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Lot of people feel the CCO’s job is just attending award shows: Matt Eastwood

It has been a busy schedule for Matt Eastwood, Global Chief Creative Officer, McCann Health, ever since he took charge in January this year. Eastwood has been visiting McCann’s offices across the globe and meeting up with the teams and setting the future course for all the creative action. He has been camping in India since the beginning of April and was also at Goafest 2019 to emphasise on why doing good work is good for business. 

His belief in the ability of advertising shone through when he said, “I think the work we do can truly shape the world we want.” According to Eastwood, “Creativity is all about trying new things, being scrappy, and creating content that may not look like advertising, but actually are. Most importantly, things that do good.” 

With the case highlights of Kwality’s Noon Assembly campaign to address Vitamin D deficiency in Indian children to the launch of MGM Resorts’ Universal love songs in favour of the LGBTQ community, he explained that, “Commercials don’t always sell a product, they sell a point of view.” 

New studies report that 91 per cent of millennials would shift to responsible products. 81 per cent expect brands to make public commitments to be good corporate citizens. 

He closed the session by saying, “You must be a company that does do good for the planet, but you also have to be authentic. If you’re not, you’ll be called out immediately. Now you can’t get away without living the promises you make.” 

Adgully caught up with Matt Eastwood to know about the agenda that he has set at McCann Health, how he views advertising in India, why creativity will continue to be the core of the business and much more. 

What were you looking to highlight in your address at Goafest?
My talk – ‘Good Works’ – was about how doing good work is good for business. Four or five years ago, a lot of people talked about purpose-driven advertising and it was almost a trend, where you had to do a little bit of that to justify the rest of the work you are doing. The flip that has happened is that now it is almost mandatory that what you are doing is purpose-driven typically to resonate with younger audiences. It is great that the millennial audience have sort of mandated that brands actually have to be responsible and contribute to society and do good things for the planet or they won’t buy them. 

How would you rate India in terms of creativity?
I come to India often and looking at the work that has come from this country, I think it is one of the top markets in the world in terms of idea. It’s funny that every now and then there is a year that India doesn’t win very much, but then it comes back and does well. There’s always great work coming from India. 

How have you seen the progression of the Indian market in the last few years?
There’s a confidence that’s come into the work. Certainly, it has spread across more clients. At the beginning, there were one of two agencies and clients doing well, but now the big agencies are doing well, along with a lot of the smaller agencies like Taproot, which is no longer independent, but it is still delivering great work. 

What are the learnings from the other markets that can be applied to India?
I think one of the things that’s really important for the McCann Global Network – and what I try to enforce across all our offices – is a strategic structure called ‘Springboard’ and in that, one of the main questions is what role does your brand play in someone’s life. I really encourage everyone to make sure that they answer that question, because I think it makes the work stronger and gives it more depth. Certainly, in health we had to play a meaningful role in someone’s life who is suffering from some illness and there is nothing greater that we can do. 

India secured a Glass Lion in healthcare advertising some years back. How far have we come in this sector?
That was not an accident. Indian society has some big health issues that agencies can help try to solve. That, for me, is why McCann Health has been so successful here. Our approach to campaigns like Immunity Charm that help solve big global health problems seems to be typical of the approach that India takes as a country across lots of different clients. I am always impressed by how India takes on big global issues like Transgender rights or #ShareTheLoad for Unilever. 

How are you driving the creative agenda in India since you took charge?
My approach is always quite systematic. It involves setting goals for everyone, being clear about what you want to achieve, and ensuring that creativity is recognised and central to the entire company. 

For me, the Immunity Charm that McCann did in 2017 was one of the greatest examples of creativity in the healthcare space. I think it played a major role around the world in terms of making people realise there is this opportunity for great creativity within the healthcare space. 

How has the role of the Chief Creative Officer evolved over the years?
I still think the role is really important. It is interesting that some agencies have walked away from that role. My view is that it is a signal that creativity is not the center of the company anymore. Obviously, it is an expensive role that is not charged to clients, but what I find is that people really want that creative soul of the company to be represented by the global chief creative officer and feel like somebody is always fighting for the creative work within the company. 

A lot of people feel the job is just attending award shows and certainly that’s a part of it and I’m thrilled to be here this afternoon. But a lot of it is speaking to our biggest clients and assuring them that they are getting our best people. I almost see myself as a coach pulling together a team every time we get a project. The client will talk to us about what they are trying to achieve. And I try to bring together our teams across the globe together. That’s the role of the creative director, sort of as a conductor or coach across the network. 

There is so much chatter around data and technology. How do you put creativity at the center and drive the agenda forward?
The data conversation started two or three years ago and everyone was captured by it and were overwhelmed and pushed creativity back. But now people have slowed down and have realised that data is just data, it is not creative; it cannot help solve your problems for you; it can inform you and help you reach your audience in the right way, but now again the industry has realised that creativity is the thing on top of data and that will make all the difference. 

I see technology slightly differently. It is omnipotent in everything that we do now and particularly in the healthcare space there are so many ways that technology can be used to deliver health outcomes. I recently read that Amazon Alexa now allows doctors to exchange information using Voice and AI over Alexa. 

In February 2019 you had tweeted: ‘Some smart people here with some great ideas for the future’. Could you share some of those ideas?
What I found within McCann Health is that there are so many people who have a depth of knowledge that’s just found in regular agencies. A year ago, we formed a group called the Global Scientific Council, made up of 450 doctors and PhDs that are all on staff around the world for McCann Health. That level of knowledge exists right next to me at my desk. Our global medical director is Dan Carucci, who was very involved in the Immunity Challenge. He is an incredibly smart man who spent the first 20 years of his career in the navy and was part of the science crew that was working on the development of mapping the genome to come up with the malaria vaccine. He’s like the guy that helped make that happen. He’s leading our medical force behind McCann Health. Just being around the people with his level of insight and creativity back by scientific knowledge is amazing. What we are really trying to make sure is that science, strategy and creativity all come together in everything that we do. 

Healthcare advertising has to abide by a lot of regulations. How difficult is it to ideate keeping the regulations in mind?
It is definitely challenging in the more traditional spaces that healthcare advertising operates. For me, the exciting thing is that advertising almost doesn’t look like advertising anymore. The Immunity Challenge is a great example of that. That is not bound by regulations like the 90-second TV commercial and has got all of the fair balance, etc. What I’m encouraging to do is look for the opportunities beyond broadcast work; look for opportunities in experiential, product development, and that’s where I think creativity really abounds, not as restricted by the incredibly detailed laws.

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