Mark Tutssel in 5
Mark Tutssel, Chief Creative Officer of Leo Burnett Worldwide, defines his career to date through five pieces of work.
Issue 50 | February 2019
Loyalty and longevity.
The one leads to the other.
That's the first thing to note about Mark Tutssel. He's been a cog in the machinery of Leo Burnett for 33 years.
That's a bloody long time.
He started as an art director in London in 1986, the year the agency won McDonald's. Today, as Executive Chairman of Leo Burnett Worldwide, he's close to being the fly-wheel of the whole shebang.
Funnily enough, the paradoxical nature of a career in advertising often means that the better you get at it, the more at risk you become.
Top talent tends to be expensive.
And no matter how much agencies protest that they admire, nurture and reward creativity, most don't.
In fact, the first people to get made redundant when there's a dip in fortunes tend to be the senior creatives.
After 33 years in the game, most have CVs as chequered as the flag at Monza.
This says as much about Leo Burnett as it does about him.
It's an agency that has always valued creativity. And by that I don't mean kerning. I mean problem solving. Being creative partners to long-standing clients.
In his speech to the agency the day he retired, Leo Burnett, the man himself, said:
"Let me tell you when I might demand that you take my name off the door. That will be the day when you spend more time trying to make money and less time making advertising – our kind of advertising. When you stop building on strong and vital ideas and start a routine production line. When you start giving lip service to being a 'creative agency' and stop really being one."
If that commitment slumped in the 70s and 80s, it was rekindled by Michael Conrad in the 1990s. And has been massively reaffirmed under Tutssel, who became global Chief Creative Officer in 2006.
Thirteen years ago.
Longevity, there it is again.
Along with consistency.
Over the last decade, Leo Burnett has produced great work from a number of offices far beyond Chicago, London, Sydney and Toronto.
Tutssel is justifiably proud of the award-winners that have come from Lebanon, Colombia, the Philippines and Sri Lanka. (See pages 41 for Leo Burnett Colombo's work for Ceylon Newspapers.)
The first ad
So, where, and how, did this glittering career begin?
"At school, I was more into sport than anything though I was good at maths and art. I wasn't sure which way to go. My cousin is Glenn Tutssel, who even then was something of a legend as a designer. He got me to come up to London and introduced me to creative people like Michael Peters and John Hegarty.
This was an amazing period for British advertising. In every TV break there was something rewarding for the viewers.
Beanz Meanz Heinz.
It's frothy man.
Handbuilt by Robots.
And that's my first ad. Made in 1979 by CDP, this commercial for the Fiat Strada was a completely new way of telling stories.
It first ran in the middle of News at Ten, taking up the entire ad break.
Shot by Hugh Hudson, it was a beautiful ballet of machines with a music track that was perfect. And then that brilliant pay-off line that credited people with intelligence.
Handbuilt by Robots.
It helped me decide what I wanted to do."
The second ad
So, you went to art school, you won a competition in which the prize was a job for a year at an agency in Bristol. Then what?
"I came up to London, where Dawson Yeoman offered me a job at Leo Burnett.
That was 1986. The same year that we won McDonald's.
I learned at the knees of art directors like the great Norman Icke and Bob Stanners, who had invented the Milk Tray Man as well as the Cadbury Flake Girl.
I was like a sponge. Still am.
I'm very proud of the work I did with Richard Russell when we pitched for Gordon's.
The brief said, whatever you do don't use green.
So we used green.
And won the pitch and created a campaign that people loved.
Agency: Leo Burnett, London. Copywriter: Richard Russell. Art Director: Mark Tutssel. Several years later, Russell wrote the Cannes Grand Prix winner Honda "Grrrr".
But I guess the career-defining ad of that time was "Skidmarks" for Mercedes-Benz.
At this point in time, 1998, I was joint creative director of Burnett London with Nick Bell.
We had put the brief out to the entire department.
There was lots of good stuff but nothing amazing.
Then, driving back to Wales one weekend, there was a jam on the M4 caused by a Ferrari on the inside lane.
All the traffic in the outer lanes was slowing down to take a look at it.
So, that's where the idea started.
What the ad did was reward people for decoding it. And that's something I believe the best work does today: it makes people participants.
Then, as now, I saw myself as a player/coach.
I wasn't and never will be a 37,000-foot manager.
I work for the work."
Agency: Leo Burnett, London. Photographer: Russell Porcas. Copywriter: Nick Bell. Art Director: Mark Tutssel.
"By 2000 we had assembled a creative department of exceptionally talented people.
That was the year Paul Silburn wrote John West "Bear".
It was our calling card to the UK industry.
Hello, we're here.
This was before YouTube and it managed 350 million views. It has been voted the funniest commercial of all time quite apart from winning at Cannes, D&AD and the rest.
For me, there is no such thing as a 'viral' video.
There are, simply, ideas that people love. And that's what we are in business to do, to help make connections between brands and people, to start relationships.
I look at some of the most recent work we've done for McDonald's.
"Flat White", for instance, taking the piss out of coffee snobs.
It's human. People can relate to it.
And that's the other thing I believed in then and believe in still.
You do your best work for real clients who have commercial needs.
So, when I say that everyone in the London agency creative department got work accepted into D&AD that year, it was for work that worked.
Agency: Leo Burnett, London. Creative Directors: Mark Tutssel, Nick Bell. Copywriter & Art Director: Paul Silburn.
Every director who pitched to shoot "Bear" wanted to concentrate on the kung-fu fight. Danny Kleinmann came in from a completely different angle, wanting to shoot it like a natural history documentary.
"In 2002, I came to the USA. Michael Conrad asked me to come and do what we'd done in London.
I was joint Chief Creative Officer with Cheryl Berman.
It was exciting, daunting. In London we had a tight little group. In Chicago, there were 3,000 people in the building.
But we were able to do different kinds of work in different styles for Pontiac, Hallmark, McDonald's, Altoids, Disney and Burnetts began to go up the creative rankings."
Agency: Leo Burnett, Chicago. Creative team: Mark Faulkner, Steffan Postaer
Leo Burnett Worldwide has consistently ranked in the world's top 5 creative networks for ten years in a row.
Directory can vouch for this.
We used to own The Big Won Rankings and, year after year, if we had divided the total number of points scored by the total number of agencies in the network, then Leo Burnett would have come out on top.
"In 2006 I became global CCO and really got behind the philosophy of HumanKind.
We believe that brands need a human purpose if they are to mean anything at all to people. When they have purpose, then you can create the sort of ideas that really move people and can change behaviours.
I'm thinking of "#LikeAGirl" for P&G's Always.
Coca-Cola's "Small World Machines".
These are clients who embrace the power of ideas to solve customer problems and not just to sell.
"What helps people helps business", as Leo said sixty years ago.
'Creativity Without Borders' is Leo Burnett Worldwide's operating system. "#LikeAGirl" was the result of a collaboration between Leo Burnett Chicago, Toronto and London. Creative Directors: Judy John, Becky Swanson
What it means is that today we have the opportunity to go beyond messages to deliver experiences at every possible touchpoint. Offering utility.
Which is why I have chosen the work we did for the Chicago Art Institute as ad number four.
It won a Cannes Grand Prix for Creative Effectiveness.
It also demonstrates, I think, the sort of work we're doing in Chicago. Apps, experiences, work of real interest in new partnerships. Working in unison with a unicorn brand like Airbnb was a fresh new way of thinking about marketing."
Agency: Leo Burnett, Chicago. Creative Director: Mikal Pittman.
The idea helped the Van Gogh exhibition become the most successful show in 15 years at the Institute with attendances up 54% and attendance by locals up 93%, revenues totalling $66m.
The fifth ad
"My final ad is Samsung "Ostrich".
I've worked on Samsung personally ever since we won the business fourteen years ago.
The endline is 'Do what you can't', which brings us back to Fiat Strada in a way. Beautifully filmed, beautiful music and a great summary not of a product but of a way of dealing with life.
Agency: Leo Burnett, Chicago. Creative Directors: Britt Nolan, Vince Cook, Colin Selikow
Choosing just five ads has been incredibly hard.
If they have anything in common it is that great ideas grow great brands that demand great ideas.
Also, that great ideas are ideas that have an emotional resonance.
What's next? Well, technology is promising to change everything. 5G and AI, deep learning, wearables, it's dizzying.
But three simple things will define the next year or two.
Utility, connectivity, bravery.
Utility, creating ideas that serve people. Connectivity, designing in order to create human value. And bravery, to try to be original."
So, Tutssel is a Welshman.
'Hwyl', the Welsh call it. Passion mixed with energy.
He's got buckets of it.
Throughout our conversation he talks with steady urgency. But, I note, he uses 'we' more often than 'I'.
Maybe that's the secret of his longevity.
He doesn't boast about his own successes but he does boast about his people.
And here's the thing. They boast about him.
Just before I set to work on this piece, I got an email from someone at Leo Burnett in Chicago. She wrote, "Mark's been a fabulous leader for this network. He very much has a player/ coach attitude and nurtures and protects our creativity and culture."
That sounds suspiciously like real leadership.
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