Interview

Mark Tomblin

Head of Planning

Leo Burnett London

All in all, this year hasn’t been a bad one for Mark Tomblin. He was appointed head of planning at Leo Burnett after successfully leading the planning on the Kellogg’s account and is currently basking in the fame of having a record he made a lifetime ago getting national airplay. Modesty prevents Mark from discussing it in any great detail, but his dance hit “Jive Baby on a Saturday Night” by his student band the Jellies is currently enjoying a renaissance and is being played regularly on BBC Six Music. Ironically, this obscure student record can take some of the credit for launching him into advertising.

After leaving Cambridge University with a degree in English Literature, Mark managed to get to the final round of interviews at the BBC for producers. However, he just missed out. “I remember really wanting to get into the BBC,” he remembers. “I got down to the final 12, and then they only took six of us. You’ve got to remember that at this stage we were in the teeth of the Thatcher recession and there weren’t many other options. Thankfully my Mum suggested advertising…. Later I realised unwittingly that all that work in terms of self financing, producing and marketing that record had all been incredibly relevant to what I was to end up doing.”

Starting his career as an account handler, Mark worked for ten years at various agencies including Leagas Delaney, WCRS and CDP. Mark believes as a planner, his experiences as an account man were invaluable. “Primarily, it helped me to sell creative work to clients, I was working at some of the most famous creative agencies and it was all about getting that product out the door.” Yet, there was always a gnawing voice asking him to consider being a planner. “I kept being asked to be a planner and I always resisted, I felt I had something to prove in account handling, but after a while enough people said it to me and I started to seriously consider it.”

A short period was spent working at a small market research agency, before Mark realised that he missed advertising. He decided to then take the daunting and drastic move of setting up his own small start up agency with two creatives. After a highly enjoyable if stressful two years, he was doing a bit of everything. He was Head of Account Management, Planning Director, Financial Director and a lot more besides. Unsurprisingly, he needed a change of pace and found it by becoming a planning director at Publicis London, where he spent a happy five years.

After a brief stint at RKCR/Y&R working on Lloyd’s TSB, Mark decided to succumb to a long held interest and work for a digital agency. “Digital had always interested me, I remember building a website in raw HTML in 1996, so it was always something I wanted to do. I managed to land a job as head of strategy at TBG and loved it.” Having go that under his belt, Mark moved across to Kellogg’s and Leo Burnett in the summer of last year. At Christmas, he was giving a timely present, when he was offered the role of head of planning.

Mark has had an interesting career, but maintains that working at Leo Burnett is the happiest he has ever been. “Like anyone, my career has been full of ups and downs, but this is absolutely the best job I’ve ever had. The people here are not only a great bunch, but they are really good at what they do. Few agencies I know can say this.”

The graduate scheme has just opened and in January, Mark will welcome two new graduate planners to take over from Charlie and Richard. His advice is simple. “As a planner, you really need to be fascinated by people, have a great mix of skills and interests and an Occam-like obsession with resolving complexity in a simple way. Any good ad person is an expert at understanding people and knowing what makes them tick. I would say that if you have these abilities and you want it bad enough you will always get there in the end.”

Jonathan

 

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