Creatives Bear Brunt of Burnett Layoffs

Leo Burnett’s creative department took the worst hit in last week’s layoffs as the agency prepares to outline this week what new shape it will take.
As many as half the 74 positions eliminated last week were from the creative department, which has been under fire since the agency lost the United Airlines account last fall. The loss last month of the agency’s lead creative role on the McDonald’s account has intensified the shop’s concerns about the quality of its work.
According to sources, last week’s dismissals included a group account director, four creative directors, nine associate creative directors, five producers and numerous copywriters and art directors.
The reduction, which amounts to about 4 percent of Burnett’s U.S. staff, does not include another 40 staffers who have taken early retirement offers this year.
Chairman Rick Fizdale, who reassumed the chief executive officer role in March following the ouster of Bill Lynch, will address the agency’s staff on Tuesday. He is expected to outline structural changes intended to remedy the problems that brought on that boardroom coup, sources said.
The shifts may create a less centralized agency, with Leo Burnett Media and other units operating as more autonomous subsidiaries, and with a relaxation of the creative department’s traditionally rigid bureaucracy, sources said. Creative talent from other agencies and some top account management and creative executives from Burnett’s overseas operations may be brought in to the domestic wing, according to sources.