Down Under, A Diversity of Thought: A Q-and-A With Jason Williams, Chief Creative Officer of Leo Burnett Australia
The creative lead for Leo Burnett’s Australia offices shares how a diversity of clients fuels a broad range of creative solutions.
While Leo Burnett’s Australia offices have a knack for smartly bringing humor into campaigns, beyond the comedy they also strive to tap into culture and human emotion. Jason Williams, Chief Creative Officer of Leo Burnett Australia, shares more about bringing the power of two offices together, judging a mountain of creative work, and the advice he has for young creative leaders.
1. In March 2017, you were named the Chief Creative Officer of Australia, a newly created role aiming to unite the Melbourne and Sydney offices. Since you took this role on, how have you seen the creative relationship between the two offices evolve? What does the future look like for Leo Burnett Australia?
After 18 months we’ve learned loads about each other and our strengths. Cross-collaboration is becoming more intuitive and we practice a sprint culture on certain projects which is super energetic and successful. Our future model will be built around making sure our clients have full access to the best thinkers, designers and makers across Leo’s Sydney and Melbourne offices.
2. Last fall, you attended the Leo Burnett Global Product Committee (GPC), where as a judge you discussed, debated and scored over 200 pieces of work on the 10-point HumanKind scale. Leo Burnett Australia took home two 8 balls, a recognition of creativity that “changes the way people think and feel,” for Melbourne’s “BONDS RE-LOVED” and Sydney’s “Silent Whistle” for Samsung. Both campaigns address important HumanKind issues, yet take a completely different creative approach. For you, where do the two campaigns coalesce? What qualities make a campaign 8 ball-worthy?
At Leo Burnett Australia we pride ourselves on diversity of thinking. We have a wealth of different brands that allow us to create a range of creative solutions. We love that no one solution is the same and our eclectic range of work reflects that. We always try to tap into culture or a human emotion in some way. The best 8 ball thinking should always try to deliver on both these qualities.
3. What were some surprising campaigns you saw at GPC Chicago? What lessons did you take away from the week?
We’re privileged to have a system like GPC. We use this process to improve our product, teach our people the crucial importance of creativity and demonstrate to our clients we care deeply about enhancing their brand narrative. Even though we relentlessly score every piece of work, conversation and debate are the two most powerful behaviors we practice during GPC. The obvious pick was Eva Stories, a rare 9 ball! A beautiful, human, seamless demonstration of how to utilize storytelling in a social platform. It made me jealous!
4. Between the humorous Samsung #SponsoredPost campaign that pokes fun at influencers and the hilarious and all-too-relatable Bonds “Glo-Ball Warming,” Leo Burnett Australia brilliantly strings humor across its creative work. In your experience, what makes humor work within a campaign, and how has our cultural approach to humor changed over the years?
Humour is innately human and a powerful connector. Laughing is vital to our well-being, it triggers endorphins and makes us happier as humans. People literally share millions of outrageously funny, humourous things every second.
I guess we – at Leo Burnett, and Aussies in general – gravitate toward humour because it’s a part of the self-deprecating, laid-back culture. We like having a little fun with each other! Comedy will always play a part in creativity and storytelling.
5. You founded Young Guns International Awards, an organization that recognizes creative leaders under 30. Since it was founded, the portfolio-based competition has become one of the most prestigious awards for young creatives. What do you look for in an applicant’s portfolio?
Young Guns (YG) was so much fun; at the time we felt compelled to ensure young creatives had their own platform. Young thinkers are ambitious and impatient, so we wanted to ignite and accelerate their hunger. Meanwhile, the three of us have since grown up and become consumed by larger remits—family and life. So, we had to let YG go. But we feel proud of our legacy and how we inspired many of the larger shows like Cannes and One Show to invest more time, resources and importance into next gen thinkers. That’s a win!
6. Having over 10 years of experience at Leo Burnett in a variety of roles, what is your biggest piece of advice for someone under 30 who is beginning their career in this industry?
It blows me away how connected and accessible humans have become. What an exciting time for creativity. Gen Z is now enabled to be more entrepreneurial, more adventurous, make mistakes, experiment, be active, be inventive, and create platforms, businesses and products that don’t yet exist. Possibility is alive and well, far beyond our industry. Don’t let anyone hold back your ideas!
7. Describe how Leo Burnett Australia reflects the values and work of Leo Burnett the man, based on the following words. You can choose one word that means the most to you/the office, or reply to all, whatever you prefer.
Leo was a futurist, one of the most visionary and pioneering (and I’m not brainwashed). He identified long ago the most enduring and fail-safe logic was to focus on humans and their behaviour. Creativity is just part of our DNA, Burnetters know it’s fundamental to what we do. Creativity never gets old and will outlive the buzzwords. As for as the words below, Leo Burnett Australia identifies with all of them. In fact, there’s one missing. Let’s add “e for entrepreneurial.”
Innovation – We’re innovating every day!
Storytelling – It’s simple: tell an awesome, emotional story and people will share it. Tell a lifeless, expected story and it will go nowhere.
Creative Solutions – This is a given! There are so many possibilities and solutions to solving our client’s problems. UI, CX, sprints, dynamic creative, brand ecosystems, design thinking, platforms, data, behavioral design—the list goes on. Any truly creative company should be able to deliver on most of the above.
HumanKind – I’m a disciple. HumanKind is a belief and a process. It ensures we religiously care about how humans interact with brands and creativity.