Burnett Tech Unit Slashes Staff

Stung by cutbacks and failures among its emerging technology clients, the Leo Burnett Technology Group laid off approximately 10 percent of its work force last week, with most cuts coming in its Boston and San Francisco offices.

“With the technology crash, a lot of the companies in our portfolio have cut back spending or ceased to exist,” said Sean Bisceglia, CEO of the unit formerly known as TFA/Leo Burnett Technology Group.

All told, about 25 staffers were shown the door. The total staff before the layoff was 210.

The Boston office was believed to employ about 40-45 people before the cut, which may have been as high as 10-15, or approximately 25 percent, sources said.

The layoffs were made across-the-board, in creative, planning, account services and administration, Bisceglia said. The company’s Chicago office lost no workers, and only one or two people lost jobs in the Austin, Texas, office, Bisceglia said.

The Leo Burnett unit changed its name earlier this month, dropping the TFA, to broaden its client base beyond business-to-business, high-tech clients, and snare more consumer technology accounts. The reshaped business plan is intended to avoid situations that led to last week’s layoffs, Bisceglia said.

“We have to get away from emerging technologies,” he said.

The unit acquired by Burnett two years ago claimed a 79 percent increase in revenue last year, when 83 people were hired, Bisceglia said. The fourth quarter technology downturn hit the company hard.

The Boston office closed 2000 on a mixed note, adding $5-7 million in chores from InsightForum [Adweek, Dec. 18], but parting with corporate business for Internet conglomerate CMGI, which moved the creative portion of its $20 million account to FCB Worldwide in New York following a review.