INTEGRATED AUDIT: Burnetts brand teams offer clients more focused approach

Leo Burnett’s office design shows its commitment to a through-the-line policy.

Leo Burnett’s office design shows its commitment to a through-the-line policy.

‘If you sat in on a brand team unit meeting and listened to the

conversation, I think you’d be hard-pressed in a lot of cases to tell

who did what job. The great thing is that there’s a kind of ‘spill

effect’ of interest and involvement which is very rich indeed,’ says

Steve Gatfield, chief executive of Leo Burnett, in explaining why its

everything-under-the-one-roof approach is the right one.

And what a roof it is. Seated in his James Bond-style office in South

Kensington, Gatfield is eager to emphasise the importance of his

agency’s new, tailor-made European headquarters.

Although moves had been made towards integration before the agency upped

sticks in May, he claims this gleaming, open-plan environment has acted

as a powerful catalyst in transforming it from an ad agency into a total

communications company.‘The dividends we’ve got from it are greater than

I dared hope for,’ he gushes. ‘It’s brought everything together in a

wonderfully organic way.’

This is not to say, he adds quickly, that being in an old building

negates the possibility of integrated work. Indeed, Gatfield’s much-

prized ‘brand team’ concept took shape at the agency’s old St Martin’s

Lane offices. McDonald’s, which is now Burnetts’ most integrated client,

began receiving the all-under-one-roof treatment a year before the move.

Nor is Gatfield ‘speaking out of ignorance’ when he condemns the

subsidiary set-up. Before the brand team reorganisation, there had been

attempts to split the agency into different operating companies.

‘I used to run something called Leo Burnett Direct, and there was also a

separate promotions company. The idea was to encourage cross-

fertilisation. But what we really wanted was to operate as a brand team

business. We felt very strongly that the best way of ensuring the

optimum fusion of understanding, insight and ideas was to get people in

brand teams rather than co-opted out of several individual operating


‘If you do work for a subsidiary,’ he continues, ‘your focus tends to be

on that individual company rather than on the whole group of companies.’

Despite all this corporate change, Gatfield maintains that winning new

integrated business was not uppermost in his mind. ‘That is not how we

set out our stall. What we’ve tried to build is a company that has a

better understanding of, and insight into, human behaviour.’

He notes, for example, that there has not been - nor are there plans for

- an in-house PR service. ‘We see that as a very different discipline

and are happy to work in alliances with PR companies.’

Apart from McDonald’s, Gatfield cites United Airlines and United

Distillers as ‘excellent examples’ of his agency’s ‘understanding and

insight’ in action.

The UA work meant pitting an unknown newcomer against the massively

dominant BA. ‘A very good example of using a sort of guerrilla

understanding of the audience,’ Gatfield says.

Veronica Graham, a Burnetts account director who has worked on the UA

account, says integration ‘came naturally’ because of the David versus

Goliath scenario. ‘They [UA] recognised we had to approach the brief in

quite a creative way.’ This creativity also resulted in 170 liveried UA


‘These initiatives would have been expensive if we hadn’t integrated

them so well with all our other communications,’ Graham asserts.

United Distillers, notably its Gordon’s account, has been a ‘genuinely

multi-level communication programme,’ Gatfield claims. It has involved

‘shifting image, shifting attitude and plying people with a range of

messages’ - from the ‘invigoration’ campaign to a more product quality-

focused message in its direct work.

Matthew Eastlake, UK marketing manager of UA, certainly sounds like a

satisfied client: ‘A co-ordinated, through-the-line campaign ensures the

customer receives a consistent, balanced and, above all, relevant


Keeping direct marketing, advertising and sales promotion all under one

roof means that UA’s ‘ability to think and act effectively through the

line is significantly enhanced,’ Eastlake adds.

However, Mercedes - another Burnetts client - has some reservations

about the agency’s ability to cater for all its needs.

‘I am very pro integrated campaigns,’ Suzanne Purcell, communications

supervisor at Mercedes, says. ‘But I think there’s a limit to what one

company can provide on its own.’

Goff Moore, a senior group account director and the man responsible for

the United Distillers account, is unperturbed by this line of argument:

‘While having the whole thing under one roof must be the ultimate form

of integration, our first priority is to influence the total needs of

the brand. We are happy to provide integrated thinking, even if we

aren’t asked to provide integrated executions.’

This acts as a cue for some in-house jargon. ‘Solution neutral,’ says

Moore, means approaching accounts without any advertising bias. While

this may sound a bit too high-minded, it actually has a hard business

edge. ‘Increasingly, we are working on a fee basis, which can be a lot

more lucrative for us on a smaller budget than the commission system.’

Moore continues: ‘The successful account directors at Burnetts over the

next three, five, ten years are going to be the ones who move easily

through the theory and application of PR, event marketing, direct

marketing, programme sponsorship, and so on.’

Mark Stockdale, the agency’s deputy planning director and a key figure

on the Gordon’s account, introduces another bit of company lingo:

‘contact point analysis’, which means looking laterally at any media

that might present you with a captive audience.

He says Gordon’s has benefited from this philosophy ‘in a big way’. As

part of a two-year strategy review, the agency set up a multi-

disciplinary ‘hub group’ to ensure that presentation at the point of

purchase matched the high expectations generated by the cinema


‘We also gave lots of practical advice on how to get the most out of the

brand. That is real integrated thinking. It’s not just about slapping

the same labels on lots of different things above and below the line.

It’s about getting out there in the real world and making absolutely

sure that the brand is practising what you are preaching. After all,

consumers will integrate your message, whether you want them to or not,’

he says.




Advertiser                                   Ads    DM     SP    Events

Gordon’s                                     yes    yes    no    no

Won 1994 DMA Gold award for consumer direct category

McDonald’s                                   yes    yes    yes   yes

Burnetts’ first -  and now most -  integrated client

United Airlines                              yes    yes    yes   no

Burnetts developed the first ever painted tube train

Mercedes                                     yes    yes    no    no

Work includes supporting the national dealer network

Bell’s                                       no     yes    no    no

Possibly the first spirits brand to use relationship marketing

Pimms                                        no     yes    no    no

There has been no advertising account for the past four years

Nickelodeon                                  no     yes    yes   no

Helped launch the channel and its 250,000-name database

Express Newspapers                           yes    no     yes   no

Mainly on the Sunday Express and Daily Star

Source: Campaign and Leo Burnett



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