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Lessons in creative leadership from the minds behind top ads

It might be one of the most coveted positions in the ad agency infrastructure, but what role does the chief creative officer (CCO) really play in the grand scheme of things?

As part of The Drum’s Can-Do festival leading creative gurus from FCB, Leo Burnett and Impact BBDO discussed the ins and outs of running creative departments, particularly in the last few months of lockdown.

This year, The Drum’s World Creative Rankings found Frederick Levron, worldwide creative partner at FCB Global, to be the most awarded creative of 2019. In his role at FCB, Levron has worked on The Gun Violence History Book, Burger King's Whopper Detour, and Times of India's Shindoor Khela #NoConditionsApply campaign.

He was joined in the discussion by Paul Shearer, chief creative officer at Impact BBDO. Placed fourth on the Creative Rankings, last year Shearer won the MENA region’s first Cannes Grand Prix with The Blank Edition for Lebanese Newspaper An-Nahar.

And lastly, Liz Taylor tuned in to share her experiences of working at Leo Burnett as CCO. Taylor ranked equal 34th on the Creative Rankings for her work for Leo Burnett and FCB Chicago - where she launched four highly awarded Super Bowl commercials and serviced clients like GE and Kimberly Clark.

So, for those who have their eyes set on the top creative job, in the mood of a department change or just genuinely curious, watch the session in full here or enjoy our bite-sized takeaways of what they think makes a great CCO below.

The job of a CCO is to keep people grounded...

"Ultimately our job is to keep an eye on how businesses are running to make sure the agency is not dropping the ball," contends Impact BBDO's Shearer.

"One of the problems I find in creative departments is when people become egotistical. Award shows can be responsible for that. Winning awards can make a person forgets the reason why they're in the business.

"So the CCO job is to be making sure that everyone is keeping down to earth.

"And, ultimately we need to make sure we're not losing business because that's all that matters. There's nothing worse than having an account ring up to say there's a pitch because you feel that you haven't done the right job for them."

CCOs should set the creative vision...

"Our job is to set the creative vision," shares Leo Burnett's Taylor. "You want to be a creative agency, not just a creative department."

"So our job to ensure that people reach their full potential. That they're doing the best work of their lives. That they feel like they're growing.

"And ultimately what is our secret sauce? What is our point of view? Where are we heading? Looking ahead as well because you know, what makes people want to work at Leo Burnett is the culture, the type of work that we do, and where we're headed. And then what makes clients want to work with us too.

"We need to infiltrate that into every aspect into how we're organized, how we set up teams, how we create internal programs for culture. It's really setting that vision and helping live it, not just say it."

Good creative leaders are the ones who build inclusive teams...

"As creators in advertising, we create culture. But we also need to be in touch with culture," explains FCB's Levron.

"The people that are shaping culture right now are not really represented in agency networks. So frankly it's a risk if CCO's don't bring in more black creatives or women into our agencies.

"While they might not have followed the traditional paths, at FCB, we are challenging the way we hire people. We look less at portfolios and awards. Instead, we go people who have a little spark and passion.

"And then change will come. This is crucial because it has an impact on society. But it's also crucial to maintain our business. Because again we will only be able to enter business problems of today and tomorrow if we have if the thinking is coming from enough places."

The creative panel spoke with The Drum‘s executive editor Stephen Lepitak as part of The Drum‘s Can-Do Festival, an online event celebrating the positive energy, innovation and creative thinking that can make the marketing community such a powerful force for good. You can watch the interview in full here.

Sign up to watch forthcoming sessions and see the full Can-Do schedule here.

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