Leo Burnett

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Leo Burnett is among the world's best-known agency brands, now part of Publicis Groupe. In its heyday it was responsible for creating what has become known as the "Chicago School" of advertising, which made a virtue of simplicity and clarity, and was most strongly defined by the use of brand mascots - fictional characters who were used to personify individual brands. Uncle Ben, the Jolly Green Giant, Tony the Tiger, the Pillsbury Doughboy and the Marlboro Man were all Burnett inventions. The agency capped the 1990s with a showstopping deal which combined the forces of three major agency groups. In 1999, Burnett's acquired D'Arcy parent MacManus, stealing that business from under Interpublic's nose for $1bn; then sold a 20% stake in the combined group to Japanese giant Dentsu for a rumoured $400m to create one of the world's biggest marketing groups, named Bcom3. The final twist came in 2002 with capture of Bcom3 by Publicis, and the subsequent merger of the D'Arcy network into Burnett. In 2007, Leo Burnett merged with below-the-line unit Arc Worldwide under a single management team, although it continues to use both names. It remains one of the world's most admired creative agency brands, with a reputation for witty, imaginative and emotionally resonant advertising. However, since 2016, it has been increasingly intertwined with other Publicis-owned creative agencies under the umbrella of Publicis Communications. In some smaller countries the Leo Burnett name has been phased out altogether in favour of the Publicis One brand; in some others, even big markets such as Germany, it has been more or less eliminated in favour of the Groupe's more widely known Saatchi & Saatchi brand. The network is still headquartered in its original home of Chicago - it is the only network still led from there - but individual offices now report locally to Publicis Communications country leaders. There is no longer a global CEO - top manager Andrew Swinand is CEO for North America only. However, the network does have a global chief creative officer. Chaka Sobhani, already chief creative officer at Leo Burnett London, replaced Liz Taylor as global CCO in 2021. Ad Age estimated global revenues of $773m in 2020, including $230m in the US.

Capsule checked 11th December 2020

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Recent stories from Adbrands Update:

Marketer Moves 7th Jul 2021: New president & chief creative officer at Leo Burnett Chicago. See Marketer Moves (members only).

Marketer Moves 13th May 2021: New global chief creative officer at Leo Burnett. See Marketer Moves (members only).

Adbrands Daily Update 25th Feb 2021: "Always Room For Change". In developed markets like the UK or US we don't tend to pay too much attention to advertising from Arabic markets. It's certainly the case that a large proportion of creative output from that region is pretty standard, but there are regular exceptions to the rule that are as good or better than anything in the West. The local Leo Burnett network is a good example of a regular over-achiever, and here's a very entertaining campaign for Ikea in Saudi Arabia that borrows the styling of a Sims creation to demonstrate the ways in which the furniture store's products adapt to every life stage from cradle to grave. Must have been just as much fun to design as it is to watch. Better still, the individual room sets have also been honeycombed together, 36 at a time, to create vast poster displays hanging instore.

Adbrands Daily Update 8th Feb 2021: "Scissorhandsfree". There's something really rather brilliant about Leo Burnett's superb Super Bowl spot for Cadillac. First of all, whoever devised that original concept is a genius. Well, of course the ideal car for Edward Scissorhands would be the hands-free Cadillac Lyriq. And then the execution is just perfect. Johnny Depp is a little too controversial just now, but the idea of the lovechild of Edward Scissorhands and the still-beloved Winona Ryder has unbeatable emotional responance. And who better to play the son of Johnny and Winona than Timothee Chalamet? Hats off to Leo Burnett on this one. It's what great advertising is all about.

Adbrands Daily Update 16th Jul 2020: "The Legend". Leo Burnett's Brazilian office had lots of fun resurrecting Elvis Presley for this entertaining extended spot for Fiat, still one of top three auto brands locally. That's not a claim the Italian icon can make in many other countries outside its homeland, which helps to justify the lavish production values. Some 600 cast and crew members were involved over six days. Celebrated impersonator Dean Z - world champion at America's Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest - plays the King with the assistance of some extensive (and not entirely successful) CGI. The whole thing zips along at cracking pace too. "A lenda se superou" translates as "the legend surpasses itself".

Adbrands Daily Update 19th May 2020: "Pictures". Two Facebook ads in two days? Seriously? Well, yes - sorry about that - but they're both excellent and are not to be overlooked. Taking full advantage of global lockdown, Facebook has rushed out not only its Zoom-killer Messenger Rooms, but also a rather fine ad for it, a joint production between inhouse unit Creative X, appointed agency Leo Burnett and also the inimitable Gondry brothers. Director Michel Gondry is already something of an industry legend, renowned for his particular style of visual trickery, here aided and abetted by his less well-known but equally talented brother Olivier. And if all that creative firepower wasn't already enough, flavour of the year Lizzo has been roped in to record her own version of Beatles classic All Together Now especially for the ad. Clearly Facebook means business here.

Adbrands Daily Update 25th Feb 2020: In the latest of several recent defections from Leo Burnett and other Publicis Groupe agencies, Jordan Doucette, chief creative officer of the flagship Burnett's office in Chicago, is leaving to join indie agency No Fixed Address in her native Canada. No direct replacement was named. Instead North America CEO Andrew Swinand told staff that Leo Burnett global CCO Liz Taylor "has been stepping up in a meaningful way in Chicago" and will oversee local creative. Adriano Matos was recently appointed as executive creative director of LB Chicago.

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