Is This Thing On? Episode 2 with FCB Global’s Susan Credle

In this second episode of “Is This Thing On?,” our Chief Brand & Experience Officer Winston Binch sits down with FCB Global Chief Creative Officer Susan Credle to chat all-things creativity and brand purpose in today’s climate. 


We’ve included the full transcript of the conversation below for easy reading, and please make sure to have a listen on Amazon, Apple Podcasts, Audible, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn, and wherever else you get your podcasts!

Episode 2: Winston Binch & Susan Credle


Speaker 1 (00:01):

Is this thing on?

Speaker 2 (00:06):

Welcome to Is This Thing On? An audio series from GALE exploring marketing, life, and random thoughts with business leaders from around the globe. On this episode, GALE chief brand and experience officer Winston Binch speaks with global chief creative officer of FCB Global, Susan Credle. Let's join the conversation.

Winston Binch (00:29):

So, number one, how was your pandemic?

Susan Credle (00:35):

All right. I actually think I've found out I'm an introvert. I'm ready to be able to go out and be free, but it has not been as hard as if you had told me I would have to stay in one specific place for a year. I would have said that's impossible. So, it hasn't been as bad as I thought it would be, but I'm ready to see people and be with people.

Winston Binch (00:59):

Agreed. What has changed for you just around your job, how you think about what we do as marketers? Just everything from work from wherever, the cultural shifts we've seen. There's been a lot of change in a year.

Susan Credle (01:19):

Yeah. Some of it's been very positive for me. I think that when you're running a global company, sometimes you get very far away from the people and the work. And because it's easy to jump into things virtually, I found that I'm much more connected to the people, in the work, and the clients, than I was when I was spending an exorbitant amount of time on planes. So, the hours are really quality with people now. And that's been fascinating to me that you don't realize how many hours you are spending getting to places, versus just being able to jump into places and to do more of that jumping because you physically don't have to get yourself there.

Winston Binch (02:07):

Talk about the quality, you're telling me we have more quality connections maybe with team and clients.

Susan Credle (02:14):

Yeah. It's been really interesting. I think when you're meeting in offices and things like that, we tend to be more specific about who's going to be in the meeting and hierarchy. And for some reason, I think when we've been on these virtual calls, one, there's no preexisting way of showing up. And so, we've had from project managers to assistants, to junior teams, everybody comes in and it's great. And what's really nice too, is those little names underneath everybody's visual, because even when we did have conference room meetings with lots of people, you tend to gravitate toward the people you know their names and who they are. And so, yeah, I feel like I've met so many more people in the company and understand what they do. That's been a great part of it. The part that's the hardest is what happens in the in-betweens. What happens after the meeting where you kind of get out of your roles and relax and become human beings together, and that I'm missing.

Winston Binch (03:24):

Yeah. One thing I noticed is there's no head of the table, right? In the office, the hierarchies have all changed, and everyone and it does feel somewhat more egalitarian, although maybe we're sick of the Zoom, the Hollywood Squares effect, but it is [inaudible 00:03:41].

Susan Credle (03:42):

The CEO of FCB, Carter Murray, I don't know, he's like six eight, six nine. I'm five three, when we walk into a room together, physically, there's a big difference. And even though he takes up more space in his rectangle, it's kind of interesting, everybody has the same amount of real estate in one of these virtual calls. And it makes a difference. I mean really, it's weird, and who I listened to. I think I'm more likely to watch everybody's body language and be interested in what different people have to say. So that's [crosstalk 00:04:18].

Winston Binch (04:21):

Absolutely. Okay. You and I have talked about this before, but I mean the cultural shifts, I mean, the pandemic just accelerated so much. From just as we think about the digital world, and how we work, but the cultural shifts have been tremendous. How have they changed how you do your job and what you're advising your clients?

Susan Credle (04:43):

Well, I think a lot of what we do in this businesses requires a lot of empathy, and the more empathy you have for where people are and what they're doing, the more likely you are to be relevant and emotionally connect. And one of the things I think that happened early on, as I've seen with our clients, that we've been invited back to be more of a partner than I think we were. I think because there were real problems to solve and it wasn't business as usual. And this is what we expect from you. And I think in not having a certain expectation of the role we would play has gotten us back into a much more interesting role with our clients. I mean, I don't know about you, but I think many times agencies were struggling with being treated more like vendors than partners. And it's dangerous because we can't do our best jobs if we don't feel like we're in a partnership. And the pandemic really did bring back that sense of how important it is to have a partner, especially when you're going through something unknown or a crisis. When you know how to do your job, you don't need a partner. When you're not sure how to do your job, there's nothing better than a partner. And I think that's been a great side effect of all of this for both clients and agencies.

Winston Binch (06:05):

Yeah. I mean, I remember when we were New Orleans a few years ago, we were talking about the need to make little a advertising capital A, and what I think about now is this idea that brand strategy, maybe more than ever, is really business strategy.

Susan Credle (06:21):

Yeah.

Winston Binch (06:22):

And we've always talked about it, but that's somehow I think you're correct that agencies had been relegated to just make me an ad. When really we could be using our creativity and strategic skills to help you really reframe your business, how you go to market, how you connect with customers, thinking about the experience end to end.

Susan Credle (06:50):

Yeah. And that's what, I think when I got into the business, I think agencies were more like that, because it was a long time ago. But I think when television became the dominant media, we as agency people were like, you know what? It's just as easy to write a television commercial as it is to do a print ad, or think about a direct response, or a promotion, and we can make a lot more money on TV. So, we became TV makers. We became short form film makers, which was wonderful at the time, but it also got us further away from the business problems, business opportunities, thinking about a business in a creative way. And we continue to see that,\ if you have a business problem and you apply creativity to it, it's an economic multiplier. No doubt.

Susan Credle (07:44):

Creativity applied against opportunities and problems, not TV spots, not ads. You'll win. You'll be better. And we have undervalued creativity for two reasons, is one, we think it only happened in film, which is not true. It happens in any way of thinking about coming into a conversation. But we also did our best creative on hot couture. We did it on briefs that clients didn't care about. And so, we've got to get back to doing our best work on our biggest brands, and on the problems that the clients truly care about. Because then you'll never see the value if that's not where the creative is showing up. It's not precious. Creative is not meant to be over in a corner, doing a little special thing. It's meant to be out in public in mass. Affecting people in business.

Winston Binch (08:37):

Absolutely. It's not something you do for half an hour in the day. We've talked about brand purpose for it feels like years and years and years, but really my interpretation, it's mostly been lip service, but it feels like now, right? We're seeing, in this moment, more brands are willing to take a stand. What's your opinion of that? And where do you see it going?

Susan Credle (09:05):

Well again, I think it's empathy, right? So, if we were in the eighties and nobody cared about purpose, and showing up, and doing good things in the world, I don't know if that would be the best way for a brand to show up. But today, I think the new generation that's coming up is very interested in taking care of people and the planet. And I think that they are going to vote with their wallets. And if they see companies that care about the same things they do, that's going to make a difference to the bottom line. I think it's also interesting too, there's confusion, I think with the concept of brand purpose and purpose-driven marketing. Doing good things in the world, I think you're just supposed to do that. I mean, that's a responsibility you have being in the public.

Susan Credle (10:03):

There's also the question of what business are you in? Which is slightly different than purpose-driven marketing. It's like, what business are you in? And I think being clear about that and helping companies understand, this is going to sound a little meta, but I think that we use brand product, business incorporation as synonyms, and they're not. They're very different. Brand to me, is a femoral. It breathes, and if you don't take care of your brand, it becomes small. If you take care of your brand and know how to take care of a brand, it becomes incredibly giving, and generous, and powerful, and worthy, and can be valued.

Susan Credle (10:46):

The business you're in is different than the product you make. So, we've all heard the classic stories of like Blockbuster who thought they were in the business of video cassettes in brick and mortar stores around the corner. I think they were actually in the business of getting you the best entertainment that you're the most interested in, easily and affordably. And if they had been in that business, they would have bought Netflix, because they would've said, "Oh, wow, Netflix is going to actually be even faster, easier, and better than this corner store that's fairly convenient and fairly affordable." So, I think it's interesting. And then how you show up as a corporation is more how you behave internally, your values, and I think more than ever, I mean, it's not a new idea, but I think it's back in vogue is that you cannot show up to the public one way, and have a character and a value internally that's different. They have to be complimentary. And so, when you have your corporate culture, the business you're in, the products you make that support the business you're in. Those things, to me, equal what becomes the brand.

Winston Binch (12:00):

Yeah. I mean, I am actually really excited about this topic, because we always used to look at Patagonia. It's like maybe one of the only brands that kind of brings it all together, but I think we're seeing more and more examples of brands. We work with Chipotle, but they have the purpose, but they also have invested in digital infrastructure and systems. And I think you're seeing brands bring together a good sense of purpose, values in their business, a clear understanding of who they are with smart digital investment. And to your point, it moves the business, and it's the right thing for the business.

Susan Credle (12:41):

Well, and I think this COVID in this last year, I've heard more than one client say we did in five weeks what we had planned on doing in five years. There was just an acceleration because it forced everybody into this virtual digital world. I mean, think about how Zoom, I don't think I'd ever done a Zoom call, or if I had, not many before the pandemic, and now we just take it for granted. We want it to do more. We ask for it to do more. So, I would think we've accelerated, like you said, all of that, so we're more agile, and then we can do more of the right things.

Winston Binch (13:21):

So let's shift gears. Brands or marketing that you're loving and why? Maybe just thinking back, recent times over the last year, what stood out?

Susan Credle (13:35):

Oh, those are always the hard questions [inaudible 00:13:37]. My short-term memory is really, really, really failing me. I think that I'm obviously closer to the work that we've been working on, and that's usually top of mine. But what I found is that we're doing much more of what I call titanium marketing, which is, it's not about a piece of film, beautiful or not. It's about an ecosystem of an idea that also continues to build on itself. So like one of the ideas that I'm really proud of is the Michelob ULTRA Courtside, which when LeBron said we can't play without fans, it's like, well then maybe we need to not just have cardboard cutouts in stands, but can we bring a fan experience to the game for the players, but also for the fans. And what's interesting is what became something that we thought was a COVID idea. I think it's actually an inclusive idea for the NBA. And all of a sudden, we had people from around the world showing up for a court side seat at an NBA game, and they're sitting beside Barack Obama, or Shack, and they to experience the thrill of when you walk into your court side and you see who you're sitting beside.

Susan Credle (14:55):

But that experience, we thought, the team was like, it will be a cool idea. It'll be great. It's great for Michelob ULTRA. It's on brand. But what I really think it was, was making a sport more inclusive to a lot of people. And I'm seeing that with a lot of the things in the arts where, by going virtual, more people are actually experiencing things, because the people that can't afford to travel someplace, or buy a ticket because the tickets are limited. Now, it's open. So that's been great. We work with Walmart a lot and I've been really impressed. Again, it's big thinking. Like, I feel like people aren't just trying to move product off shelves, but they're really trying to think about how their companies show up and make a difference. I know that when we're working on meaningful work, everybody's in a better place and that's encouraging.

Winston Binch (15:52):

Yeah. I love that. We have to be less reliant on TV, to your point. It just it forces us to think about doing the right thing, the right idea that's going to reach the customers in the appropriate way.

Susan Credle (16:06):

Yeah.

Winston Binch (16:06):

And I think that's great. Let's talk about just something more personal. What mantras have you relied on maybe in the last year? What's keeping you moving, going, staying positive?

Susan Credle (16:22):

I think that one of the things has been, we talked about this, has been beautiful to explore internally, externally, through creativity is this idea of vulnerability. And that vulnerability can either be terrifying or exciting. And how do you shift from it being terrifying to being exciting? And it's also played into how we build a culture of vulnerability, which I think will really help us accelerate our DEI work. Because if people feel like they can show up in a way that they don't have to be confident all the time. They don't have to be right all the time. I think we're going to get even better. And even for me, I don't like to fail. I don't like to come through. And there was something freeing about last March, April, May, where nobody expected you to succeed, because nobody knew what they were doing. We didn't know what we were stepping into and it had a moment of don't be afraid, there is no right answer right now. So just start doing.

Susan Credle (17:32):

And I, it reminded me of the freedom of play, and that especially, we're ad agencies. We are not going to process our way to brilliance. We can use tools, and think the right way, but play is going to get us there, creativity, and showing up and letting go. And this has given me permission to do it. And it's given me permission, given me the ability to give our other creative leaders in the company, permission to try. And the weird part is, is they've all been great. It's like there hasn't been too much egg on our face. It's actually been like, wow, we were free to be creative. And I think, once we get back into a more normal world where we can apply that freedom and hold onto maybe what that felt like, but be together and be in rooms with the energy and the physicality, and be out in culture where we're inspired by things that we walk by. I think that could be a combustive creative moment. This coming out of this.

Winston Binch (18:42):

Yeah, absolutely. It made me think a couple of things. One, you've touched on the word empathy a couple times. I mean, and really empathy is our business. I mean, that's what really we're intended to do. And I also love this idea, and I felt the same thing that these constraints, the constraints that the pandemic put on us forced us to invent and reinvent so much of what we do. And as hard as it has been personally, I think for us, our employees, and our families, creatively, it's been kind of fun.

Susan Credle (19:16):

Yeah, yeah.

Winston Binch (19:17):

Right? I mean, we've had to rethink the job and work differently. With so much changing, I mean, when we started out in our business, there weren't that many options for creative people, right? Like be a filmmaker, be a musician, be a painter. There are so many options for young people that have design degrees or want to write. What advice would you give young creatives starting out now? Or if you were to go through it again?

Susan Credle (19:51):

You know, it's really interesting because I've always said, like we were talking about, how much infrastructure should we build in co-creation work, and we were talking about our production studios within FCB, and I said, we need to be very careful that we don't over spend In a lot of hardcore assets, because I think young people are coming up as makers just naturally. Editing, building their brands. So, they're already coming in with skill sets that I didn't have at all. I had thinking, that was my skillset is thinking. But the making, I think we're going to have so many incredible makers because of they've just grown up naturally doing it. Which is fascinating because I think it's going to get back to what's going to separate the people that can edit, and shoot, and film, and pose, and it's the content. It's not going to be the making. It's going to be the quality of the content and the thinking. And that's interesting to me.

Susan Credle (21:07):

I mean, I love Amanda Gorman comes out as this poet laureate, and now all of a sudden poetry, which was some old fuddy-duddy thing that nobody talked about, now people are like, I want to be into poetry. I want to study. Think about, I listened to Frank Skinner, who is an English comedian, but he has a poetry podcast. And it's just fascinating.

Susan Credle (21:31):

So, I guess my advice to young people, I had two young designers that want to start their own company, and they were calling me about advice. And I was like, look, I still think it's about brand. If you want to build something, start with who are you, what do you want to do? Why are you going to do it differently? And do you want to build it? Or do you want to join it? For a couple of times in my career, I thought maybe I should go with some friends, people I like and start my own agency. And I realized that I actually liked the bigness of big agencies. I like seismic shifts. I like being able to do big things and have lots of talent around me. Whereas if you're scrappy and you like to do it all yourself, I think it, now more than ever, you have the ability to try. You don't need a lot of funding to get started, which is what's exciting about a lot of artists from the music industry to the stand-up comedy. I think we're discovering more humor just because you can put yourself out there digitally, and that doesn't require financial investment.

Winston Binch (22:48):

You've talked about this notion that you started winning awards when you stopped trying to win them. Can you talk about that a little bit more?

Susan Credle (22:58):

It's funny, I was just watching an interview with Gerard Butler, on the Baylor team of the MVP. And he said something very similar. He goes, we don't play the scoreboard. And he said, we concentrate on playing. We don't concentrate on winning. And actually, if we're so involved with the game that we're just trying to play our best, we actually ended up winning. And it's a little bit like that. We were like, man, this winning awards thing, it feels like it should be a by-product, not the goal. Should not be the mission to win awards. It should be the by-product of trying to do right by our clients. And again, live into the mission of that we believe creativity is an economic multiplier. And so, when we do creative things for our clients, they should feel that it was worth it. That they got a great ROI.

Susan Credle (23:46):

And when we started doing that, when we started setting our own standards of what we thought great work was, which is to be provocative, to ask people to participate in it, and to build brand equity, if we could do those three things every time we sent something out the door, we'd probably be in good shape. And so that's what we've been swinging at, and the awards started coming. So, we say it's a part of the journey, but it's not the destination. I think awards are important, and at different times for different people. When you're younger, it gives you, you know, it's inspirational. You want to win them. I think as someone learning the craft, it can be inspirational to, and teach you like, oh, that is a good idea. My peers say that this is the kind of work I should be doing. And it makes you raise your internal creative bar.

Susan Credle (24:40):

It does attract talent. It does keep talent. I think, I have found that any time in our agency network that we're struggling. If we can get a great piece of work out the door, our fortunes change. And yeah, but I think you have to put it in a perspective. And it's also like, if you're trying to guess what would win an award? I mean, that's crazy. It's like because every year it changes, and you get different juries and it doesn't seem like a smart way to approach the award shows. I think that believe in the kind of work you want to do and go do it. And if it wins awards, kudos. And if it doesn't, you might be doing something that we can't even recognize yet. You just have to keep perspective.

Winston Binch (25:32):

What's your favorite lesson, maybe you've taken from a mentor or someone you've worked with along your career? Something that sticks with you today?

Susan Credle (25:45):

Well, actually a client told me this once when a piece of work we did for them just never aired, and I felt terrible about it. And he said, "Why are you so upset?" And I said, "Because you bet on this idea. I bet on this idea. We made it, we spent a lot of money, and it did nothing. I mean, it didn't even get to go in the world. I mean, I feel like I'm a total failure." And he said, "How many times has this happened to you?" I was like, "This is the first." And I mean, I think I've been in the business 20 years, and he goes, "Oh dear Lord, Susan." And what I realized is that I had believed that old adage of you're only as good as the last thing you make. And that's not true.

Susan Credle (26:30):

You are as good as what you do throughout your career, and the highlights. The highlights are what are important, not the low ones, in the low ones you'll learn from, but I wish I hadn't been that afraid of failure. And Fernando Machado said the same thing. The way we became friends is I was listening to give a talk at The One Club for Creativity, and he said, he doesn't worry about failing because nobody remembers the failures. Nobody really remembers the successes, that's what keeps the lights on in our businesses, is you got to keep telling stories over and over again. You got to keep showing up. But he said, "I don't talk about the things that didn't work. And I really talk a lot about the things that did." But yeah, I think that the best advice is, this is a marathon, not a sprint, and you're going to scrape your knees a few times and that's going to make you better.

Winston Binch (27:36):

Talk to me about where you think brand and marketing are going in terms of social. And I mean, there's been a lot of change, rise of TikTok. How are you thinking about social media?

Susan Credle (27:53):

Well, again, I've always believed this. So, I'm either stuck in the mud or I've been right a lot of the times, but I think big ideas, like when you said advertising little a, advertising big A. Big A ideas are timeless. And our job is to create those big ideas that are timeless and then execute them in a timely way. So, I love the idea of, I think the best marketers understand both, timely and timeless, and they do both. And hopefully at the same time. And I think one of the things that I saw going wrong with social media is that I think people couldn't figure out how they served the brand authentically, and served the audience authentically. And we have to do both. You have to respect who the audience is, what they're expecting when they're in a certain platform, and so the brand doesn't interrupt that experience that they're hoping to have. But at the same time, the brand must execute in a way that you don't dismiss the totally the brand and all of a sudden, you're just providing content that doesn't do anything for your brand. You're just showing up in a space.

Susan Credle (29:20):

And I think it's always been that way. The best brands understand where they're showing up, who they're showing up to, why, and the why has to answer their brand. I also think social media must connect back to the bigger story. So, if you have an idea that you want to push into social, if it's more connected, like a perfect little example from years ago, for me, was Straight Outta Compton. They didn't go so far away from the title of the movie, they sat right on top of it, but made it a social idea. And so, everything was connected. You understood the truth about what the movie was about, made people think about where they came from, but still it was a complete story. It didn't look like some disconnect tactic over here trying to get people's attention.

Winston Binch (30:17):

Yeah. One thing we've seen over the last a year or so is just maybe more clients asking for true integrated ideas and thinking. Which I love, because I've always been a big believer that the strategy is the idea. To your point about Straight Outta Compton, there's an intent, it's clear, and it's focused. And the creative is really an expression of what that idea is.

Susan Credle (30:46):

Right, so then if you understand the platform, it's like, okay, we know what this idea is. How does it look in this space? Like, so on TikTok, how does it look? On Instagram, how would it look? And that, to me, is where we've got to get more sophisticated.

Winston Binch (31:00):

Well thanks, Susan. This has been awesome. A real pleasure.

Susan Credle (31:05):

It's great to touch base and hopefully we'll be in-person somewhere in the city. Maybe you can join me on a weird random Wednesday.

Winston Binch (31:13):

I'm down. Let's do it.

Susan Credle (31:13):

Okay. All right. It's so good to see you. Take care.

Winston Binch (31:17):

Thank you.

Speaker 2 (31:19):

This has been, Is This Thing On? The GALE audio series. For more information about this or any other episode in the series, visit gale.agency/ideas. And to learn about GALE and how we can help you with your marketing efforts, visit www.galepartners.com. On behalf of the entire team at GALE, thanks for listening.


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