Mark Tutssel’s 6 Tips for Creating an Award-Winning Clio Entry

Plus, our Film jury chair expounds upon the state of commercials today

Clio: Mark, you're chairing the Film jury for Clio this year. What are a few trends you've been seeing in commercials over the past year? 

Mark Tutssel: From a big-picture perspective, the biggest trend we’re seeing is the remarkable diversity and variation of film. We live in a golden age for the medium. Around the world, people are engaging with screens of all shapes and sizes, around the clock and in every conceivable environment. That presents an incredible white canvas for us to be wildly inventive, and even poses new challenges, like how we address both vertical and horizontal video. It’s remarkable to consider that, not long ago, the films we produced were almost exclusively 30 and 60 seconds long and designed for one device—the television.

Of course, the thread that binds all great film is pure emotion. Joy. Confidence. Fear. Kindness. Empathy. Wonder. If I think about the work that resonated with me most from the past year—Nike “Nothing Beats a Londoner,” Audi “Clowns,” Samsung “Ostrich” or Tide “It’s a Tide Ad”—you’ll find that each creates a deep partnership with the viewer rooted in a singular emotion.


What do you look for in a winning Film entry? 

My gold standard for film has always been moving pictures that move people. Discerning people enact a zero-tolerance policy to unimaginative brands. The challenge is no longer creating awareness, it is to create engagement. We must engage imaginations, and emotionally connect with people.

My advice to creatives would be to focus less on the award, and more on the reward, or the value you’re delivering to the viewer. There’s no shortcut to brilliance, but what all world-class film shares is that it’s almost infinitely rewatchable. Our work should be so brilliant, so impeccably crafted, that it rewards multiple viewings.

Humor has given way to earnestness in lots of commercials in recent years. Is humor ready for a comeback? 

Humor has long played a huge role in our work, and while it can ebb and flow as the social landscape shifts, some of the most rewarding films have used it to great effect. Think of some of the most memorable campaigns over the past two decades—Budweiser “Whassup,” Canal+ “Closet” or John West “Bear.” All leverage humor to create a resonant connection with a brand. And in an era in which participation and shareability are critical drivers of a film’s success, I expect we’ll see even more work that taps into humor for its emotional potency and power to engage people.

John West Salmon - Bear

Long-form film is often uneven in advertising. Sometimes it's great, other times it feels tedious. Are longer pieces generally improving? And do you have a favorite long-form piece from recent years? 

It all comes back to storytelling. We have to engage people’s imagination with big, compelling, multi-sensory ideas that weave themselves into the social fabric. Film has the power to connect emotionally with your soul, and the very best pieces of long-form content never feel long. 

To the earlier point, brilliant films make you want watch them again and again, rewarding you for your time. One of my favorite long-form pieces in recent years was “The Game Before the Game” for Beats by Dre, an epic celebration of the ritual that precedes the on-the-field action. Over a gripping soundtrack, the film builds in intensity over five minutes with a level of suspense that gives you goosebumps. Despite its length, it never feels long or labored, and it delivers the same emotional impact with each viewing.

The Game Before The Game : Film Presented by Beats by Dre

Can you give us a few tips for entering work, either in Film or in general? What are some things you should do with an entry, and what are some things you shouldn't? 

Judging a show is a grueling process, and only the truly brilliant ideas survive. The juries are tough, smart, articulate, well informed and—above all—a highly opinionated group of people. The work has to appeal to both their intellect and to their heart. From the very first second of judging, the cull begins—in or out. The jury is looking to discover work that is brilliant in its thinking and innovative in its expression. Work that breaks the mold.

Here is my advice for successful film entries:

• Rewatchability. The hallmark of a great film is the fact that it is timeless. It rivets you to your seat, feels eternally fresh, and emotionally connects and rewards you each time you see it. In order to rise to the very top, your film has to be rewatchable. A beautiful, current example of this is Nike “Nothing Beats a Londoner,” which rewards you with new surprises again and again with each viewing.

• Storytelling. Human beings have been communicating with each other through storytelling since the beginning of time. We are hard-wired as a species to connect to stories, and nearly all of the most successful and effective winning films employ master storytelling. A great story makes us laugh, listen, participate, learn—and above all, remember.

• Filmmaking. Craft is everything. Direction, cinematography, music, sound design, editing—they all have to contribute beautifully to the perfect film. Your work has to be flawlessly executed.

These next three bits of wisdom are relevant to all entries:

• Don’t sell. Allow the judges to judge. Great work sells itself.

• Cultural relevance. If your film or case requires context, state it simply at the beginning of your entry.

• Distillation. If you work for a global brand, and you are one of many agencies, it’s incredibly important to collectively arrive at a selection of your best entries. Remember, the jury is looking for quality, not quantity. Very often, a great piece of work from a brand gets lost in a sea of average work from the same brand.

—Mark Tutssel is executive chairman of Leo Burnett Worldwide and chair of the 2018 Clio Awards Film jury.