Tutssel Looks To Reconnect With Tradition At Burnett

When Mark Tutssel thinks about Leo Burnett as an agency, he keeps coming back to its roots, founded by eight creatively driven men in the 1930s. As he moves into the top creative post at the $9 billion agency network with 94 offices around the globe, Tutssel said he wants the shop to rekindle that creative spirit while also adapting to a wildly changing industry.

“The revolution has begun, and the consumer is in control,” said Tutssel, who today becomes chief creative officer of Leo Burnett Worldwide. “The relevance of traditional advertising agencies will come to an end if they don’t change their ways.”

A student of advertising, Tutssel, 47, who has been deputy worldwide CCO since January 2005, succeeds Miguel Angel Furones. Furones, 56, who has been in the job since January 2003, will work on the transition with Tutssel through the end of the year, before returning to his duties as chairman of Leo Burnett Iberia. Furones, who helped transition the shop from a private organization to a part of the Publicis Groupe, said it was time for the next generation to take over.

“In the history of the company, there’s the right person for a period of time, and it may not be the same person for a different period of time,” Furones said. “Mark has the passion, the knowledge and the ambition to move this agency to No. 1, creatively.”

In his new job, the loquacious Tutssel will continue to lead the agency’s quarterly global product committee creative confabs and hire senior creative directors in key markets, such as positions in Europe. He’s also looking to change creative thinking around the agency to move away from traditional advertising to more media-neutral work. “Currently, the agency is not structured to be holistic to clients’ problems,” said Tutssel, who has been at the agency for 20 years, first in London, then the U.S. “We have to stop proving the effectiveness of an ad, and start proving the commercial value of an idea.”

A native of Wales, Tutssel’s adjustment to the U.S. headquarters as deputy U.S. chief creative officer was rocky, as he alienated some longtime staffers with his singular drive for award-winning work. “Leo Burnett needed to be shaken up,” he said. “My standards are high. My expectations are high. For some people that’s frightening and for some it’s motivating.”

Tutssel found some creative success with General Motors, specifically Cadillac’s “Under 5” Web film series and “Be Cool” movie tie-in. (The work won the Gran Prix at the international Globes Awards last year.) It’s a success Burnett worldwide CEO Tom Bernardin expects him to repeat in other markets. “I’ve never had somebody say—unprompted—that he doesn’t improve the work,” Bernardin said. “I like the fact that he’s on the edge and creates controversy at times.”

Moving forward, Tutssel said he’s looking to increase the “connectivity” within Burnett’s offices—much as he’s been doing for client Samsung, where he’s used teams from Singapore, Toronto and the U.S. on different pieces of the $400 million global business.

“The quality of work that he brings is exceptional,” said David Morgan, Samsung’s head of global advertising services. “Mark has been excellent at pulling the global teams that Leo Burnett has together and marshalling them for our business.”