Interview

Andrew Edwards

Group Chief Executive

Leo Burnett London

Andrew Edwards has arrived for our interview carrying a selection of books which he has just bought from the company’s book fair in the cafeteria. Apart from a book about dogs, designed to help him cope with a beloved family pet, his books are about the beauty of Britain. The choice is significant, Andrew has only been back in London for three years after two decades of living and working in Australia and has rediscovered his love of England. “When I was living in Australia I suppose I didn’t really miss England,” he says. “But that’s because I forgot all the things that make it great, I’m delighted to be back.”

When he was 20, Andrew craved adventure and found it by cycling across Europe with one of his closest friends Simon. They succeeded in getting as far as Israel and then realised they couldn’t go any further. After swiftly selling their bikes, a return to England beckoned and they both flew home full of wanderlust that would prove impossible to shake. “I laboured for a while laying down running tracks, but as soon as we had enough money to resume our travels we were off. I flew out to Australia with Simon. I think we had £50 each to our names.”

Arriving in Australia at 22, Andrew had no professional contacts, but fortuitously found work at a direct marketing agency called Cartwright Williams soon after arriving. “By chance, I got a job at Cartwright Williams. They were struggling with a big catalogue and needed some help. I took the job and ended up staying with them for a long time.” A long time transpired into eventually running the company himself and expanding their business. In 1998, Cartwright Williams was sold to Leo Burnett and Andrew began his long relationship with the company.

He eventually became managing director of Leo Burnett Sydney and helped them become Australia’s top agency in 2005. He was then made president of Arc for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, before finally coming to his position as Group CEO of Leo Burnett London. Despite being extremely happy about his move to London, Andrew still credits his years down under as helping to form his career in marketing. “I absolutely credit Australia,” he says. “It’s a really interesting place to work, you have every major agency, every major brand, with 18 or 19 million people, so it’s ultra competitive, any slip ups and you’re done. Great service is expected on extremely creative and hard working campaigns and on a low budget, so I’d say if you succeed in Australia, you can succeed anywhere.”

A key thing about Leo Burnett is the lack of a rigid hierarchy. You are free to talk to anyone in the building freely. For this interview, I asked to speak to Andrew and was sitting in his office shortly after. He believes this culture is crucial to the agency’s success. “Leo Burnett is a friendly place to work, but why wouldn’t it be? I don’t believe in having a hierarchy, the thing is we’re all at different stages in our careers but we equally all want to work together as a team. The best thing about this agency is the people, I believe it’s the best group of individuals in any London agency.”
Andrew heads up the executive committee at Leo Burnett and is excited about the challenges they face. “I really like working with the ex co here, we want to make Leo Burnett London the centre of the world and we’ll see how far we can get it. There’s no ceiling at all for our objectives, we have open discussions all the time and the possibilities are infinite.”

The Leo Burnett graduate foundation has just opened, and Andrew has some interesting advice for completing your applications. “One thing you have to be is yourself, put down what you want, and write what you think best explains yourself. If you don’t think you have the right qualifications, don’t worry, make sure you give it a go anyway. When I look at a CV, I don’t just look at academic qualifications, I look at a myriad of things, previous employment, length of tenure, interests and hobbies. If people have great characteristics, we want to hear from them. We are a personality industry. Regardless of your background, we are primarily interested in you as a person.”

Jonathan

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