Burnett Unit Mulls Bigger Bcom3 Role

Chemistri, Leo Burnett’s recently renamed interactive unit, may partner with other companies in the Bcom3 network and could become a division of its own under the holding company.

“The global aspect of the Internet leads us to think about what we must be doing to build the business,” said Chemistri co-CEO Kurt Karlenzig. “For the time being, we’re looking at our opportunities and alignments with Leo Burnett.”

Chemistri in Chicago now has 50 staffers; when it debuted seven years ago, it had seven employees. Formerly known as the Digital Garage, it operated under Burnett’s Capps Digital studio, helping on work for various Burnett clients. It also assisted on new-business pitches with interactive “leave behinds,” letting potential clients review presentations and get questions answered on the Web.

The opportunity to provide such integration for Burnett’s Bcom3 partners led the unit to rebrand itself as Chemistri late last month and restructure its management under Karlenzig and co-CEO Chris Miller.

The move raises questions about Burnett’s majority stake in its other interactive company, Giant Step. Though Giant was rumored to be considering a break from Burnett, via a sale or buying itself out [Adweek, Aug. 14], Karlenzig said the network can use both units, due to the breadth of the “interactive space.”

Giant Step officials could not be reached at press time.

Other holding companies have agency-affiliated and freestanding interactive units. IPG’s Zentropy Partners is separate from other IPG agencies, which also have their own units, such as Lowe Digital. Omnicom also has agency-affiliated interactive shops, as well as Communicade, which oversees several interactive units.