Giles Hedger Named Chief Strategy Officer of Leo Burnett Worldwide
Hedger joins global center from Leo Burnett London, where he serves as Group Managing Director and Chief Strategy Officer
Leo Burnett Worldwide Chairman and CEO Tom Bernardin announced today that Giles Hedger, Group Managing Director and Chief Strategy Officer at Leo Burnett London, has been named Chief Strategy Officer for Leo Burnett Worldwide. Giles will join the global Executive Leadership Team and lend his strategic thinking and leadership to both the global center and key markets around the globe.
Giles was kind enough to answer a few questions about what he hopes to accomplish in the role, what he'll miss about London and more.
What excites you about becoming the global Chief Strategy Officer at Leo Burnett?
I'm excited that the global company is choosing to put thought leadership at the top of its agenda. These are complex times for all agencies, and Leo Burnett recognises that success will require clarity and focus both inwardly, in the decisions we make as a company, and outwardly, in the way we approach brand building for our clients. There is so much nowadays to distract an advertising agency from the thing it does best. When I think of the unique value we create at the heart of our business, and when I consider the infinite tangents of applied creativity in the wider sense, I thrill at the sheer scope for simplification.
We haven't had one before. What were we missing? What is your vision for the role?
This network has brilliant thinkers and brilliant thinking in abundance, so I'm not sure there was ever a deficit in that sense. The one thing we hadn't done, though, was assign a lead. It's a small step in some ways, but it enables big things to happen. It makes it easier to develop shared beliefs; to align on the divisive issues that plague the industry; to identify and celebrate best practice. But a CSO should never seek to aggregate or trade in improved averages. Anyone can turn a thousand sparkling subjectivites into steady corporate kilowatts. My job is to ensure that we are as imaginative at a global level as we are at our grass roots. It's about the power of local variation, and making this part of our global story. That's how we tell our clients their brands should behave, and we need to adopt that behaviour too.
What's the single best strategy you saw in 2013?
This may sound odd but I don't collect strategies. I admire outcomes, and it tends to be that the better the outcome, the more invisible the strategy. Strategy, planning, thinking, call it what you like, it is a means to an end. When I hear that McDonald's in the UK is in its 30th consecutive quarter of sales growth, I know that good thinking has been a factor, but what I admire most is the growth. When I watch Arsenal play at their fluid and exuberant best, I know that I am witnessing the result of a brave talent strategy, but what I admire most is the football. When advertising makes me cry I know that someone somewhere has traced a clever path through the human psyche, but I'm too busy crying to care. Leo Burnett is about creative outcomes, and everything else, myself included, is simply the way we get there.
What was your favourite work of 2013?
Foot Locker's Week of Greatness campaign, by BBDO New York. It's an in-store bonanza that could so easily have slipped into tactical oblivion had BBDO not turned a promotional proposition into an irresistibly topical advertising idea. This ad makes me smile; it makes me want to go to Footlocker; and it makes me feel good about the future of advertising in this, the era of activation.
Why do you believe that HumanKind is important to our brand and to our clients' brands.
HumanKind is simply what we chose to call the Leo Burnett approach. We did so because we like to start and end with the people whose behaviour we are trying to change; because we were the first agency to commit publicly to the notion that brands need a human purpose more than they need a positioning; because, creatively, we believed the things that brands do for people are as important as the things that brands say to people; and because, in the end, the way we chose to be judged was on our ability not to generate fame or buzz but to carve a durable place in the popular imagination. All of our shared beliefs were tethered in some way to the primacy of people, and it seemed like a natural thing to reflect this in the way we branded our methodology. But like I said before, methodology is just a means to an end.
What will you miss most about London?
Fish & chips. (It really is that simple.)
Where do you go for inspiration?
I go to the ballet in Covent Garden. It is the most sumptuous, most meticulously choreographed experience available in any genre. Being there reminds me of the importance of craft in the suspension of disbelief; it reminds me of the inches that separate transportative magic from the other 95% of creative endeavour; and, perhaps above all, it reminds me just how easy it is to think when nobody else is speaking.
Where do you do your best thinking?
In my sleep. Distillation is pattern recognition, and this is a task best performed by the sub-conscious. I measure every problem-solving task by the number of available sleeps, and always have done.
What creative person do you most admire?
Brandon Flowers. Mr Brightside is the best song of the 21st century.