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5 Minutes with… Leisa Wall



FCB New Zealand’s co-CCO tells LBB’s Esther Faith Lew how the agency influences social behaviour with their campaigns

5 Minutes with… Leisa Wall

When Leisa Wall was just five years old, she told her mum she didn’t like the spelling of her original name ‘Lisa’, and she wanted to put in the ‘e’ to make it unusual. If that’s not a young creative rebel in the making, I don’t know how else to put it. The current co-CCO of FCB New Zealand knew she wanted to be a creative early on – and to this day, she wakes up every morning raring to go. 

“I think from the moment I became a creative, I never wanted to leave… it's such a dynamic industry. You're never working on the same brand, and it's so fulfilling because you've got so many problems to solve. It keeps me motivated and I’m never bored,” she says.

Leisa shares that she started out in the film and TV production industry, and it was while on set that she noticed the presence of ad creatives who were there with the script and she thought to herself that was the kind of role she wanted. 

“So, I started work at Ogilvy as just a creative assistant, and then got to working on briefs on the side even though I wasn't officially a creative. I roped in Paul Wilson - who has gone on to run some of New Zealand’s top agencies - to be my creative partner, and our creative director at the time said, ‘if you can win the New Zealand Young Lions competition, I'll make you creatives’. That's pretty much what we did. When we got back from Cannes, we had our jobs!”

Leisa’s always up for a challenge, and there is no experience – even when bad – that is not a valuable learning process. Her enthusiastic and persistent approach is something that young creatives could take a page from. “Always be a learner. It blows me away that you can be in this industry for over 20 years and still be learning new things. It's about curiosity and never settling – and to always challenge yourself,” says Leisa.

“Importantly, it’s about reframing challenges, criticisms and feedback…. some of my worst experiences have been the best learning experiences of my career.”

Leisa is best described as a really focused creative rebel who likes to have fun, and co-CCO Peter Vegas would agree with that. She reflects that Peter has been a strong, reliable creative partner who offers sound advice. 

“Vegas always says to me ‘these are the good old days, so enjoy the moment’. In this industry, we're always looking forward to the next big thing and we don't just sit in the moment and go, ‘Wow, this project I'm working on right now is incredible’ - and just enjoy it. Appreciate the ‘now’.”

LBB> As a creative leader, what is the work philosophy that guides you in your work and team management? 

Leisa> My co-CCO Vegas and I have this philosophy of implementing a ‘safe place; scary work’ kind of environment. If we create an environment in the creative department where everyone feels safe in terms of how they can just be themselves and not be bombarded by politics, then they can focus on the work and create work that is amazing. When people feel safe, they do their best work, and it seems to be working really well for us here.

We have a neon sign downstairs that says, ‘No Wankers’. It's all about being authentic. If you're really passionate and you just want to create great work, then you'll be quite happy to be challenged and to consider other opinions and perspectives. That actually creates a healthy work environment.

LBB> Following FCB New Zealand’s launch of creative data and CRM capability FCB/SIX , how will you be bridging the gap between creativity and data in your work?

Leisa> We don't really see the gap because we've had data in-house for the last six years, and it is something that is factored into our deliverables when we answer a client brief. Data is just insights, and it has value in giving a client confidence in terms of pushing forward in a certain direction because they've got the science to back it up.

Our industry has gone through a phase of collecting data, and now that we've got this mountain of data, we have to think about how we are going to use it. I think people may sometimes be put off by it because it seems quite technical, but when we see it as nothing more than just the process of finding out what lies behind consumer motivations, behaviour, etc, it doesn’t seem as daunting anymore and it becomes information that is helpful to creatives. It enables us to gain some really interesting insights from it.

LBB> Could you share more about a couple of the noteworthy campaigns you have worked on for FCB and why they are significant?

Leisa> Toll Booth is a film we made for New Zealand transport agency Waka Kotahi that has had some success at award shows around the world. It’s the first work we’ve done with them. It launched an ambitious new road safety system called Road to Zero, which has the vision of reaching zero road deaths by 2050. The film confronts viewers with the reality of the term ‘road toll’.

Another project I’m really proud of is a campaign called Survive the Drive. It’s a recent piece of work that we did with the New Zealand police. We discovered a study that links driver behaviour with music. It revealed how music at 60 to 80 beats per minute - the same rate as the human heart - helps you drive at a slower pace. We partnered with radio stations across the entire country; they reprogrammed their music during peak drive times so we were able to help influence the speed at which people drove. We also created Spotify playlists for virtually every music genre you could imagine to reach drivers outside the broadcast areas. 

FCB/SIX helped develop an algorithm that identified songs with the right kind of beats per minute. We discovered that the perfect playlist has to have the right balance, which the data guys explained is ‘happiness in the music’. There has to be some sort of flow to the types of songs being played so that it wasn’t just sad slow songs being played for the entire journey. 

We have a radio award called the Orcas here in New Zealand, and the campaign garnered both People's Choice and the Grand Orca for innovation and radio. 

LBB> What kinds of social causes are important to you? And how do you approach them in your work? 

Leisa> FCB has a really strong history in social change, and it was actually one of the reasons why I joined FCB in the first place. We’ve covered projects from mental health, family violence and alcohol moderation to fire and road safety. It's super rewarding to work on campaigns where you’re helping to make a difference to Aotearoa.

One of the recent projects we did was for New Zealand health agency Te Hiringa Hauora’s How to do Nothing campaign. This was created by youth for youth, and we worked with students at a local high school to gather insights on how kids deal with depression. Many of the kids ended up in the social videos, so it was a lovely kind of co-creation process with them.

Research suggests that whilst young people desperately want to help their friends, they often don’t feel equipped to do so. The campaign was all about just being there with your friends. It isn’t about doing something or saying something. It’s a really powerful message and it is resonating with the audience. 

LBB> As an experienced juror at prestigious award shows, including The Immortal Awards, what do you like to see in award submissions?

Leisa> I'm looking to get jealous. That's my favourite emotion in a jury room. Again, I love it when as soon as I see something, I get excited about it. I love that feeling. And I love it when we see an idea that pushes the industry forward. You know, we all sit in a jury room going, ‘Is this even advertising? What is this?’ After all these years, advertising is still able to break roles and conventions and push things in ways that no one saw coming. Judging is always super inspirational.

When I judged at Cannes this year, there were a lot of NFT and metaverse ideas, which is the case when a new piece of tech comes out and everyone kind of jumps on it. But you know, it just takes one piece of work to come in and hack that bit of tech in a really creative way, and I would be blown away by it. The ad industry loves it when someone goes in and just hacks that system and creates something amazing. Tech is a tool for us to use, but creativity is always king.

LBB> What’s your take on how far New Zealand creative work has evolved and what are its strengths? 

Leisa> New Zealand audiences are sophisticated from a marketing point of view but our size means we don’t get huge budgets. Right from the start of their careers, creative teams learn to do more with less. The challenge is to make a big impact working with a small budget. When you work like that, creativity is the key. I think this discipline really helps kiwi teams when they head overseas. 

LBB> In looking at post-pandemic shifts, what changes do you see in the markets and industries important to FCB’s client portfolio and how will you adapt to them?

Leisa> It's interesting because Covid has changed the landscape. For clients, business problems are now quite different and they will be looking to build up brand confidence again. I think it's a really exciting time for the ad industry. It's a chance for us to partner back up tightly with our clients because they are facing problems that have not been seen before. And we're perfectly placed to help them through creativity to solve those problems.

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FCB NZ, Tue, 25 Oct 2022 22:04:07 GMT