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Leo Burnett’s Mark Tutssel: ‘You’re only as good as your next idea’

In February, Mark Tutssel stepped into the role of Executive Chairman of Leo Burnett Worldwide, becoming the agency’s first creative leader since Leo Burnett himself.

The network has landed some significant business wins since then, including Samsung Visual Display and the worldwide Cathay Pacific account. Tutssel is returning to Asia in March to lead ADFEST 2019 as Grand Jury President. 

What are the top Leo Burnett offices in Asia Pacific from a creative perspective?
Historically, Leo Burnett has had a consistently strong creative presence across Asia Pacific, and I’m proud of the breadth and depth of the work that’s put us on the map in the region. From the beautiful and emotional Petronas films from Kuala Lumpur, directed by the great Yasmin Ahmad, to the future-facing Nike ID Generator experience from Beacon Leo Burnett Tokyo, we’ve delivered a range of outstanding creativity. 


The body of work spans executions for global brands like the McDonald’s “Wrapped” effort from Jakarta and Coca-Cola “Small World Machines” from Sydney, to game-changing local clients like SPC Ardmona’s #MyFamilyCan from Melbourne and HP Lubricants’ “Roads that Honk” from Mumbai. Those, among others, have helped us take home ADFEST “Network of the Year” in 2013 and 2015, and runner-up in 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2016. True to form, we’re stepping up to the plate with some strong work this year. 

What are your personal favorites of 2018 so far? 

One of my favorite ideas comes from Sri Lanka in partnership with our Toronto office, which created a revolutionary new product for JAT Holdings called “Petal Paint.” 

Australia continues to be a heavy hitter, consistently delivering great work for iconic brands like Honda and Samsung, and Tokyo has produced an inventive promotion for McDonald’s with “HaHon HoHaHa Hie.” 

India also continues to do groundbreaking, innovative work for P&G and Bajaj, and Taiwan has a fantastic new film for China Airlines that breaks the mold of traditional airline advertising. Finally, of course, Bangkok continues to produce exceptional work, my favourite this year being TQM “Frank Talk.” I could go on and on with more great examples, but I’m always delighted and excited by their output.

In February, you stepped into the role as Executive Chairman of Leo Burnett Worldwide. What’s been your focus since then?

Obviously, growth is imperative, so new business has been a first and foremost focus. We’ve had a strong year, most recently winning the global Samsung Visual Display business and the worldwide Cathay Pacific account, both a testament to the value that our network provides as we accelerate into the future.

Another priority is ensuring we’re delivering transformative solutions for clients at a time when our creative product is continuously evolving. Creativity is the most valuable asset in business today, but our solutions are seizing fresh new canvases and taking on inventive new forms. What’s important is that we ground our creativity in a true sense of purpose. Today’s marketplace can feel awash in branded clutter and noise, but the marketers who are winning are those that start with an understanding of how, where and why their brand fits into a person’s life, and then leverage that purpose to lead the way. Keeping our network focused on purpose-driven creative solutions is a huge focus.

What are the toughest aspects of leading 98 offices globally?

As we all know the tectonic plates of marketing, media and technology have been shifting for some time. Those forces continue to evolve, and will continue to keep our industry’s leadership on its toes. 

That said, I view my role as twofold: the first part is to act as a compass for the brand and ensure that Leo Burnett’s aspirational vision remains our true north — that is, a creative culture set on being nothing less than Best in the World – Bar None. 

The other equally important focus is safeguarding our network’s laser focus on future-facing creative solutions with the power to drive business for our clients.

This won’t be your first visit to ADFEST. What’s the value of a regional awards show like ADFEST?
ADFEST is one of our industry’s most respected events and a personal favourite of mine among the regional festivals. It’s a hotbed of creativity and learning, with a hugely passionate delegation. I’m especially looking forward to discovering work that celebrates the unique and rich local cultures across Asia Pacific and the Middle East, as well as meeting friends, both old and new. 
Anyone close to you knows you’re an ardent football fan. Is running an agency a bit like leading a football team?
I love “The Beautiful Game” and see many parallels between it and our business. I’ve always thought of myself as a player-coach because I love developing talent and working closely with my teammates. Like any great coach, I view my role as to make each of the players stronger through inspiration, not instruction. 

The emphasis on teamwork and collaboration is also similar in football as an agency. The most important part of my job is fostering a camaraderie and spirit that fuels the team. Once that’s established, you can move to tactics, but we have to create something special between ourselves before we hit the pitch. 

You introduced a new vision for Leo Burnett, Creativity without Borders, in 2012. How hard was it to get creatives to collaborate across borders? 
Creativity Without Borders has been an important model because it provides clients access to the best creative talent from around our network. It’s what allows us to deliver unrivaled creative firepower to any of our clients, anywhere. And if Creativity Without Borders is our operating system, our interface is the Global Product Committee (GPC), regular meetings where we invite top creative directors from around the world to evaluate the quality of our work. 

The GPC unites the finest talent we have in the network, and helps me curate bespoke, cosmopolitan, multidisciplinary teams to work on our clients’ biggest problems. It’s a totally integrated and seamless way of operating that’s given birth to some of our network’s most awarded creativity — world-class ideas like Coca-Cola “Small World Machines,” P&G Always “#LikeAGirl” and, more recently, Samsung “Anthem” for the Rio Summer Olympics.
Leo Burnett tops the creative rankings consistently. What do you attribute the network’s success to?
The secret to our success has been the relentless focus on creativity at the core of everything we do, and in creating an environment where creativity can flourish and people can thrive.

Most importantly, we’ve never rested on our laurels, which goes back to something Leo Burnett once said: “I have learned to practice what I call ‘constructive dissatisfaction.’” That ethos means that each day we’re motivated to find new, fresh, innovative and memorable ideas that will make people sit up and take notice. You’re only as good as your next idea, and that’s what makes this industry — and Leo Burnett — so special. 

Mark Tutssel is joining ADFEST 2019 as Grand Jury President, which runs from Wednesday 20th March to Saturday 23rd March 2019 in Pattaya, Thailand.

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