101 Great Minds on
Music, Brands and Behavior
Chief Creative Officer at Leo Burnett Worldwide
“Music has the ability to change feeling. Because it is feeling.”
Mark Tutsel, Chief Creative Officer, Leo Burnett Worldwide
As Chief Creative Officer of Leo Burnett Worldwide, Tutssel is responsible for setting the creative vision for the company. The network has topped the Gunn Report’s “All Gunns Blazing” category for six of the past seven years, leading the industry in new-world thinking. One of the most awarded creatives in the industry and named by Campaign Magazine as the ‘No. 1 Worldwide Creative Director,‘ his work has garnered every major creative accolade in the business. During his tenure as CCO, he‘s won 480 Cannes Lions, six of which were Grand Prix. He has had the honour of chairing the world’s greatest award shows, and is one of the only creative directors in the world to serve as a Cannes Lions Jury President three times. He also sits on several boards, and is a member of the Royal Society of Arts.
Reese: So are you a music lover? And how do you feel about music in terms of its marketing potential?
Tutssel: I’ve been looking at some of the work we‘ve done at Leo Burnett around the world in the past two or three years and it really demonstrates the many ways of solving a problem using music or applying music in an interesting fashion, which gives us an insight
into music and human behavior. But the first question you asked was do I love music? And I defy anyone to say “no” to that question. I think music is loved by every human being on the planet. It‘s in our system, it‘s in our DNA. Think about it. Our first introduction to sound is in our mother‘s womb. Sound is the first connection people have with humanity, with each other. I grew up in Wales, which is renowned for singing. It’s home to some of the greatest singers in the world. I grew up in a family where music was everywhere. Every aspect of my life had music as part of it.
“Music has the ability to touch you, to move you, and to connect with you.”
Reese: Is that still the case today?
Tutssel: Well, my nephew Kristian Williams is a musician, under the stage name Eugene Francis Jr. He’s toured with Coldplay. And my son literally lives for music. He’s the product of the iPod generation, where you can immerse yourself in a vast choice of music. Now he plays the piano, he plays guitar, he plays saxophone, he writes music. He’s one of many that have the ability to create. They write songs, they sing songs, they post them on YouTube, they get their music out there. That ability to be heard, to share it globally, it‘s never been
easier. Geoffrey Latham once said that “music is the vernacular of the human soul.“ I’ve always thought that was a fantastic quote. Music has the ability to touch you, to move you, and to connect with you. In terms of music in advertising over the years, where do you begin? There‘s been so much great work. From signature stings like Marlboro Country right through to Honda GRRR. And the beloved jingle, which is beginning to resurrect itself. Every single day in the office, my former partner Richard Russell, a copywriter who worked on Honda GRRR, used to say, “The jingle will be back. The jingle will be back.“
Reese: Do you make a connection between the value of a brand and the ability to listen to a brand? Certain brands you can recognize with your eyes closed, such as Apple or McDonald’s.
Tutssel: I think music amplifies the purpose and the personality of a brand. Tony Kaye is probably one of the greatest film directors in our industry in recent times, and I remember talking to him once about the power of music. He looked at the television and he said, “A television
screen occupies that space, X by Y. But music fills the room.“ When you watch commercials, you‘re watching that space, but actually you‘re absorbing the entire message of a brand, of which music can play a powerful part. Music has the ability to change feeling. Because it IS feeling. You can learn an awful lot about people when you listen to the songs they love. When you’re invited to somebody‘s house and they select music, it‘s a deep insight into who they are, what they
love, their tastes, their character. And of course music has the power to unite. Think of the national anthem before a soccer game. It generates strong emotions. People can cry.
Reese: There‘s an interesting study about how children separated from their mother after birth will recognize her three, four years later. Because they pick up on the frequency. And of course a baby‘s cry is the most addictive sound in the world.
Tutssel: I think we’re hardwired that way. We’re conditioned to respond to sounds in certain ways. Music is part of that. When you hear the fi rst few bars of “Start Me Up“ with the Rolling Stones, the hairs on your neck stand on end. And that‘s how great music can really add something to communication. Since I‘ve been in the business, it‘s always been about, here‘s a great idea, here‘s a great director, here‘s a great story board, here‘ s a great editor, and, oh yeah, we need some music. Music has usually been at the end, rather than front and center, inextricably linked to the idea. I think what musicians and composers can bring to the table is so important, if they‘re briefed correctly. And, of course, when existing music is used the right way… I remember talking to John Hegarty (of BBH) over dinner a few years ago about how Levi‘s 501 owned music in the 1980s. If you think of the classic spot “Launderette” with Nick Kamen and “I Heard It Through the Grapevine.” It captured the imagination of the British public and wove its way into popular culture.
Reese: It‘s really interesting that our trust level is very high when we‘re being sung to. I believe it has to do with songs being sung around the campfire – valuable information was contained within those songs. Folk songs that were actually guides to survival.
Tutssel: There’s a more recent piece that wove its way into the audio fabric of the world, that showed the joy music creates. I’m thinking of the Cadbury’s Gorilla. The entire aim of the brand was to create joy in peoples’ lives. That moment of joy when you pop a piece of chocolate in your mouth. So how do you then trans- late that into film? Not only the spectacle of a gorilla playing the drums, but the Phil Collins “In the Air Tonight“ track. The music delivered what it was intended to do: create joy.
Reese: Can I ask you one question here, in the middle? This has nothing to do with music. How does it feel when a great idea comes to you?
Tutssel: I think it‘s intuitive. Actually it sings to you. You feel in your stomach. There was one recent spot that, the moment I saw it, I knew that was it. The idea was to use street musicians to premier the new Oasis album, “Dig Out Your Soul“. We “leaked” four songs from the
album by getting street musicians to perform them. Google Maps guided fans to performances at locations around the city. And with the help of YouTube, it became a cultural phenomenon. Another one of my favorites was a spot by Leo Burnett in Milan for Ariston, using
existing music. The brief was to show that the washing machine had lots of capacity; it was big inside. So they turned the inside of a washing machine into a coral reef, with the clothes as fi sh. They could have done this via computer generated imagery, but they chose to do it for real, because they wanted to capture the fluidity of the clothes. The music underscored and amplified the beauty: “Ask The Mountains“ by Vangelis. It worked beautifully. It was poetry. Another piece we did a few years ago was for AIDS, to bring home to America the devastating effect of this problem. We found that globally, if you did the math, the number of deaths was the equivalent of every single child in North America being orphaned. Every parent dying, of every child under five years of age. So, a world without parents. We went to Berlin, we cleared the streets, and we shot a city without parents. And then we enlisted the help of Michael Douglas to do the voiceover, to give it gravitas. But the music we used was Common Threads by Bobby McFerrin. And again, the music was the emotional glue that brought the whole spot together.
Reese: It seems like with everything you‘re involved in, you make it a rewarding experience for your audience. You don‘t talk AT people.
Tutssel: Ultimately, I‘m looking for communication that creates participation. You will only truly connect with people if you put a meaningful human purpose at the center of a brand story, and invite participation into a brand. People want to be active participants in brands now. They‘re no longer passive receivers of those stories.
We do great work for McDonald‘s around the world, and that’s because we understand the part that McDonald‘s plays in people‘s lives. Ray Croc, the founder of McDonald’s, said: “We‘re not in the restaurant business, we‘re in the people business.“ When you talk about musical mnemonics, those fi ve notes, “I‘m lovin’it,” ba ba ba ba ba, underpin a piece of communication with a brand. It‘s almost subliminal: Five notes create that instant recall of why the brand exists, as opposed to just a musical ditty that gets under you skin. It’s a little reminder of what the brand story is all about, and your relationship with that brand.
Reese: I’m very interested in the link between memory and music. I’m here in Chicago and maybe one day I’ll hear a song that will bring the whole experience back. I always remind people in our business that we’re working on an audio-visual medium – not just
a visual medium.
Tutssel: That‘s a nice way of putting it.
Reese: And we are in the remembering business. This McDonald‘s commercial strikes me as very unobtrusive, very human.
Tutssel: All great brands have the human touch. And great communicators too. Because you don‘t need to force feed people ideas. People embrace ideas. And participation is the logical conclusion of an idea they truly love. I was talking to Coca-Cola last week, and obviously music is pivotal to their communication strategy, which is all about creating happiness. And when you think of music and the joy music brings, you can go right back to “I‘d like to teach the world to sing.“ It was really addictive at the time, and it’s endured. It’s not just a musical sound track to a commercial, but a kind of spiritual anthem. It’s a great illustration of the power of music.
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