GLOBAL BRIEF: Must Burnetts change or die? - Does its full-service ethos account for Leo Burnett’s worries?
By RICHARD COOK, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 19 September 1997 12:00AM
What are we seeing? One of the world’s great ad agencies having to adjust to losing some important business. Or is it more than that?
What are we seeing? One of the world’s great ad agencies having to
adjust to losing some important business. Or is it more than that?
Is Leo Burnett having to accept that its relentless full-service
approach seems increasingly out of place in an advertising world that
has moved on from shopping exclusively at one agency?
First, the facts. Leo Burnett handles the advertising for five of the
world’s most valuable brands. Burnetts’ Chicago headquarters looks after
seven of the US’s 20 largest advertisers. Leo Burnett claims to keep
clients an average of 18 years compared with a mean in the US of just
over five years.
And Leo Burnett has in the last year lost lead status on the world’s
third most valuable brand, McDonald’s. Leo Burnett has lost the United
Airlines account. Leo Burnett has lost the creative assignment for
Miller Lite. And, at the end of last week, Leo Burnett US reduced its
workforce by 74 people.
’While we have won a number of client and brand assignments this year,
our staffing levels were somewhat imbalanced,’ was the official reaction
of Linda Wolf, group president of Leo Burnett North America.
That those client wins include solid if hardly stellar names such as the
Carpet and Rug Institute makes the decision to cut staff levels all the
more poignant. In absolute numbers, this first wave of redundancies -
and no-one is ruling out more - is not terribly significant.
The agency still employs 1,916 full-time and 218 part-time staff at its
Chicago headquarters to handle just 36 accounts.
’Burnetts will continue to offer unparalleled service,’ Wolf added. But
is that still what clients want? Privately, the agency will admit the
Chicago operation has become a little flabby. It seemed that Burnetts
itself began to admit as much when it went outside the agency to create
a partnership with the medical agency, Williams-Labadie, earlier this
This cut in staffing levels could just be the beginning of big changes
at the agency. And the evidence suggests change, even at Burnetts, may
be no bad thing
This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk
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