If further proof was needed of the creative power that diverse backgrounds and thinking can provide and the need for the advertising to embrace that change, the celebrated photographer Mario Testino provides just that.
Speaking at the Cannes International Festival of Creativity, Peruvian-born Testino said that his position as an outsider in an industry dominated by the French, Italians and Germans meant that he approached his art with a different vision to his contemporaries. “We live in a world where everyone is made to emulate others. It was only when I accepted that I was Peruvian was I true to myself,” he said.
Having worked with brands ranging from Gucci to Chanel to Versace and famous for his pieces with the Royal Family and model Kate Moss, Testino’s contribution cannot be underestimated. the Observer described him as “the world’s most prolific magazine and fashion trade photographer.” For a man from Peru – a country not necessarily known for its fashion credentials – his ability to accept and then wholeheartedly embrace his status as someone who did not fit the stereotype has allowed him to take his craft to new levels.
This is something that we at Leo’s London are seeking to do. By recruiting people from a diversity of backgrounds and with diverse skills, we know that we can enrich our creative output with a range of different outlooks on what our work should look like. The problem with employing identikit people is that we end up getting identikit work. It’s the same with photographers, Testino says: “In our business people get caught up in what their image is. I realised that most photographers wanted the image [they create] to be of them.” Can we really say that advertising is any different?
The ability to adapt and change was also something that Testino said had helped him to rise to the top of his game. Listening – something that many in the ad industry stand accused of failing to do – has also heightened his creative process and allowed him to collaborate to a greater degree. The word ‘collaboration’ is something that is currently being bandied around the agency world (like its counterparts ‘innovation’ and ‘inspiration’ it’s a fairly fashionable thing to say.
But putting it into practice is an entirely different thing and agencies business models need to be restructured to take people out from beyond our own comfort zones.
And finally how reassuring to hear someone who also manages to transcend art and commerce, and has snapped some of the most beautiful women in the world, in such a magnificent way also agree that our preoccupation with youth is in danger of overshadowing our appreciation of experience. Too often older people found themselves spat out of the advertising system when in fact we should be cherishing the knowledge that they provide us with, just as Testino does.
Chaka Sobhani is the chief creative officer for Leo Burnett London