adobo ExclusiveFeaturedInsight

BBDO Guerrero’s David Guerrero on ‘Lessons from the White Lotus’ – creative tips from creator Mike White at Cannes Lions

CANNES, FRANCE — Creativity requires method. Storytelling, craft. Even if a smash hit television show or culture-bending campaign starts with an inspiration strike, there’s everything that comes after. Shaping the concept, testing its limits, giving it character (sometimes more than one), which is something that Mike White – multi-hyphenate entertainer and creator of TV sensation The White Lotus – knows a thing or two about. 

Ogilvy welcomed one such storyteller to the Cannes Lions stage. Mike White joined Ogilvy’s Global Chief Creative OfficerLiz Taylor in delivering a masterclass on storytelling as the two sat down to discuss creative process, “divine discontent,” the experience of work taking flight, and how even our neuroses can be an ally in making something audiences love. 

In this adobo Exclusive, BBDO Guerrero Creative Chairman David Guerrero shares his key takeaways from the masterclass, and some creative tips he gathered from the award-winning storyteller.


One of the highlights of the speakers program at Cannes this year was the interview by Ogilvy’s Liz Taylor with the film-maker Mike White. Among other things, we learned that he’s a minister’s son, who always felt like a bit of an outsider. He worked his way up working on various screenplays including “School of Rock” and “Nacho Libre.” He had a breakdown at some point in his professional career and moved to Hawaii where he also set the first season of his most successful show to date: HBO’s The White Lotus. 

Surprisingly perhaps he was also a contestant on the reality shows “The amazing race” and “Survivor” where he finished as runner-up. Surviving any reality show is no joke and it’s an unusual credit for a writer and film-maker. It was this experience though that helped shape what has been his biggest hit to date: HBO’s The White Lotus. This series is set in a luxury resort with a random assortment of rich and privileged travelers and the stressed out hotel staff who cater to them. 

Part of the satisfaction he had with the success of the series was from seeing the ideas he normally had to battle studio executives to get made. The White Lotus, he explains, was a product of expediency. The studio needed to get something made quickly during the pandemic, with a brief to shoot something in a single location over a set number of days. With the second season, set in Italy, completed and a third season, to be shot in Thailand in production, he has hit on an critical success that has so far been rewarded with 10 prime time Emmy’s and two Golden Globes. 

He has some words of wisdom for creative people. Namely to “go towards what excites you” to spend time with the things you are drawn to – as well as the people and things that can teach you the most. He’s aware of our common mortality and thus decides to spend less time consuming film and more time writing it. He does read “intellectual” books however and says that this inspires him to create. Certainly sounds like good advice for all of us. Meanwhile, however, investing some time in watching The White Lotus should be time well spent for all of us in our business. 

About the author

David Guerrero, BBDO Guerrero Creative Chairman 

David put his name on the door of BBDO Guerrero, Manila in 1998. Since then the office has consistently been one of the most awarded agencies in the region. Currently, Campaign Brief’s “The Work” places BBDO Guerrero in the top 10 in Asia, and The Drum Asia Pacific ranks the agency in the top 30 in APAC. He has been named Creative of the Year for South East Asia, serves as Trustee for Creative Services in the 4As, and last year was invited to join the board of Childhope Philippines. His recent book on creativity “You have to go through a lot of crap to get to good ideas” by Milflores Publishing, sold out its first, admittedly modest, printing. Meanwhile he is definitely not giving up the day job. 

Partner with adobo Magazine

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Back to top button