform is going from strength to strength and is the sort of massive participation idea the human race enjoys.

What is the Leo Burnett campaign globally that you personally have been most proud of

Tutssel: This year the Leo Burnett network has produced a fabulous body of work in all channels. 2012 saw the inaugural launch of the Branded Content & Branded Entertainment category at the Cannes Festival of Creativity. We were awarded two prestigious Gold Lions, one for Mont Blanc The Beauty of a Second (Leo Burnett Milan) and another for Village Voice New York Writes Itself (Leo Burnett NYC). Both ideas are massive participation platforms and a glimpse into the future of our industry.

The other category that is growing like wildfire is social media. Facebook awarded two Gold Clio Awards this year to Leo Burnett Worldwide, one for Troy Library Book Burning Party from our office in Detroit, and another to 7-Eleven Slurpee Bring Your Own Cup Day from Leo Burnett Melbourne. Both created huge social currency and value.

What would be the main advice you would give to young creatives in the business

Tutssel: It still is an ideas industry and there is no substitute for a powerful idea. Humanity now demands creativity in communication. We have to create content that defies the status quo, breaks the mould and makes people sit up and pay attention. I tell our new talent to be bold, courageous and daring. Make mistakes. Push the limits of technology. Surprise yourselves, be curious about life, and never stop searching for the ideas that will delight an audience and create participation in that idea.

It has been two years since you started the Internal Product Committee (IPC). How has it panned out

Ziebinski: We pick several top creative directors in the region who team up with me. We then go to all the offices in the region every six months and review most of the work that is done by the agency; we use the Humankind scale and evaluate the various campaigns.

This brings focus on creativity. Mark oversees the Global Product committee which helps in getting feedback from the global perspective. That brings a lot of input to creative culture.

Do you think that the job of creatives has become much more challenging in the current economic situation

Tutssel: I believe creativity right now is the most valuable asset in business. It is the primary asset of brands and communications companies. Take a look at Cannes this year, every major CMO (chief marketing officer) of every blue-chip brand in the world was there in search of the worlds best creators of ideas that can change the fortunes of brands.