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Abbas Fatullayev

Managing Director Trade Mark Leo Burnett

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Leo Q+A: Josh Raper

And we're back with the famed Leo Q+A, our way of introducing the world to some of our more colorful employees residing at 35 West Wacker and beyond. Next up is Josh Raper, one of the brains behind #EsuranceSave30 (the wildly successful Super Bowl activation that gave one lucky Tweeter a cool $1.5 million) and Recipeace (the beautifully designed campaign that gave Peace Day a decidedly food-driven twist , making our Leo Burnett Department of Design the first-ever recipient of the D&AD White Pencil).

Today we chat with Josh to get his (rather controversial) thoughts on one of Leo's iconic characters, find out what it's like to present at South by Southwest and why advertising isn't as subjective as we think it is.

Name: Josh Raper
Title: VP, Account Director

Describe your role in one word: Zeal.

If you weren’t in advertising, what would you be doing? Working/singing on Broadway.

What’s on your to-do list this year? (Win an) Effie.

What's the first thing you do in the morning when you get to work? Depends on what time I arrive. Most days it’s checking my calendar and checking in with my team to get a sense of the most important things we need to accomplish today. My client is on the west coast, so emergencies don’t start 'til around 11.

Where do you do your best thinking? Under pressure. Is that a "where"? Doesn’t really matter where I am, I need the overwhelming force of time-pressure to get my focus aligned.

Do you have a personal motto? No. I feel like I am constantly being inspired and having my ideals challenged. I don’t have a silver bullet.

What creative talent would you most like to have? The ability to draw or anything visually artistic.

If you could be a character in any commercial, who would it be? I’ll tell you who it wouldn’t be: Tony the Tiger. I feel so badly for that cat. He is always hanging around and being supportive and giving people food, and no one even pays attention to him or invites him into the game. It’s always like, “Yeah, whatever, Tony. I’m kind of having father-son time right now.”

Above: A Frosted Flakes commercial that complicates Josh's argument.

What’s your current state of mind about the advertising industry? I think most agencies and thought leaders are in a vicious circle of out-thinking one another and focused far too much on what is next (and most likely currently unachievable) than what is now. Communication has always been about the consumer, and I believe it always will be. There are too many people chasing technology and forcing it into communication. Don’t get me wrong, it can work, but you have to put the consumer first. Then find the technology that enhances the idea not leads the idea.

What living creative person do you most admire? Ze Frank (we kind of look alike as well, I’m like a poor-man’s version of him… oh and Anthony Michael Hall … if they had a kid).

Above: Video by Ze Frank on the floppy-floppy spider of the sea.

How would you like to end your career? Quickly.

What do you consider your greatest creative achievement? EsuranceSave30 or Recipeace. Esurancesave30 will have an actual lasting effect on how other brands and agencies use Twitter and advertise during the Super Bowl, which is pretty cool. Recipeace is a beautiful idea that was executed through a grassroots approach that I would never have thought a big agency could pull off.

What’s your idea of advertising misery? Brainstorms. 1000%. Final answer. There is nothing in this world worse than a brainstorm. You know what “moderator”? There is such a thing as a wrong answer. We don’t need to pin a blue ribbon on every half-wit that speaks up and explore what “free insurance for everybody” might look like in “the real world.” Just shake your head, say “next” and move on. Pretending every answer is gold probably isn’t helping your “process,” which by the way, is probably named with an annoying anagram like “VOYAGE” (Visualize, Optimize… etc.).

What’s your idea of advertising happiness? Less approvers. More doers.

What advertising lingo do you most overuse? “At the end of the day.” I don’t know why. It’s horrible. I hate myself. But you know what, at the end of the day, if that is the worst thing I say, I’ll take it. Shit.

What’s your biggest advertising regret? The lack of foresight when presenting at SXSW that I would be sitting with a placard of just my last name in front of me. I feel like I should have seen that coming.

What trait do you value most of co-workers? Passion.

What do you think most people misunderstand about the business? That advertising is purely subjective. It isn’t. There are things that everyone can use that can get a better indication of what is right and what is wrong. Primary and secondary research, industry, category and consumer trends, to name a few. Not to mention overall business objectives. I get in far too many conversations where people throw out hypotheticals that aren’t grounded in anything about the business, consumer or category. It’s not as subjective as we allow ourselves to think it is. Creative, yes. Subjective, not always.

And, finally, what’s your favorite ad or campaign of all time? M&M’s campaign. Definitely. (Hi Susan).

Thanks, Josh! To read more Leo Q+A's, have a look at our previous editions, below:

Leo Q+A: Charley Wickman
Leo Q+A: David Schermer
Leo Q+A: Anne Beebe