CLOSE-UP: GLOBAL BRIEF - Burnett goes it alone as Starcom hits world stage - Burnett has not let a failed deal with MacManus hold it back, Jade Garrett writes

Five months ago it was bad news for Leo Burnett’s UK media operation.

Five months ago it was bad news for Leo Burnett’s UK media


A deal with the MacManus group’s Mediavest was in ruins amid reports of

rifts in the higher echelons of the company.

The merger would have created a pounds 485 million powerbase in the UK

media market and a strong platform for the development of an

international media network. But it wasn’t to be.

In response to last year’s setback, the Chicago-based network has

announced that Starcom, Burnett’s US media outfit, is to become a global

media brand (Campaign, last week). From now on, all Burnett’s media

divisions worldwide will adopt the Starcom name and operating model and

will have access to an intranet system linking every office around the


’We were never interested in just changing the name of our media arm,’

Bob Brennan, Starcom’s chief operating officer, says. ’We have created a

truly separate company where the management and financial structure is

independent of the main agency. This will allow us to invest in the new

product and measure its return.’

Brennan is unconcerned that critics will consider this Starcom to be a

poor shadow of the Starcom that Burnett’s really wanted from the

MacManus deal.

’Starcom is better off without the MacManus group. If we had merged with

them I don’t necessarily think we would have put a better product into

the market. Scale isn’t everything,’ he says.

All Burnett’s client information will now be pooled on a single


Staff will be able to call up the ratings trends of a particular TV

channel from their desks. ’This is what will drive best practice,’

Brennan explains.

’People will be able to access knowledge of the UK market and then apply

it elsewhere, thus breaking down regional and national boundaries.’

The new technology has led to a ’paperless and digital workplace’,

Brennan proclaims. Internal memos are forbidden and Brennan will only

communicate with people via e-mail.

It has also meant fewer staff.

’We have been able to eliminate a lot of our secretarial support. In the

US we have gone from 500 secretaries to 25 administration assistants,’

Brennan says.

Starcom launches with billings of pounds 145 million and a position just

outside the top 15 in the UK media league table. Its main clients are

Procter & Gamble, McDonald’s and United Biscuits.

Brennan is predicting new-business gains and growth from existing

clients to the tune of dollars 10 billion over the next two years and is

looking for a European chief to galvanise business on this side of the

Atlantic. With a shortlist of three in place, he hopes to make an

appointment in the next few months.

The launch of Starcom also marks the end of any merger talks. ’We have

decided that the way forward is for Leo Burnett to have full control of

its media operations,’ Brennan states. ’We will be thinking of