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IHAVEANIDEA.ORG > articles >  Agency Profile: Leo Burnett Worldwide Headquarters

Agency Profile: Leo Burnett Worldwide Headquarters

Posted on November 24, 2005 and read 3,466 times

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ignaciocreditpic Agency Profile: Leo Burnett Worldwide HeadquartersIgnacio Oreamuno

Ever wanted to work for a ‘big’ agency?

Look no further than Leo Burnett Chicago, worldwide headquarters for the Publicis Groupe agency. The largest, most massive advertising machine I’ve ever step foot in. You won’t have trouble getting there for your first interview since all you’ll have to tell the cabbie is to take you to the “Leo Burnett building”. And if you decide to walk, no problem, just follow the Honorary Leo Burnett Drive and you’ll get there without a hitch.

The fact that there are over 1,000 people working there might signify they won’t all remember your name by heart, but it definitely does not mean that it’s a cold inhospitable place. In fact, I felt just the opposite. Walk in any room, in any floor and you’ll be greeted with apples. Yes, lots of apples.

Agency folk tell the tale that during the Great Depression in the 30’s, Leo himself decided to place apples at the reception desk so that every time suppliers came in they would get something back from the agency and thus help make the point that Leo Burnett is an agency that believes in collaboration. So if you’re into apple picking or need to cook up a strudel, just make your way to any of the 94 Leo Burnett offices around the world and pick up any of the 750,000 apples that are given away each year.

Leo Burnett is like a big delivery room where many of the world’s most famous brands like the Jolly Green Giant, the Pillsbury Doughboy, Tony the Tiger and the Marlboro Man were born. The in-house obstetrician was ad titan Mr. Burnett and his career spanned 6 decades, taking an agency from 0 to a whopping $400 million dollars in billings at the time of his death. Now it’s about $6 billion dollars a year. Not bad for a cowboy, a talking tiger and a giggling piece of dough.

A big agency implies big clients and Leo has lots of those: McDonald’s, Disney, Procter & Gamble, Altoids, Kellogg, Nintendo, the U.S. Army and of course Marlboro. Big clients usually also mean lots of account people, and that was proven to me when I saw the account floors. Holy suits, Batman! Yep, the creative/suit ratio is pretty high but if you think that means that the agency doesn’t make good work you are wrong. Walking down the hallways is like a memory trip down the latest award annual.

Big agencies need to think like small agencies and while they physically cannot do that, at Leo there is a wall dedicated to announcing new people, promoted people and people doing interesting things outside the agency. A simple but very much needed thing in an agency with so much human capital.

Compared to other similar shops like Ogilvy, JWT, and DDB, Leo Burnett is very nice, perhaps even the nicest in terms of office space. Even the massive orange cubicle floors don’t feel so bad. The big windows, incredible views of the city and trendy furniture yield a good balance between privacy and open space.

The agency that brought to life the Marlboro Man (R.I.P) used to allow their employees to smoke at their desk. Leo Burnett, whose every photo and paintings show him with either a cigarette, pipe or cigar must have turned in his adgrave when the law of the land sent his Burnett smokers packing outside to Wacker Street. Don’t worry; if the Windy City blows their cigars away, all they have to do is pay a visit to the Leo Burnett bar on the 21st floor. The ultra hip bar is home to “Vendaland”, a vending machine room full of the client’s very own products, including milk, chocolates and of course Marlboros. It was pretty weird to see people smoking in an office, I mean bar, I mean office/bar, I mean inside a building. I felt I went back to the 80’s, or in Europe for that matter. Creative block? Don’t worry, just grab a cold beer, lay back on a sofa and let those creative juices flow. And if that doesn’t solve it, watch some tube on any of the many flat screen TV’s in the bar. And if you are up for some sport, why not have a round of foosball?

The creative side of the agency looks just like the account side, only messier. If you are lucky enough to join the ranks of Leo Burnett you’ll encounter a pretty amicable atmosphere. Whilst creatives are assigned to a specific client or product, they do have ‘open relationships’ with their partners allowing them to work with other people as opportunities arise. According to insiders, the creatives that work at Leo are great people and to my surprise, have plenty of face time with the big cheeses like Mark Tutssel.

When not doing the usual 12-14 hours (including weekends), creative off time is spent either playing ping-pong, playing poker or drinking as the honest juniors at Leo Burnett confessed. However, Leo B. is no jail with summer Fridays and holiday bridges implemented to ease the pain of working so hard.

Global networks are usually global only in their corporate Web sites. At Leo Burnett, they try to keep things connected by having quarterly reviews of the local and international work. The very serious sounding Global Product Committee (GPC) is responsible for reviewing the work and grading it on a 1-10 scale which goes like this:

10 Best in the world, bar none
9 New standard in creativity
8 Big idea
7 Excellence in craft
6 Fresh idea (content & contact)
5 Innovative strategy (content & contact)
4 Cliché idea
3 Not competitive
2 Destructive
1 Appalling!

Everyone at Leo is encouraged to attend these meetings and provide their input on the work. After the local work is reviewed it is taken to the international GPC meeting where all the work from all the offices is stacked against one another.

I have no idea where I was or how I got there because the agency is so big, but one of the most impressive parts of the agency was the in house recording and av studios. If one day Tutssel went mad and decided to lock up the doors and disallow all creatives from ever going home, the agency would very likely still be able to shoot and produce as many radio and TV spots as it normally does. Ok, I’m exaggerating, but you get my point.

Like I mentioned 10 times. Leo is big, in fact, it’s the second largest agency in the US. However it’s a horse that can be tamed. People seemed to be having fun and awards are piling in. This year, Leo Burnett USA was the most awarded agency at both the New York American Marketing Association’s EFFIE Awards in New York and the American Advertising Federation’s National ADDY Awards. The world is changing very, very fast and whilst people usually assume that big agencies like Leo will be the ones to change last, it is clients like the ones they work for that will need to adapt the quickest. A good example of this is the U.S. Army, for which Leo created the new tagline “Army of One” and which recurred to marketing tactics like “The Cinema Van”, a touring multimedia theater that seats up to forty, showing patriotic war movies and “The Adventure Van” which allows eager young fellas a chance to sit in a real Cobra helicopter cockpit and kill the ‘bad guys’ in an M16 weapons simulator.

So if you like working on big clients, with lots of account people and apples, lots of apples, Leo Burnett might be the place for you.




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