Revamped Burnett Looks Ahead

Mini-Agencies Ditched; Wolf, Berman Tapped to Lead Ad Division
CHICAGO–Having righted itself after a disastrous year in 1996, Leo Burnett has installed new management as it dismantles its mini-agency structure.
The reorganization solidifies the leadership of Linda Wolf and Cheryl Berman as chief executive officer and chairman, respectively, of Leo Burnett USA, the Chicago-based advertising division of the recently formed holding company The Leo Group. Wolf previously served as president of Burnett North America; Berman remains chief creative officer of Burnett USA. The moves had been expected [Adweek, Sept. 20].
The appointments are meant to help make the ad division more autonomous within The Leo Group. “There’s always been a melding between the corporation and us,” Wolf said. “The new clarity helps things work better; everyone’s clear who’s responsible.”
In addition, Mary Bishop, formerly executive vice president, was promoted to president and chief marketing officer. And Jeff Finkler, formerly vice president, executive creative director at Leo Burnett Canada, was named vice chairman and ECD in Chicago, reporting to Berman. He will serve as global account chief on Burnett’s Procter & Gamble business–duties previously handled by Bishop.
With the changes, Burnett moves away from the much-publicized “mini-agency” structure it adopted in 1997. While it will physically keep its brand teams together, the agency again considers itself one entity, Wolf said.
“[Mini-agencies] was an innovative experiment, and now we’re moving beyond that,” Wolf said.
The system was adopted in November 1997, after the loss of several high-profile accounts–including United Airlines, lead agency status on McDonald’s and creative duties for Miller Lite–and an uncharacteristic management coup. Under the system, the agency realigned into seven divisions, each with their own managing, creative and planning directors.
While Burnett officials maintain the move was a necessary shake-up, it did not provide the efficiencies the agency was seeking.
“We thought there would be alignment by industry, but we found that was very difficult,” Wolf said.
The system also met with some resistance from clients who wanted to draw on Burnett’s global resources outside their particular division. “We learned the power of our brand,” Berman said. “In the end, our clients didn’t see a lot of benefit from the structure, and it wasn’t as flexible as we wanted it to be.”
Still, Wolf and Berman said the experiment worked on many levels. A major positive, and a system that will remain, they said, is the agency’s brand team configuration–an innovative setup for Burnett in which client services, planning, creative and production on each brand are grouped together. And Burnett’s momentum since 1997–it has added $1 billion in worldwide billings, and this year added as clients Delta Airlines, H.J. Heinz, Vidal Sassoon and Toys R Us, among others–speaks for itself.
“There’s no way you can innovate if you don’t try new things,” Wolf said.
To aid Wolf, Berman Bishop and Finkler, the agency has established a board of directors for Burnett USA. Joining those four as officers on the board are: Leo Group general counsel Carla Michelotti as secretary; Cathy DeThorne, who was also named chief planning officer; Myron Lyskanycz, named group managing director; and Peter Volz, named president and CEO of Leo Burnett NorthStar, the agency’s direct, database and promotions division.
Also, Phil Raskin was promoted to director of corporate strategy, and Al Roehl was promoted to vice president of operations for The Leo Group.
Promotions were also made in creative, client services and planning.
In creative, the agency promoted Lisa Bennett, Mike Colt, Jonathan Hoffman, Gerry Miller, Bob Akers, Ned Crowley and John Eding each to executive creative director, reporting to Berman. Also, Eding was named director of print, a new position.
Cathy Gutherie was named director of the client services department, while her husband, Warren, will head up the agency’s Pillsbury and retail divisions. Additionally, Jim Thompson will lead the recently won Delta business and oversee the agency’s accounts and TFA/Leo Burnett Technology Group. Sean Bisceglia remains president and CEO of the high-tech advertising division.
Also, Nancylyn Davis, Karen Green, Lelia Green, Marty Harper, Kathy Lalley, Rich Houghton-Larson and Jana O’Brien were each promoted to executive planning director.
–with staff report