72andSunny founder and creative co-chair Glenn Cole is about to hit Australian soil to embark on a whirlwind tour. He’s hosting the AWARD Creative Leadership Forum and is jury chair of the AWARD Awards both on May 26, ahead of launching the agency’s first Australian office. We caught up with Glenn to find out how he’s developed a culture of creativity, his own creative process and what he thinks the biggest opportunities are this side of the Pacific.

TCC: Ahead of 72andSunny’s Australian office opening, what do you think is the Australian market’s biggest strength?

GC: We see the biggest strength of this market as three things – the talent, the creative ambition, the Aussie spirit.  

We have always been impressed with the talent in Australia and, more recently, in Asia. We see brave lateral thinkers with make-it-happen skillsets and a global orientation that scales better than talent from other markets.

The creative ambition in this market is second to none. It consistently ranks high on the creativity index, with a breadth and depth of output of work that belies the market size. Increasingly, Australian work and brands are setting new innovation standards for the industry.

Finally, the Aussie spirit is huge x-factor. And it feels close to our hearts. Optimism and openness are core values of our company and of our people. We are opportunity junkies with little patience or appetite for cynicism or fatalism. Building with Australians feels very natural, like being home.

TCC: What do you think is the biggest room for growth in this market?

GC: We are a learning organisation. It would be premature and inauthentic for us to come into the market with a point of view on where or how it should grow. That said, with the level of talent and ambition here and across Asia, there’s an opportunity to bring even more dynamic and diverse points of view to market. We are eager to find new friends so we can collaborate, learn, and grow together.

TCC: And what do you think is the biggest challenge here?

GC: Again, a strong point of view on this will require more living, listening, and learning. But if you compare the diversity of voices and perspectives in the market to the diversity of voices and perspectives in the agencies and corporate cultures, there’s an obvious opportunity there.

TCC: What are your thoughts on creativity, its commercial value and its impact on business success? Do you feel it is undervalued and that there is more to be done for the business world to understand the commercial credibility of creativity? Or do you feel that this is widely recognised?

GC: If an idea or expression is truly creative, it should do the job it was designed to do: disrupt and make an impact. I don’t subscribe to the idea that it’s our job to advocate for creativity. If creativity or innovation creates value, it is valued. Great creativity advocates for itself by what it accomplishes. Marketers who don’t recognise the value of creativity won’t be marketers for long. And the market is the best teacher.

TCC: As head judge of the AWARD Awards, what impact do you think winning an award has on an agency?

GC: An award is a great recognition of smarts, ingenuity, and hustle that gives an agency some swagger. And you need swagger to compete in a market this innovative. It’s also a great teaching tool for less experienced or accomplished folks in the agency, as long as the award follows successful business results – as that is what we are here for. Then, in our eyes, it’s a double win.

TCC: You’ll be speaking in Sydney about leadership not being what you make, but who you make – can you give us a flavour of your talk?

GC: This is a talent business. It’s easy to get distracted by ads and assets and awards, but our business, our product, is brilliant people with brilliant ideas. When you focus your energy and effort on the people around you – your colleagues, your clients, your partners – and on making yourself a teammate to them, all the good stuff follows. The trust, the great work, the strong relationships, the money, all of it.

TCC: How do you create a culture of creativity?

GC: Prioritise learning. Expertism is a closed mindset. A learning orientation leads to new possibilities.

Prioritise accountability. It eliminates silos and fosters a sense of freedom.

Prioritise diversity. More diverse points of view lead to more innovative work and a more creative culture.

TCC: Can you single out your finest creative moment to date? And your biggest creative challenge?

GC: I honestly cannot single out a ‘finest creative moment’. Nothing significant enough comes to mind. I just don’t think in ‘favourites’ like that. My biggest creative challenge is stewarding 72andSunny. We are constantly striving to foster and scale a creative culture that prioritises entrepreneurialism and accountability.

With more diverse creative voices and more diverse expressions of our values comes more exciting points of view and more exciting work. But it can be hard to maintain a sense of community and unified purpose, especially as the world changes so radically and so quickly. Sustainable and healthful growth requires daily creativity.

TCC: What campaign do you wish you’d been behind?

GC: I don’t spend a lot of time wishing I’d done something I hadn’t. That said, this year I did see a few Gold Awards that made me envious. And I was struck by the “Fearless Girl” statue in Wall Street; inspiring and socially electric, it also signals where our business is going. In terms of longevity, I’m a fan of the Star Wars brand. LucasArts markets it brilliantly. It has to be a Top 5 brand globally. And it’s unapologetically, aggressively commercial. But we rarely think or talk about it that way.

TCC: How do you feel about the rise of automation and its impact on creativity?

GC: Civilisation has been automating things for millennia and it has never dimmed creativity. If anything, it inspires new canvases and applications for creativity. I don’t think it’s any different today. The winners are always those who find opportunity in change; those who use it to create something that couldn’t have been created before.

TCC: What are your tactics for when creativity is hard to come by?

GC: Get up, get out. If it doesn’t come in the first 15 to 20 minutes, it probably won’t come in the next 15 to 20 hours. Ideas don’t trickle out, they come fast. If it doesn’t come, I bounce. I don’t dwell. I don’t grind. I don’t stare at the ceiling. I run. Play football. Drive. Get moving.

TCC: What are your main go to sources for inspiration eg books, magazines, podcasts etc?

GC: Watching movies. Stories and worlds inspire me.

Playing sport. Play inspires a sense of possibility. Team sports are inherently creative.

And browsing architecture and design bookstores. Architecture teaches creativity in a system. Design (graphic and industrial) sets the standard for distilling complex concepts into singular visceral expressions.