Stefano Hatfield On Advertising
British talent rules in Chicago. Who says we can't hack it over there?
Monday 15 May 2006
It received strangely little attention in parochial London, but the promotion of the Chicago-based Brit Mark Tutssel to the role of worldwide chief creative officer of Leo Burnett is really something. Given how rife with envy, bitterness and jealousy the creative departments of London ad agencies are, though, it is hardly surprising that the reception here has been muted.
For reasons I have never quite got to the bottom of, when Tutssel and his then creative partner Nick "Smiler" Bell's successful partnership dissolved at Leo Burnett London, a once-strong pairing split amid a debate over who was the real talent. There were four of them in that relationship: two men and their egos.
To recap, Bell had been offered the creative directorship of Lowe in the days when such a job came with a huge roster of major clients but no offer of having your mortgage paid off. To keep him, Leo Burnett London made him sole creative director, while for a variety of reasons Tutssel moved to Chicago, where the real power (or at least income) in Burnett resides.
There he encountered a creative beast unknown to London luvvies: Cheryl Berman, a leather-jacketed, mini skirt-wearing middle-aged Joan Jett wannabe who wrote schmaltzy jingles for McDonald's, Hallmark Cards and Disney. They're ads that make us Brits recoil in horror at Cannes; ads that those Midwestern clients loved because they apparently shifted Big Macs and cards for people who send people poems with pictures of kittens on the front.
Initially, Tutssel threw his toys out of the pram. For a while, it looked like he was going to add his name to the inglorious list of famous British creative directors to fail in the States. He wore his frustration on his sleeve.
However, by the time Berman finally took her gazillions of dollars from the Burnett float and sale to Publicis, Tutssel had knuckled down, sorted out his attitude to the Midwestern sensibility and begun to do way better work for extraordinarily difficult clients like Kellogg's. You try doing it.
Now that he has relaxed into maturity, he's the absolutely natural choice to succeed the charming and popular Miguel Angel Furones in creative charge of the network's 94 offices and very grown-up client list. I don't know who the talent was in the Bell-Tutssel partnership. I suspect the sum was greater than its parts. But I do know that you don't become the only Brit currently in such a US-based worldwide creative boss role at a major network without serious ability.
THIS WEEK, the Financial Times followed The Guardian by putting together a pitch-list of agencies for its account. I can't for the life of me remember what the current FT strap-line is. Of course, like everyone else, I can recall its old one - "No FT, no comment".
After breaking even for the first time since 2001 last year, the FT may believe it has turned a corner, and will now want to build on its positive momentum by trying to find a way to grow its stubbornly shrunken UK circulation. One thing's for sure; it will need to spend more than the £200,000 on media it committed last year.
I can also recall the all-time great John Webster-created "points of view" commercial for The Guardian. And, although I am vaguely aware of some decent campaigns since, again I can't recall what the latest work was. Does it matter?
Not whether my opinion matters, of course - but whether it is realistic in 2006 to expect any single advertisement aimed at a mass audience in the way that "points of view" was in 1987 to have the same level of impact? And not only is it realistic, but - is it even necessary?
What is surely more important is to distil, as "points of view" did, to a simple communicable message the inherent uniqueness of The Guardian in the newspaper marketplace, and then to amplify or exaggerate that uniqueness, whatever the medium or combination of media an intelligent and creative use of The Guardian's media budget will allow for.
That uniqueness lies not in whether it's a broadsheet, tabloid, compact or even Berliner (I don't care how many design awards it wins, it's still too difficult to read standing up on a packed District Line carriage), but in its point of view and its unwaveringly loyal core readership.
Both The Guardian and the Financial Times are unarguably unique brands - for better or worse. Both have the same problem going forward: how to grow that loyal core not by changing themselves yet again, but by amplifying those recognisable USPs (unique selling propositions). At least they have them. No matter how modern the media expressions of their respective creative ideas ends up being, the old-fashioned notion of the USP needs to be at the heart of them.
SO, THE Lowe chief executive Garry Lace and his champion Gay Haines, the driving force behind the Kendall Tarrant headhunting group, both quit their respective jobs this past week. The latter is rumoured to be contemplating setting up a talent management agency for top advertising people, the former presumably has settled out of court with IPG after the internal investigation.
Meanwhile, the two men whose careers she is best known for promoting are now both "out there": the ex-Lowe, ex-Grey, Ex-TBWA, ex-Euro RSCG, Lace and the ex-Euro RSCG, ex-Ben Mark Orlando, ex-McCann, ex-CDP, ex-Still Price Lintas, recent marathon-running Ben Langdon.
What price Haines getting new jobs for her oh-so-familiar talent: Lace or Langdon as CEO of Publicis Europe, perhaps? Or Langdon at Lowe? Fanciful? Contrary to some, I really don't believe that we have heard the last of Langdon or Lace.
HATFIELD'S WORST IN SHOW '3'
Oh dear! And I have been so nice about WCRS recently. I even reported on what fun it had been to be on the receiving end of chairman Robin Wight's lunchbox in the Ivy.
So when people I respect asked me cryptically if I had seen WCRS's new 3 mobile network campaign, I naturally assumed that it would be wonderful - especially as it was directed by those masters of Swedish mirth, Traktor.
Like I said, oh dear! OK, it is beautifully shot, and yes it has a lovely soundtrack: "Forgotten Dreams" by that noted American composer of light concert music, Leroy Anderson. But what does it all mean?
Since returning to London from New York, something has bugged the hell out of me on my 19-stop Tube journey on the District Line in the morning. No, not the usual delays and sweatiness, and the new breed of fool that has to listen to Eighties disco music on their mobiles without headphones. It's more delicate than that.
Commuters on the London Underground smell worse, not just than those on the New York Subway, but the Paris Métro too. I don't just mean their smoke-steeped clothes, or their wool-encased armpits struggling with summery temperatures, but their breath too.
It's not surprising, given the level of orthodentistry, oral cosmetic surgery and just plain old flossing that takes place in the US, that mouths there are less poisoned by tobacco (because of the New York smoking ban) and alcohol (because of American puritanism) and smell that little bit sweeter than in stale old London.
Perhaps halitosis is what this 3 ad is supposed to be about, because I am buggered if I can think of another scenario. How else to explain everyone opening their mouths only for multicoloured balls of silk to emerge from them and float along unravelling through the streets before enwrapping other people a good long distance away?
In this case, regrettably, there is no choice but to point out that the emperor has no clothes - or, at least, bad breath.
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