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Leo Burnett Chicago Welcomes Tom Scharpf as Executive Vice President, Executive Creative Director

Tom Scharpf joins Leo Burnett to oversee Samsung creative

Finding an undeniable truth that resonates with people—this is what drives Leo Burnett Chicago’s newest Executive Vice President, Executive Creative Director, Tom Scharpf. “He’s not just able to make amazing work—he has the strategic chops to drive teams beyond clever ads and into true creative solutions,” said Britt Nolan, chief creative officer, Leo Burnett. Tom will be leading the Samsung group in partnership with Kieran Ots, focusing on mobile and brand work. We had the chance to talk with Tom about his creative process.

What’s your approach to creative problem-solving?
When I look at anything, I try to be really honest and ask myself, “Would anyone care? Will it really ring true to people and is it believable from this brand?” Personally, when I’m looking at work I find that the best of it has an undeniable truth that just resonates. When work seems phony or forced, no one will respond. At the end of the day, as an industry, we need to be honest with ourselves: people don’t care about marketing. So, it’s up to us to make something that demands people’s attention.

What are your hobbies and interests outside of work?
I love to write even though my professional background and training is as an art director and graphic designer. I’ve written a couple of children’s books, but I still need to illustrate them. I love photography and really enjoy going to places I’ve never been, but also have a soft spot for Americana and rustic antiques.

What are your personal routines that help you foster creativity?
I just try to be aware of the world around me and use the power of observation the best that I can. It’s amazing how much you can uncover just by watching the world. Also, I’ve found that when you give yourself limitations and constrictions, your brain tends to come up with more interesting ideas. Sometimes assignments can be too wide open, but if you can create some artificial restrictions, it’s a good way to force a different thought process and potentially unlock something you wouldn’t have thought of otherwise.

What’s the most exciting part of being a creative in 2018?
There’s no pre-ordained way to be creative—we have so many avenues available to us. It can be daunting, but it’s also liberating because we have countless ways to potentially reach people and to get their attention. I think the most important part of being a creative in today’s world is not to come into something with a pre-conceived solution or output. We need to understand the problem in all its facets, both from the client’s perspective and from the average person’s perspective. The solution will start to present itself if you’ve really worked hard to define the problem.


The creative process looks different for everyone—and in Tom’s case, it means looking at a problem from every angle to arrive at the best solution. This knack is undoubtedly a key to his success: he’s developed compelling work for some of the world’s best-known brands, including Adidas, Google—and now, Samsung.

Fun fact: Tom began his career at the Publicis Groupe agency Fallon.

Welcome home, Tom.

September 5, 2018