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Leo Burnett Chicago
35 West Wacker Drive
Chicago, IL 60601
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Maggie Shepherd

VP Reputation and Communications

Emily Doskow

Chief Marketing Officer

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Q4 GPC Q+A: Victor John Manggunio

This week, the fourth-quarter Global Product Committee, comprising the top creative leaders from Leo Burnett Worldwide, is meeting in Indonesia to evaluate work from around the global network using the agency’s 10-point HumanKind Scale. Work that receives a 7-point rating is considered to be the benchmark for excellence in craft. (To learn more about the GPC and the HumanKind Scale, watch this video.)

We caught up with Victor John Manggunio, chief creative officer, Leo Burnett China. With his two-plus decades in the region at the agency level as well as out on his own as a film director and head of a production company, Manggunio spoke with us to offer his insights in how the market has evolved and what his biggest challenge is in his new role at the agency.

Follow @TheLBGPC next week on Twitter for live, real-time updates from the GPC room.


How would you describe the evolution of the creative landscape in this region during your time in the industry? I’ve had 20-plus years of experience in Hong Kong, China and different regions, and what I have seen is every market—and you see others, like Thailand and Singapore—has developed their own voice, their own style, and they feel much more comfortable in how they express their language and communications.

With Hong Kong, it was a very executionally driven market and so the tone of voice was always based on the executional qualities, maybe because of its movie-industry background, and so it was never really a very humorous place nor was it ever really a print-heavy place. In China, it was a very different story. It was an emerging market, which was quite rare, not many people get to start in a totally new environment. In the last 10 to 15 years, we’ve seen China try to catch up quite a bit with the influx of Hong Kong talent and now, more likely in the past five to 10 years, talent from Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, and so the growth in China has been ramped up very fast. It’s had to grow up very fast and it’s still at a stage where I think it needs to mature quite a bit more but it’s coming at breakneck speed and that makes it a very, I wouldn’t say volatile, but it’s something that you shouldn’t be surprised if next year it looks totally different from this year because it is just catching up so fast.

How has your passion as a film director fueled your career over the years? The nice thing about being a film director is you get to focus on the end point of the entire creative process. You get to just focus on the storytelling part of it. The few years I managed to do film directing, I got to hone my skills on pure storytelling without the burden of the strategy or the back and forth with clients. I can just focus at that end point and that really is a benefit, when you can just sit down and really focus on your part of it, and I got to appreciate the craft of it a lot more. I was able to bring a lot of that back to the agency side, to really give certain parts of the process a much more needed focus, because it really does make a difference. If you are trying to do so many things at the same time, you don’t really do anything specifically well.

You took some time to start your own production shop called Noodle Films. What did you learn during those three years? The best thing about being a production house and the director is that you now are open to working with other agencies, and it was an eye opener. You see how other agencies come about ideas, how they work the strategy, how they handle clients, and it really is a refreshing change. You see how they did it differently or how they found an innovative way to solve issues that you never would have seen because your are stuck in one way of doing things in other agencies. You get to work with digital agencies, content producers, even direct clients that have no idea how to put stuff together.

Now, you’re the chief creative officer of Leo Burnett China. What do you hope to bring to the role and what are you most looking forward to in this role? I’m looking forward to the challenge of building up a new structure. The several offices that have to work together work in a very different market than the rest of the world. China, as most people know, operates on a totally different style of social media, communications, cultural nuances and so the challenge of that is what really drew me to this role. It’s no longer just bringing in a few new talents and coming up with some nice ideas and work out new campaigns.

Looking at the structuring, looking at how strategy plays a much more integrated role into things, how they review ideas with us as well as working together on the briefing. I’m not a big fan of the siloed it’s-your-turn-and-then-you-hand-it-off-to-me approach, so we’re look towards making a lot of it more streamlined with groups work together with one common deadline rather than segmented deadlines. And we’re also building new arms of the company to will help towards become a more modern agency.