Mark Tutssel, Deputy CCO, Leo Burnett USA
This time last year, Mark Tutssel -- then co-executive creative director at Leo Burnett/London -- was on the verge of collecting a world-leading three Gold Lions for television work for Heinz, McDonald's and John West Salmon. This year, as deputy chief creative officer at Leo Burnett USA, he shouldn't expect to head back to Chicago with any Golds, but thanks to some cagey new hires he may well return home with a couple of Gold Lion-winners. With last week's hiring of Kash Sree and Jeff Labbé, Tutssel and Burnett have acquired a substantial interest in a few of this year's frontrunners. Copywriter Sree arrives from Wieden & Kennedy/Portland fresh from working on Nike's "Play" campaign while art director Labbé comes from TBWA/Chiat/Day/ San Francisco after co-creating the "Beware of Things Made in October" campaign for Fox Sports. Arguably two of the best U.S. campaigns of the year, both are in Gold Lion contention, and either could end up snagging the Grand Prix.
"We're just focusing on the matter at hand," Tutssel says, "which is maximizing every opportunity we have. We have some of the best clients in the world, and we're focusing on what we can do, which is offer our clients great ideas. To do that we need the best possible people."
Sree and Labbé are just the latest addition to Burnett's menagerie of top West Coast talent. The team of Josh Denberg and Paul Hirsch, formerly of Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, and Chiat/Day writer Stephanie Crippen have also signed on since Tutssel assumed his post on January 1. New hires combined with a redesign of the creative department, which has made assignments more fluid -- and more competitive -- has resulted in an environment Tutssel describes as "electric." "The results are starting to show," he says. "The spirit is great, especially among the younger creatives. They think it's Christmas."
Tutssel believes that the economic downturn has created opportunities for agencies like Burnett, which are in a position to pick up talent from struggling markets. "There's a lot of hardship out there," he says. "But Leo Burnett is solid. It's a healthy agency and this is a good opportunity." Revitalizing the creative at a $4.9 billion agency may seem like a daunting task -- and, if accomplished, an unprecedented feat -- but Tutssel does not mince words. "We have the opportunity to be the best agency in America," he says.
Jim Jenkins, Director, Hungry Man
Due to a 12-hour strike by French air traffic controllers, Hungry Man director Jim Jenkins missed his whole reason for being in Cannes this year, which was his inclusion in yesterday's Saatchi & Saatchi New Directors' Showcase. And the square-jawed Floridian does consider himself new, although he's been in the ad business for more than a decade. Jenkins turned to directing as a sideline while still a creative director at Ogilvy/New York, where he confesses to holding a pre-pro or two in vacant conference rooms, catering the affairs with finger foods left over from other meetings. He joined the Hungry Man roster a year and a half ago, and has quickly made a name for himself as a skilled comedy director. Examples of his work appearing in the Saatchi showcase included a pair of spots for Animal Planet -- one of which features a ram administering the Heimlich maneuver to a choking bachelor -- and a classic pitch for pet adoption in which the bond between a cold-blooded killer and his adoring pooch sets up the tag: "That's the great thing about pets. They really don't care."
The showcased work is not even Jenkins' best. In recent months, he has shot a hilarious cinema promo for Turner Classic Movies featuring a retirement home production of Rocky and a beautifully-timed piece of surrealism for Red Wing Shoes, both of which advanced to the Film shortlist this afternoon. "Directing life is so much better than agency life," Jenkins says. "You have so much more control over the work when you're involved with the production." Through his own micro-agency, Nice Big Brain, he keeps almost total control over some projects, like his promo work for TCM, a niche Jenkins says is ideal for new directors because "agencies don't want it because there's no media money, but there is production money." And even when he does work through agencies, like Minneapolis boutique One And All, which hired him to shoot for Red Wing, he says he likes to follow projects through to the final edit. "I stay involved until the agency throws me out," he says.
At forty, Jenkins says he feels like he's gotten a late start on his directing career, and although he shot 25 spots last year, he says he passes on more scripts than he accepts so he wastes no time building a top-notch reel. That reel is about to get a big boost from two more cinema spots for TCM, one featuring an elementary school production of Ben Hur; the other an Icecapades version of The Dirty Dozen.
THE OVERNIGHT SUCCESS
Tony Granger, ECD, Bozell/New York
When you point out that Bozell/New York earned more print Lions this year than any other U.S. agency, you are often met with blank stares. "We love the fact that people are saying, 'Bozell? My God!'" enthuses Tony Granger, the energetic South African who took over as Bozell's executive creative director 18 months ago. "They just didn't see us coming." As Granger points out, Bozell has lacked a public image in recent years, aside from its association with classic work for Jeep out of its erstwhile Detroit office. "They were faceless," he says. "They didn't have a bad name. They didn't have a good name." But they did have $1 billion in billings and a client list that made Granger's eyes pop, with accounts like The New York Times and Dairy Management Inc. So began the restructuring of what Granger likes to think of as "a billion dollar start-up."
"I broke down all the structure," he says. "There are no groups. There's a pool of creative people who work on all the assignments." The creative department has been trimmed from 130 to 70, and roughly half of those who remain were hired by Granger, many from his days as co-creative director at TBWAHuntLascaris in Johannesburg. "What we're trying to do is offer clients a truly international perspective out of New York," he says. "When you bring in different cultures from around the world, a certain magic happens."
This week, the magic came in the form of two Gold Lions, a Silver and a Bronze for clients ranging from The New York Times to Datek Online Brokerage. And the festival isn't over yet. The agency has five spots on the Film shortlist, three for Dairy Management -- including two edgy "Got Chocolate Milk?" spots from MJZ director Rocky Morton -- and two for Bank of America. "The agency has reinvented itself internally, and it's taken a while to catch up externally," Granger says. "It's been a very, very successful year for us so far."