For two contrasting reasons, Cannes 2001 will forever mark a
turning point in the career of Mark Tutssel.
After a string of awards, Tutssel's six years at Leo Burnett London
reached their zenith in June when he walked off with three gold Lions
for the agency.
Along with Nick Bell, his fellow creative director and professional
partner, he had finally reached the point he had been struggling to get
the agency to for all that time.
It was then that he found out that Bell was considering a defection to
Lowe Lintas. Bell had left it until he was three weeks into talks with
Lowe to tell Tutssel - and then only because Campaign was about to blow
the whistle. Tutssel was rightly upset.
"Disappointed? Yes, obviously," he says. "It's a marriage, basically,
and we have been together for six years and those have been six
incredible years. It came out of the blue - it was a shock and I was
I'd lie if I said it wasn't. But Nick had to consider it and quite
rightly took his time. I respect that. It took time and it was painful -
I was judging Cannes at the time, so in that sense it clouded that
experience, but ..." Here Tutssel trails off. It is palpably and
understandably painful for him to talk about the period.
He brightens considerably when talking of the new job, that of deputy
chief creative officer and vice-chairman of Leo Burnett USA. He is
looking forward to the change and is undeterred by the prospect of
"The common denominator is ideas. The whole idea that they produce
different types of work over there is not the case any longer," he says.
"Obviously, it's a much bigger department with more than 200 creatives
and its billings are a lot higher - but the basic principles apply, the
working practices will be the same." His arrival at the agency is part
of a senior management restructure that saw the chief executive Bruce
Brinegar resign last week.
The agency wants to tap into the recent success of the Bell/Tutssel
"It wants exactly what we have achieved in London - great creative," he
says. "With great creative comes great business success." Tutssel is far
from humble about his record at the agency. He calls Leo Burnett London
the "jewel in the crown" of the network. Apart from the multiple awards
and then Cannes, the London operation was nominated agency of the year
Does he foresee any problems with the new job though? "The problems will
be the same ones we faced in London six years ago -getting the
multinationals to buy great creative work. It worked in London and,
hopefully, it will in Chicago. It will take time and won't be an
overnight success. It's a case of focusing the agency on creative
output, business and brand building."
He also doesn't see the change in title - the addition of "deputy" - as
a step down. "Oh no. It's a step up, if anything." Why? "It's a
My actual job is a partnership with Cheryl (Berman, the chief creative
officer and chairman in the US) working together as one - so it's
virtually the same relationship I had with Nick. It'll just carry across
Tutssel wants Leo Burnett Chicago to be the best agency in the network.
To do this, he'll have to compete with Bell.
When you ask Bell about the impending split with Tutssel, he takes deep
breaths and is awkward, but honest. He understands his partner's move:
"There wasn't any difference in roles in the early days but things did
evolve. I tend now to be very involved in the work and spend a lot of
time with the clients. Mark over the past 18 months has been heavily
involved with our quarterly international get together of the creative
staff. He's started to play much more of an international role."
Although Tutssel categorically denies that Bell's talks with Lowe had
anything to do with his departure, Bell is not so sure. "I know that he
was disappointed. He was an absolute gentleman about it. I was very
worried because there was my partner and my mate sitting there and it
was an extremely difficult time for him. All the fuss was about me and
here was a partnership and suddenly one guy gets approached. How big a
part did it play? I don't know, I can only speculate. Possibly it was a
critical turning point where Mark looked at things differently after
Bell generously says that the UK agency will be poorer for Tutssel's
leaving. "We've lost a man with an enormous passion for great work, a
mate and someone who was supportive and someone who is a Leo Burnetter
through and through. We're losing a lot of good qualities. He's going to
go into Chicago commanding an awful lot of respect - and so he
He's quick to point out that he expects the UK to keep up the good work,
however. Bell says that he'd resign if he thought the creative standard
Has the friendship survived? "Absolutely," Bell fires back. "I spoke to
Tuts this morning and I'm going to the football with him next time he
gets back over here." Tutssel is due to take up his new role on 1
January but already seems to be spending most of his time across the
Any impatience is perhaps understandable, given his experience so
"It took six years in London to bring about change," he muses. He thinks
it might take just as long in the US.