Born: Crookwell, NSW Australia
Worked in: Sydney, Melbourne, London and New York
Why do people think of you as an Innovator? I have the good fortune to be an ex-Pat who is a rare generalist in an industry of growing specialization. By starting out in a small market like Sydney at a time when having responsibility for an account meant learning everything and doing everything yourself, from strategy to research to buying to client service, I developed a natural “big picture” vision. There is no question that we need many more aspects of specialization today in a far more complex marketing world. However, it does not hurt that a global team leader understands enough of all of these elements and has sufficient experience around the world to make the dialogue among all the component players work, so that innovation can occur.
Dictionary definitions aside, how would you characterize innovation in your work? Innovation today is unquestionably about collaboration, particularly on a sweeping global account like Visa. There are no individual heroes on any account, especially not when working on international campaigns. I believe that the new dynamic of group alliance and collective wisdom is proving that we are now creating far more innovative and far more relevant work consistently throughout the world.
What is the biggest challenge to innovation? There is no innovation without constant communication among a multinational agency team, and of course, with the client. I have come to learn that the best option for such communication is verbal, and I am an advocate of the conference call (at all hours of the world clock) and the group meeting. Insights and breakthrough thinking do not occur without the exciting collision of points of view and perspectives on local understanding, and one must strive to constantly keep them in play. Sure, email is great and constant Blackberry access helps us all straddle the time zones, but there is no substitute for real conversation and idea-sharing, no matter how challenging it may be to orchestrate these discussions regularly. Also, making sure that participants are good listeners as well as good contributors helps to get a balanced contribution.
Other International Facts: Mark has survived some daring international adventures. After accepting his U.S. assignment, he chose to drive with a group of friends from Sydney to London —after, of course, reaching the South Asia land mass. During the course of his 4-month, 14,000-mile sojourn in an old lorry, he spent a night in a Pakistani jail, was mugged by a snake charmer in India who used an aggressive cobra (instead of a revolver) to demand money, and had some border difficulties in Iran when he attempted to enter the country wearing clean clothes recently purchased in a Pakistani market, which turned out to be local military uniforms recently smuggled out of Iran. “Hey, if you can negotiate successfully with Iranian border guards, you can negotiate with anyone!”