Burnett Opens ‘Urban’ Agency

Making good on its promise to expand and deepen its resources, Leo Burnett has opened an agency in New York specializing in “urban culture” advertising and marketing.
The fledgling agency, Vigilante, is comprised of principals Marc Stephenson Strachan, formerly president of Middleman L.E., and Danny Robinson, formerly executive vice president and creative group head of Guild Group, both in New York. It opens with Schieffelin & Somerset’s Johnnie Walker Black–for which Burnett handles general marketing advertising–as its initial client.
“Our goal is to be an agency that specializes in urban culture,” Strachan said. “Both those words are important. It’s not just about the African American market; it’s way beyond that, across socioeconomic lines.”
Urban culture has been driving trends in entertainment, fashion and retailing, “but it’s more that [advertisers] haven’t seen it or understood it than that others haven’t done a good job reaching it,” Robinson said.
Robinson and Strachan were recommended to Burnett last year when the agency was seeking fresh marketing resources for the Reebok account. Burnett resigned Reebok in May but began exploring the idea of creating an urban agency.
That a self-styled “guerrilla advertising” agency should be established as a unit of an agency as traditional as Burnett “is what’s exciting,” Strachan said. “[Burnett chairman] Rick Fizdale had the ability to understand that they can’t do what we’re going to do.”
“We have ways of seeing and solving problems that Rick Fizdale saw were different from the Burnett process, and he liked that,” Robinson said.
Vigilante is initially working out of Burnett’s production offices in New York, but it will soon find its own office space and begin hiring a staff. The plan is for it to eventually spin off as an independent unit of Burnett, much like the Giant Step interactive unit.
“There are those who don’t get [urban culture], and we’re not for everybody,” Strachan said. “But there are those who are waiting for what Vigilante is about.”