How Leo Burnett Uses Its Instagram to Show a Day in the Life of Employees

An agency turns the storytelling on itself

Creative director Scott Smith was the most recent subject of a DITL profile. Leo Burnett
Headshot of Tim Nudd

Agencies use their Instagram accounts in dozens of different ways, often giving the feed over to employees to curate themselves. Leo Burnett Chicago does something a little different, though related—using a series of posts to regularly spotlight a “day in the life” of a staffer who’s doing interesting things.

The series is called simply “Day in the Life.” It’s done in the style of an Instagram takeover, where the agency shares snapshots and details of the person throughout the course of an entire day. In the final post of the day, the employee answers questions submitted by followers. He or she is also featured in a Q&A on

Each DITL consist of eight to 10 Instagram posts. The photos are taken by professionals from Greenhouse, Leo Burnett’s in-house production department. The featured employees can come from any discipline, vertical or seniority level within the agency.

The very first DITL was posted in July 2014 and featured Jane Condon (above), who was a summer intern in the corporate communications department at the time. There have been 17 more DITLs since then. The most recent one profiled creative director Scott Smith in a series of 10 posts.

Here are six of the 10 posts featuring Smith:

Burnett tells Adweek that DITL has been a great way to engage with Leo Burnett employees as well as alumni, and has even been a good recruiting tool. We spoke to Drew Wehrle, vice president of MSL, the Publicis Groupe PR agency that works with Leo Burnett, about the DITL project. (DITL was originally started by Burnett PR execs, many of whom now work for MSL.)

Adweek: Where did the idea come from to do the Day in a Life series?
Drew Wehrle: We discovered early that original content was one of the most effective ways we could share the agency’s story. We’ve always encouraged experimentation and testing different types of ideas for content to learn what would resonate. At the time, brands were still figuring out Instagram, and the idea for using it to tell a longer narrative over the course of a full day was novel. We asked an intern to serve as our first test subject, got a great response, and it quickly took off from there.

How do you pick the people to feature?
We try to represent both the diversity of people and the roles that make up the agency, but we’re also always looking to tie the story back to a bigger piece of news. So we might feature a pair of creative directors who just launched a new campaign, or an account executive who worked on winning a piece of new business. We also get opportunities to profile people with an interesting side project or unique role in the agency. At this point, we receive plenty of suggestions, as well.

Are all the pics of a particular person actually shot on the same day?
Yes—that part has always stayed the same. All the shots are from the same day.

How “candid” is the process? Is there any planning that goes into it, or is it really spontaneous?
A little bit of both. Planning helps us be efficient—we’ll work with the subject in advance to understand what a day looks like, and map out how we can best chronicle it. But when the day arrives, we really are with them, capturing these moments as they play out. I think that authenticity comes through and helps make the series even more engaging.

What do you think is revealed about the subject by the end of the day?
I hope viewers come away with a richer appreciation of the subject’s life, both inside and outside the office. What inspires and motivates them? In the crazy, fast-paced environment of modern agency life, it’s so easy to get siloed and immersed in our own worlds, so I hope the series helps facilitate a deeper connection to the amazing and diverse group of individuals who show up to work at Leo Burnett each and every day. I see each installment as a small piece of that bigger story.

How popular is the series internally? How about externally?
The numbers tell us that the series receives almost five times greater engagement than our average content, so it’s definitely our most popular feature. The channel audience is continuing to grow at a steady clip, and we’re setting new records for Likes with each edition. Anecdotally, it’s heartening to see a big jump in the number of users tagging their friends, and just the volume of conversation, some of which is coming in from around the world. Internally, we hear a lot great feedback, but always hope our subjects are getting most of the attention.

I’ve heard it’s a great recruiting tool, as well as a way to engage Burnett alumni, employees and people in the creative community. Can you explain how it does all of those things?
The broad appeal has been one of the biggest pleasant surprises. When we launched, I thought we’d likely see a lot of junior talent using it to ask questions about the business and working at Leo Burnett, which we have. But once the series took off, it was immediately clear that employees were every bit as excited to see colleagues celebrated and learn more about them. Scrolling through comments helped us discover we were reaching a much bigger audience—not just prospective talent, but current and alums as well. It’s such a simple narrative framework that everyone can relate to. I think it speaks both to the power of Instagram and the power of engaging storytelling.

How long do you think it will continue?
Until someone tells us to stop. Hopefully not before we get a chance to profile [Publicis Groupe CEO] Arthur Sadoun.

@nudd Tim Nudd is a former creative editor of Adweek.