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'Data is a forest when I want a house': Leo Burnett's North American CEO on creativity and change

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Andrew Swinand
Andrew Swinand

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When Andrew Swinand was tapped to be Leo Burnett's North America CEO last January, he had a daunting remit. Burnett had long been a flagship Chicago agency, but after losing McDonald's in September 2016—and a few other accounts—the legendarily creative shop had lost some of its luster.

Swinand, who most recently had been at sibling Publicis shop Starcom Mediavest, brings a background in data and analytics to the role of burnishing Burnett. But not at the expense of creativity, he says in this edition of the Ad Lib podcast. "For me, data is a forest when I want a house: It's great to have all that wood, but if I didn't have someone who can do something with it, it's irrelevant," he says.

And of course, it's not just Leo Burnett in need of a reset. With some pundits suggesting that digital disruption will wipe out 40 percent of the Fortune 500 over the course of the next decade, Swinand posits that every industry is undergoing radical disruption.

"This is a time where leaders need to be radically transforming their own organizations ahead of the market," he says. "The idea of the transformation mandate was, [for us], renewed purpose and really getting back to this idea and a quote from Leo Burnett: 'What helps people helps business.' If our core product is creativity, understanding people is actually he biggest value we can bring to clients."

We discuss all things Leo Burnett and Publicis, data and creativity, sitting out Cannes, consultancy creep and how an incident when he was an infantryman during the Gulf War helps inform him on what's really important.

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