News & Views

Behind Leo Burnett's Most Contagious 2015 Campaign

by Emily Hare

We caught up with the lead creatives behind the striking ads for Most Contagious 2015. Brian Shembeda and Jeff Candido of Leo Burnett, Chicago, created the ads set to appear in The Economist: The World in 2016, debuting this month. The Economist is the official media partner of Most Contagious on December 9 in London.


What can you tell us about the idea behind the ads?

After 2013's Contagious ad [depicting a guy in a hazard suit handling a copy of the magazine] the bar was set pretty high, but this year we wanted to do something slightly different. The name itself gives you so much material to work with.

Right off the bat we were intrigued by an idea that the teams had over this sort of rash being Contagious – this thing that spreads from one person to another. That’s a perfect visual metaphor for exactly how all the programmes and ideas that Contagious highlights spread from person to person. It’s visually arresting, it just grabs people, draws your eye and makes you wonder what’s going on here and go down and read the copy. It’s a perfectly arresting, simple ad.


What was the brief?

The brief from Contagious was really straightforward – the best kind of brief – really focused. We talked to our global chief creative officer, Mark Tutssel, and he has an extreme fondness for Contagious, so the rule from him was ‘It better be good’. We went through a series of work, saw a lot of concepts and this one definitely rose to the top.

The brief was essentially: drive people to our site to download the Most Contagious 2015 report or buy tickets to the event. Once you know Contagious and you know it’s literally draw eyeballs to our site, it’s an A1 brief.



The process couldn’t have been easier, Contagious is a dream client. The power and subtly of a slightly smaller call to action is appreciated.

What appealed to you about this execution?

I like the fact that it’s a cross between high fashion, and something that you’d find in a medical journal, which, to me, makes them striking and makes them stand out. That was one of the big things that drew us to it the idea when we first saw, done in sharpie on a white page. Even in that form, the simplicity and the immediacy grabs you. It’s hard to resist when you can distil an idea down to something as quick and easy to digest as this.

And there was no damage to the models?

Nothing we’ll admit to you! What you’re seeing is a combination of both make up and photo-retouching. On set they used make up to create the general shape and make it look as good as they could and we bought a stock photograph of a real rash and photo-retouched it into the images.

Most Contagious 2015 Report