'Creativity is the currency of life'

Written by Pritha Mitra Dasgupta | Updated: Nov 30 2010, 08:32am hrs
Leo Burnett Worldwide CEO and chairman Tom Bernard, and chief creative officer Mark Tutssel have written a book on advertisingHumanKindwhich was launched recently in Mumbai. HumanKind comprises case studies of communications crafted by Leo Burnett for various clients across the globe. Communications that are considered to be populist.The book discusses in detail Leo Burnett Indias most celebrated work for Luxor for which the agency bagged two Gold Lions at Cannes Advertising Festival in 2008. FEs Pritha Mitra Dasgupta spoke to the authors to understand their interpretation of human beings and their behaviour. Edited excerpts.

Leo Burnett starting using the word humankind in its creative strategy about three years ago. What drew you to it

Tom Bernardin: There wasnt any one campaign or one brand that triggered that. When Mark and me were working with the management team talking about what is it that we do as a company and whats the power behind the creative focus, we realised that the core value of Leo Burnett as a company is its focus on people. And that led to the discussion about human progress, clients, brands and products, which really was a game-changing way of talking to clients.

And that led to the discussion about human progress, clients, brands and products, which really was a game-changing way of talking to clients. And when you overlay the human progress of the brand with people behaviour and we study that, then the inspiration comes to us as a creative agency. To create ideas that could change human behaviour. So, for instance, we have created ads for McDonalds which is the peoples restaurant or Kelloggs which is the peoples cereal.

So how did the book happen

Bernardin: Mark and I thought it will be an excellent way to tell the behind-the-scene story, whats going on in Leo Burnett and what is the success story of the agency and its clients.

Mark Tutssel: We both realised that there was common interest between human behaviour and creativity. And there was a tidal change. There was a moment when people were no longer a passive receiver of brand stories. And are now active participants. They are looking to involve themselves in brands. At the end of the day brands are owned by people. So the question was how do you connect with people in a new way. People now have technology at their fingertips. They have the ability to influence the direction of a brand. So we were looking for a way to capture all that was happening around us. And using that to re-focus where we are going as a creative agency.

Tell us about some of the key elements in the book.

Tutssel: he future is about taking full advantage of the landscape that we operate in. And the only way you will ever do that is by changing the way you connect to people. And at Leo Burnett what we do is put people in the heart of the communication. And then the way we do it. We change the conversation from brand planning to behaviour planning. And we believe that creativity has the power to transform human behaviour. We create that human purpose, find that human purpose and then that acts as the integral part of the brand message. Creativity has really become the currency of life. I think it is the most important asset in the business today. And clients know that. They can reach financial success by unlocking creativity. So we create content of human interest. So the book is the logical conclusion. We have a very clear and precise point of view. It includes ideas that changed the conversation. The book is not only a way to influence and show how we operate but also to create a compass for Leo Burnett as a company. I wanted to write the book in order to focus on where we are going as a brand. The book became the best place to tell the brand stories. The way we operate, the way we create, and the way we think. It can also act as a springboard to new ways of thinking. Its a sign post for the industry.

Tell us how do you think creativity has changed

Tutssel: The entire industry has changed. I think we are living in a people era now, where creativity is even more important. Its now about live creativity, spontaneous creativity, highly responsive creativity. Its about creativity that sits alongside with people and in real time. Thats the future of the industry. And I think technology now allows us to have that kind of conversation with people. New platforms are appearing every single day. So we can now connect with people better. But connecting with people has never been harder. You need a purpose to truly connect with people. Also, it is important to create content that is relevant to people, that is in tune with who they are, more importantly useful to people, and that enriches peoples lives. Thats what the best communications does. That is what the greatest brands did. And thats how we create peoples brands. Look at McDonalds, which is a peoples restaurant. Kelloggs, which is a peoples cereal. And the list goes on. And thats what we do. Create populism. By definition it means of the people. We want to create the worlds most popular brands. End of the day its about generating business growth. That truly is the end game. But I believe there is a higher order.

How did you select the case studies for the book

Tutssel: All the case studies serve the same purpose and they illustrate the concept of HumanKind. I was looking for ideas that demonstrated brilliant thinking and high level of creativity. Ideas that worked in the market place. Ideas that demonstrate the depth and breadth of Leo Burnett as a company. No other agency has so many offices around the globe. We have 28. And we lead the new world thinking.

While you talk about creativity and its importance and about putting people in the heart of every communication, there are many clients who are more focused on performance based incentive. So how do you tackle both

Tutssel: Yes, performance based incentive is there and its important. Clients need to address their business needs and thats why they want to stick to effective formats. And I think people should be rewarded accordingly. All great brands do that. Brands today need both performance and purpose. And thats the fundamental truth. And thats also the biggest benefit of HumanKind.