Burrell Names Williams Creative Chief

CHICAGO Burrell Communications here has named Lewis Williams chief creative officer, replacing Steve Conner, according to the shop.

Williams was most recently a creative director at Publicis Groupe’s Leo Burnett in Chicago, where he worked on the Allstate, McDonald’s and the U.S. Army accounts, among others. The stint will be Williams’ second at Burrell, having worked there as an associate creative director in the 1980s.

“[Williams] is ideally suited to help us deliver the kind of creative—traditional and nontraditional that our clients tell us they want,” said Burrell co-chief executive officer McGhee Williams Osse. “The key is being able to help them maneuver through uncharted territory with a comfort level in our ability to deliver results.”

Williams, 50, said the job would give him a chance to apply some of the things he’s learned at a big agency in the general market at a smaller, more targeted shop. “There’s nothing like running your own show,” he said. “I thought it would be great to take all of the things I’ve learned at Burnett and put them in place.”

The experience is important as the landscape changes between what’s considered African American and what’s considered general market, Williams said. He noted that many things on MTV and elsewhere have come from the African American culture. “The playing field is more crowded now,” he said. “MTV is just as hip as BET.”

As CCO, Williams said he wanted to raise Burrell’s profile as not just a leading African-American shop, but to be one of the best agencies in Chicago. “We’re still considered a multicultural agency,” Williams said. “I don’t want to just compete with the multicultural agencies, I want us to compete with everyone.”

Williams, who starts on April 17, replaces Conner, who has left the shop, according to an agency representative. The rep did not provide details about Conner, who joined the shop in June 2004 as a managing partner.

“We appreciate the effort and perspective that Steve brought to the agency and we certainly support him in his ventures and wish him great success,” Osee said. “Given our history, it is likely that our paths will cross again.”

With billings of nearly $200 million, Burrell is one of the largest multicultural advertising agencies in the country. Partially backed by Publicis Groupe (which has a 49 percent stake in the agency), the shop’s clients include McDonald’s, Procter & Gamble, Toyota, Allstate and Bacardi.