The modern creative leader: Q&A with McCann’s Pat Baron

Lindsay Bennett
By Lindsay Bennett | 27 March 2017
Pat Baron

McCann’s Pat Baron is one of the most respected and awarded creatives in the world, let alone the region. Better known as ‘The Baron’, his work has been recognised by more than 400 international awards, including the most awarded campaign in the history of Cannes, Dumb Ways to Die.

Last week he stepped up to the national role of chief creative officer that sees him become responsible for creative output from McCann's Sydney, Melbourne and Queensland teams, filling a role that hasn't been occupied since John Mescall departed for a global role in 2014. In this new position he is ambitious about increasing the creative clout of McCann across Australia, as he has for the last seven years in the Melbourne office.

What does your promotion mean at McCann?

“What we want to do is increase the creative firepower across the country, with Queensland, Sydney and Melbourne all functioning at the same creative level. The structure of Melbourne doesn’t change at all and there is a strong leadership team in place. My change in position reflects a trend we are seeing in Australia and globally of there being an advantage of being able to work efficiently on a local, national, regional and global scale. When you are part of a multinational network, like McCann, you can bring all these skillsets into one place which not a lot of agencies can do and leverage those resources for clients.”

TBWA Sydney, Leo Burnett and McCann have now all recently introduced the chief creative officer role. What does this trend say about the industry?

“It says we are getting better. We are becoming fully integrated inside each office as well as across the nation’s offices. It takes a village these days, and not only are we integrating better with our data and media partners, but we are aligning more with our entire vision to better solve client problems. You need to be the type of agency and creative manager that can bring together the different stakeholders, partners and skillsets and bring everyone along on one journey. We are seeing that the new breed of creative leader is able to do that.”

Every agency is undergoing a digital transformation. Where is McCann on this journey?

“The world is only at the beginning of the convergence between technology and humanity. Artificial intelligence will change how we communicate and how as humans we receive information. The change that has occurred in the last 10 years is extraordinary and we will look back in 20 years and see an entire transformation of how humanity receives and disseminates information and it will change us, our culture and our customs. It is very exciting to be working as a creative in this time and I believe they have caught up very quickly to the world and are leading the discussion in terms of communicating in the future. As for as McCann, we underwent our digital transformation six years ago – our DNA is now a digital agency.”

What are the biggest challenges facing the creative industry right now?

“Things change every three months. We are living and working at a time where each year, each month and each day it’s changing. You have to be a student if you are going to work in an agency or strive to be a creative leader. For a few days a week you have to be the student and the other days the teacher. I dedicate two days a month solely to learning. The idea of creativity has changed. When we talk about creativity in 2017, I’m not referencing one TV ad or a particular data point, I’m referencing the entire process of creative thinking.”

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