Leo Burnett Detroit Saves Local Library by Threatening Book Burning

By Bob Marshall 

Much like Kid Rock and most other things, Leo Burnett’s Detroit office isn’t actually from Detroit despite its title. Surprise, Leo’s Motor City location is actually a northern Detroit suburb named Troy. Sorry to call you out, fellas, but it helps this case study make a little more sense.

When Troy Library was at the brink of being forced to shut its doors, Leo Burnett decided to “take back” the podium from the Tea Party, changing the conversation from an issue of taxes to an issue of book burning. Hey, if you’ve ever seen Field of Dreams, you know that nothing riles up Midwesterners like the threat/promise of a book burning/ban. It turns out Leo’s reverse psychology with the “Book Burning Party,” was quite effective, causing local press to believe that the planned fire-y celebration was actually a real event. To quote one employee of the library, “(When I first learned of the movement), I thought ‘This is some bad attempted satire,’ but to spend money on signs for a committee, that’s not somebody forming it as a joke.” Yes, Leo even had the library convinced, but the employee quoted in that article, Phillip Kwik, didn’t find this bit of “satire” very funny once that hoax was revealed.


Regardless, the bizarre campaign took off on social media, finding press from the Library Journal and the Detroit Free Press. After the dust settled, 342 percent of predicted voters showed up at the polls, and Troy Library remains open. Whether you credit Leo Burnett’s campaign for the victory, or you find their actions misguided and “appalling” as Kwik argues, those are the results. Credits after the jump.
Peter McHugh, Global Executive Creative Director
Glen Hilzinger, Creative Director
Bob Veasey, Creative Director
Tony Booth, Creative Services Director
Rick Bennington, Operations Director
Rob Thiemann/Mike Davis, Copywriters
John McClaire, Creative Technologist
Jennie Hochthanner/Erik Zaar, Producers