Why the Ad Agency in the New Robin Williams Sitcom Looks a Lot Like Leo Burnett

Some familiar Crazy Ones

Headshot of T.L. Stanley

If CBS' The Crazy Ones seems like a day at Leo Burnett in Chicago, there's a good reason for that. The agency's executive creative director, John Montgomery, works as a consultant and executive producer on the fall comedy—and, in fact, inspired the show, which marks the network series return of former Mork from Ork Robin Williams.

It's no accident, then, that the pilot has the fictional ad folks working on a campaign for McDonald's, one of Burnett's biggest clients. (They want pop star Kelly Clarkson to shill burgers. "I don't do jingles," she sniffs, but eventually belts out a meat-loving ditty.) The brand didn't pay for the prodigious placement, though Williams told 200-plus reporters at a Television Critics Association panel on Monday in Beverly Hills to "look under your chairs—there's a Happy Meal!"

Expect to see other real brands on the show, likely from Burnett's stable, that were willing to let the creative team poke some irreverent fun at them. Montgomery has been spending several days a week with the sitcom's writers, said executive producer David E. Kelley, giving them agency scoop that's "sometimes crazier than we could imagine." Kelley and Williams also visited Burnett's offices to soak up the agency flavor. Even the show's title comes from advertising—"Here's to the Crazy Ones" was the anthem spot from TBWA's "Think Different" campaign for Apple.

There's another ad connection with The Crazy Ones. James Wolk, who plays the shadowy Bob Benson on AMC's Mad Men, stars as the new show's office lothario and creative whiz. "I only do advertising and marketing shows," he joked during the panel. The workplace comedy, premiering Sept. 26, also features Sarah Michelle Gellar as Williams's pragmatic daughter who's trying to keep her screwball dad in line.

Don't miss the Brandweek Sports Marketing Summit and Upfronts, a live virtual experience Nov. 16-19. Gain insights from leading sports figures on how they navigated a year of upsets and transformation and what's in store for the coming year. Register. 

@TLStanleyLA terry.stanley@adweek.com T.L. Stanley is a senior editor at Adweek, where she specializes in consumer trends, cannabis marketing, meat alternatives, pop culture, challenger brands and creativity.