MullenLowe U.S. CEO on the agency's 'Brief for Change' and where it lost focus in the past

"What I'm seeing now is so much energy and passion in the streets and in the industry and in our agency and I really feel optimistic that this is a moment to push off of to create real change."

MullenLowe U.S. CEO on the agency's 'Brief for Change' and where it lost focus in the past

Lee Newman, who has been at the helm of MullenLowe U.S. for five years, rarely does interviews or public talks, but Campaign US snagged him for a Pillow Talk video to chat about some really important issues, including the recent protests and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

When asked about the rallies against racial injustice and discrimination, Newman said he feels what he believes most people are feeling: "Grief and sadness and shock. It’s pretty raw and it’s everywhere."

He said he’s been talking about it with everyone, including his loved ones around the dinner table. "My kids are visiting and we’re having some really hard conversations about George Floyd and what happened and about police brutality and about white privilege," he said.

At the agency, he said there’s real anger and passion, as well as a desire to act.

A couple of years ago, MullenLowe launched an initiative called the 25Forty Project, which focused on the fact that the industry’s talent does not reflect that of the audience it or its clients are serving. The goal was to get 25 agencies to engage 40 students each and get them interested in advertising and mentor them and help with financial hurdles. "We thought if we could do that, we would change the face of the industry," said Newman.

However, it didn’t go as planned.

"I want to be honest about it. We did not have sustained engagement in it from MullenLowe and the partner agencies. We lost the focus on it," Newman admitted.

"What I’m seeing now is so much energy and passion in the streets and in the industry and in our agency and I really feel optimistic that this is a moment to push off of to create real change," he added.

And that’s where MullenLowe’s new "Brief for Change" comes in. The open brief is for the whole agency to come up with ideas that can create real change – and Newman said it won’t just be an exercise. "We’re serious about this."

The agency CEO touches on much more in the video interview, including how MullenLowe created a tool to help clients figure out how to authentically get involved in the fight against racial injustice, as well as the agency’s unique return-to-office strategy and how it adapted to working from home amid the COVID-19 crisis. Plus, there’s a little banter in the video about Newman’s standing desk and balance board. See below for more.

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