A Commitment to Change and a Whirlwind Courtship Land TFA
CHICAGO--Who says Leo Burnett is stodgy?
The deal announced last week that brings $68 million technology marketing agency TFA Communications here into the Leo Burnett fold required only six weeks of discussion.
"There was no broker involved, no lawyers until the end. For a company that's been accused of being slow and bureaucratic, that's not bad," said Linda Wolf, group president for Leo Burnett North America. Wolf, chairman Rick Fizdale and vice chairman Roger Haupt (responsible for the agency's information technology operations globally) approached Sean Bisceglia, chief executive officer of 8-year-old TFA, about a union, and an accord was reached in a matter of weeks.
That, said Wolf, indicates the seriousness not only of Burnett's interest in tapping the growth potential of high-technology clients, but also of its commitment to changing its corporate profile rapidly through acquisitions rather than solely by developing its internal capabilities, as it has traditionally done.
"We came to TFA with a plan [for Burnett's growth], and we could do the deal so quickly in part because they fit so well with our interests," Wolf said.
The same synergy existed from TFA's point of view, Bisceglia said. "We have clients who
are in desperate need of international branding," he said. TFA knew it lacked not only international capabilities, but also research, branding and media buying resources.
Burnett will provide those resources. But equally important, he said, is that Burnett understands the technology businesses with which TFA works, which are moving "from being engineering-driven to being more marketing-centric."
Bisceglia said other global agency networks had expressed interest in TFA. However, unlike some others, Burnett approached TFA "not as a trophy, but a partner," he said.
Burnett's Starcom Media unit will take over media buying for the 30 clients of TFA/Leo Burnett Technology, as the acquired agency will be called. Starcom is likely to open an office
in Boston to work with clients of TFA's office there.
An office of TFA/Leo Burnett Technology will open in San Francisco by the end of this year. With TFA's existing operation in Dallas, the deal introduces the Burnett name in three new cities. And because TFA/Leo Burnett is a wholly owned unit of Leo Burnett U.S.A., the
deal nearly doubles Burnett's client roster.