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Publicis’ global creative on the agency focusing energy on its biggest brands

Bruno Bertelli, global chief creative officer, Publicis Worldwide, entered the industry “by coincidence” he says. On his trip to Asia, he shared with Marketing that how one “seemingly trivial conversation” ended up changing his life forever.

“When I was working as a diving instructor in Seychelles, I met a copywriter who was on a round-the-world trip as part of a creative award he won. I remember thinking that getting a trip around the world just by writing was something I could also do. I always enjoyed doing it anyway. I investigated where all the best writers go to study and that’s how I ended up in New York,” said the global chief creative officer of Publicis Worldwide.

The creative who has been with the agency for over two years now added, “In a way it worked, I do travel a lot.”

Prior to the role, Bertelli was the ECD of Publicis Worldwide Western Europe, and CEO of Publicis Worldwide Italy. In his role, he reports to Arthur Sadoun, CEO, Publicis Communications and is be part of the Publicis Communications creative board. He was brought on board to drive the creative standards and mission to lead the change in the network, and of course, oversee work for some of the network’s biggest clients including Heineken, Renault and Nestlé.

During his appointment Sadoun described him as “an exceptional creative leader who has the ability to inspire and the capacity to tackle major client challenges successfully”.

Marketing: Given that you have been in the global role for over two years now, how do you feel the role of the creative agency has evolved?

I had one big goal when I started the role – get everybody to focus their energy on their biggest brands. The common belief was that big brands don’t want creative work but that’s not true at all. In fact, it is more rewarding when you manage to do your best work on your biggest clients plus they guarantee greater exposure and more opportunities to produce great work. However, this requires a solid brand strategy to be more consistent and relevant across the entire customer journey. I’m happy because all teams are onboard with this now.

Marketing:  You came into the role a little before Arthur Sadoun became CEO of Publicis Groupe. Then the focus seemed to move to the “Power of One” and of course Marcel. So how did creativity play a role in all of this? 

Creativity is and always will be at the heart of what we do. It’s the one thing we all celebrate – great storytelling for the brands we work on. The good thing about the Power of One is that it allows us to tell a wider range of stories that are more relevant to the audience, while connecting the network by using specialist that were unavailable in the past. All are at the service of creativity.

Marketing: How important is it for creative agencies to embrace data? 

I love data and so do my creatives. I don’t allow data to dictate or neuter creative. Instead, we use it to feed the brief with mind-blowing insights that are truly relevant and help tackle the real issues. It’s also the best way to sell brave creative to clients. Bottom line – data inspires us instead of limiting us.

Marketing: Where do you find inspiration and what kind of work inspires you?

Mostly movies and books. Anything with a great story, a colourful imagination or an inspirational person. Michael Jordan is my biggest hero. Dedication and endurance are lessons I picked up from him.

Marketing:  Is there any part of Asia where you find creativity to be immensely strong? What factors do you think are needed for great work to emerge?

I love the work coming out of Thailand. It’s like nothing else because in many ways they disobey the rules and go wild and raw – which is what creativity requires sometimes. The stuff coming from there is always refreshing and highly enjoyable.

Marketing: What’s the most frustrating thing about the industry right now?

At times, we are devalued, even though everybody would agree that creativity will always be a key success driver. Look at the latest ad from Nike and the effect it had on the share price. It’s incredible. And yet, I keep reading about the death of the industry. I would argue that it’s just the opposite; that’s it the most exciting time for it. Look how vast the playing field for creativity has become. There is literally no limit to where and how one can tell a great brand story.

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