Creative Business Leadership TBWA

Why TBWA is adding 'experience' to its chief creative officer roles

By Amit Bapna, APAC editor-at-large

February 23, 2023 | 5 min read

Earlier this month TBWA appointed celebrated creative Russell Barrett as its first Chief Creative & Experience Officer for its Indian operations. The newly created role is part of the agency's push to create total brand experiences for clients. The Drum spoke to Barrett and TBWA\Asia president Sean Donovan to find out more.

The future of brand experience

The future of brand experience

In 2021, TBWA Worldwide created its first global chief creative experience officer (CCEO) role, charging Ben Williams with the mandate “to help fuse the worlds of creativity and experience”. Two years later, the Omnicom-owned agency's Indian operations announced ex-BBH India CCO Russell Barrett would assume the CCEO role with a mission “to make TBWA in India as impactful as TBWA is in many other parts of the world."

The Mumbai-based Barrett told The Drum the task includes, "building a future-facing creative culture with like-minded partners and newer skillsets". The CCEO role, which will collaborate closely with the global creative leadership team as well as the local team led by chief executive officer Govind Pandey, “to drive the global ambition for TBWA’s creative product”.

According to Barrett, as the world evolves rapidly, the changes must be reflected in our industry as well. “The ‘what’ is still the same - we are still about ideas, telling compelling stories, crafting a brand into existence. But the ‘how’ has changed dramatically.” The audience is on multiple screens, platforms and places and very often the brand suffers because the custodians change, the vision gets altered and the experience is fractured, he says.

In this new media landscape the core idea must link to consumers across every touch point of interaction. “This is about everything - from packaging to PR, from sound mnemonics to sound strategy and from on-ground to on-air,” says Barrett.

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Why experience is so important

TBWA believes that creating the "total brand experience" is now a critical element in the changing marketing landscape. “The role of creativity in today’s world is increasingly moving from an idea-message-broadcast world to an idea-interaction-experience one”, says Singapore-based TBWA\Asia president, Sean Donovan.

He tells The Drum it's not just about a title, the role itself has moved beyond pure creativity - the most senior creative role has to be less driver and more navigator, he adds.

In that context, the ‘E’ for experience in the CCEO title is a significant addition, especially as the breadth of touch points in the consumer journey continues to evolve and expand.

The newly created title is a deliberate signal of the organisational intent and already it is popping up across the network. Last year, TBWA appointed Perry Essig as the chief creative experience officer for Asia.

“While all the markets may not have the title yet, we have been building the capabilities in markets for the past couple of years - beyond creative to include strategy, innovation leads, social, creative technology etc,” says Donovan.

Globally TBWA refers to itself as a ‘collective’ rather than a ‘network’, and one of the pillars of this approach is witnessed in TBWA's ability to work across markets horizontally, says Donovan.

This approach helps when introducing and embedding new skills and capabilities enabling the agency to build and scale sustainably, create specialists, and access people and skills within the collective.

As Barrett says, "A modern brand looking to leave any kind of impact needs to have its brand idea interwoven into the fabric of audience experience."

Creative Business Leadership TBWA

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