Robert Sawatzky
Apr 22, 2024

Why McCann’s global chief creative wants more work from an ‘open kitchen’

Javier Campopiano’s success recipe calls for a collaborative culture where media channels and gender roles dissolve into each creative serving.

Why McCann’s global chief creative wants more work from an ‘open kitchen’

Given the recent popularity of restaurant dramas like The Bear, it's apropos that Javier Campopiano likens his next challenge at McCann Worldgroup to running a big kitchen.

After finding so much success early in his creative career in senior roles at FCB and Saatchi & Saatchi (think 'It's a Tide ad'), culminating in accolades, awards, and a rise to the top global job at Grey in 2021, Campopiano turned heads when he left to join McCann last year.

At that time, the global CCO who now oversees the creative output across 100 countries, called for “every possible flavour of creativity” while preparing once again to dazzle clients, consumers and critics alike. 

Six months later, he is still sizing up his talent worldwide, inviting them to join him in a big 'open kitchen' of creative collaboration.

Campaign sat down with Campopiano on a recent visit to Singapore for a global pitch and an opportunity to catch up with McCann regional CCO, Valerie Madon, in person. 

Below is an edited version of the conversation.

Six months into joining McCann, what is your creative strategy and ambition going forward?  
My aim as a creative leader is to try to open the creative community more into what we call the ‘open kitchen’. When we started one of the first things that I said to the group was that creativity belongs to all of us. It’s not something done by a group in isolation. That is an obvious thing to say, but sometimes in networks you see the creative community working on one track and the rest of the organisation working on a different track. 
But what we want is an open kitchen with everyone cooking together and responsible for a great product. That's quite important these days because the more open you are, the more access to talent you can offer clients, who really want that now more than ever. So we're doubling down on that notion of opening up to make our talent more accessible and our collaboration more streamlined.  
Conceptually we’re also doubling down on ‘Truth, well told’ as our creative criteria, which is important for me. I had told Daryl Lee on joining the organisation that ‘Truth, well told’ was one of the things that attracted me most about McCann. It’s one of the best philosophies in in the industry, the first trademarked slogan for an agency as well. And I was completely in love with that line.  
At a time when truth is under so much attack on many fronts, being an organisation that can champion truth is a privilege. Since it’s in our DNA we're trying to articulate a common language around it and tap into what is already in our organisation. I don't see the need to reinvent the wheel. My aims are more about focusing on our strengths, seeing which positions our talent can play, and then making them more available and connected. 

A lot of your work has involved a blurring between advertising and entertainment. We saw it in your work with TideCoke and Walmart.  Is there more of that to come? Can we still push that further in this world of multimedia?

That’s an interesting question because in my career it’s never happened in a premeditated way. It happened when a particular brief for a particular brand had the right to play in that space. I don't think that we should do it purposefully. 

Obviously brands are trying to collaborate more, even between brands or competing brands. That was unthinkable many years ago but now you see it because consumers don't really see those lines anymore. Things change. We don’t watch TV the way we used to. We do it while we scroll on our phones, and everything blends as we consume content. That helps blur the lines between categories and brands that are all competing for the same amount of attention. 

So when you have the opportunity to break that cycle with work that also blurs lines between media, like in the Coke or Tide examples you mentioned, where you use screens complementarily by using the power of one platform to direct people to another. 

When you do branded content, you are competing with a lot of other content. So the guarantee that you will be able to break the bubble really depends on the quality of the content and the connection of that content with that brand. I think we’ll see more of everything. The lines are blurring more and more.  

Now, work by creators is further blurring those lines. You once spoke about how advertising was better at latching on to the zeitgeist and turning what's current into interesting content. But now creators are the real experts at this tapping into daily news and trends in a way advertising can’t. How do you see the relationship between advertising and creator content evolving?

I think it’s an interesting challenge for marketers who have two ways of doing things. You are either able to play at the speed of those content creators if you have structures in place to allow this, but it’s a challenge at the marketing level because you still need to vet and approve content unlike an individual that can simply upload content. So I don't think that is so easy.  

And then you have the traditional play that takes more time. The challenge for brands here is how to create a brand platform that allows them to still interact with people and in a manner that is culturally relevant, even if it's not at the speed of culture. But it’s hard to be constantly answering to what’s happening in culture because you have to create it frofrom a place that is actually connected with the brand. You don't just want to be reacting to things.  

For us, communicating through an enduring brand platform where we can still play and connect with culture is where we can add more value. That allows a brand to either react or even consider if there is a need to react to cultural phenomena. Without that the communication is scattered and less effective. 

We were reminded on International Women's Day about how much has and hasn’t changed around gender representation and equality in the creative sector. What’s your take on the degree of progress or lack thereof around women influencing creative work?

We are far away from reaching a place where equality is a reality. I consider recruitment the place where we can have the biggest immediate impact, doubling down on searches to make sure that representation is not a ‘nice to have’ but a mandatory. This obviously applies to diversity as a whole. 

Once recruited, it’s equally important to make sure that women are included and supported, especially as they advance to more senior roles in the organisation. 

Regarding impact, it's easy to identify how the creative language and approaches are rapidly changing. There is obviously a shift, a fresher way of saying things, both new and old. It is not just in the obvious (for some people) topics or campaigns, it is across the board. 

Our latest Super Bowl campaign for NYX is a good example; for the first time in long time, the joke—which by the way was really silly— was on the men watching the game. And that created a little bit of a shortcut in the system, to put it jokingly, to a point where we couldn’t run the ad is it was conceived. This came as a surprise. An almost all-female creative team was behind the idea and it is proof that there is a new language forming, which is the result of more women leading creative process and teams (and more diversity as a whole).  

That language is going to be different and richer— not just in female-oriented products, which is another bias, but across all categories. Not so long ago, certain projects or products were less likely to be led by female creatives. Since that is now changing, we can expect that the language of those categories, let’s say alcohol or automotive to name a couple, will be transformed by the influence and impact of having different actors shaping that work. 

What is McCann doing to enable or accelerate the change?

Ambition Collective is helping us to have more female representation in some key projects, like Nurofen’s 'See My Pain'. This project is quite interesting. Although you could say that it is an obvious project to be led by female creatives, the way the work came to life feels to me clearly different, sharper and more direct. I have been in too many rooms where projects which tap into causes where women are the first and most affected, were led, criticized or approved by men. 

And of course in the region Valerie Madon is obviously leading the charge for us as one of Asia's most celebrated creatives and a rare female chief creative officer at the APAC level. This topic is something that's very personal to her as well. 

The liberating element in my opinion is that we are hopefully heading to a place where the comparisons between genders when it comes to art and sports will be irrelevant. Women’s football is incredible in its own right, with its different style of playing, more direct and aggressive, and people are enjoying it without comparing it with male football. 

Campaign Asia

Related Articles

Just Published

33 minutes ago

Whose idea is it, anyway?

Jindal Steel campaign that won silver and bronze at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity sparked a row over creative ideation with Wieden+Kennedy

1 hour ago

SIA retains PHD as media agency of record

EXCLUSIVE: After five years of working with PHD, Singapore's flag-carrier Singapore Airlines has retained the agency for media duties.

2 hours ago

Tech On Me: Can adtech wean itself off MFAs?

This week's edition: The fifth The Media Responsibility Index is out, Snap launches a real-time image model, and TikTok ads now have AI creators, among other tech news in the region.

3 hours ago

How I came out in the workplace

Every LGBTQ+ person has their own choice, timing and path to recognise their sexual identity publicly. Here, the director of HR at DDB Sydney gives her perspective.