CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- Leo Burnett USA is officially in the market for a new chief creative officer.
The agency announced today that John Condon is departing. The Publicis Groupe shop last month asked Mr. Condon, who has worked at Burnett for more than two decades, to resign his post. He is said to have considered an offer to remain at the agency in a lesser post, leading creative work on Kellogg and Coca-Cola, but he declined to accept a demotion.
In a statement, Mr. Condon said: "While it's incredibly hard to leave the place I've called home for more than 20 years and I'm truly thankful for every opportunity that I've been given, I know this is the right move at the right time for me, because right now, creativity is more important than it's ever been."
Mr. Condon succeeded Burnett legend Cheryl Berman as chief creative officer in 2006, and search consultants and creatives at other Chicago agencies say he deserves credit for improving the agency's work for existing clients such as Allstate and Kellogg.
But new business has been a struggle. The agency didn't net a single major new client during Mr. Condon's tenure as chief creative, and the organic growth that has sustained the shop -- CEO Tom Bernardin said the U.S. agency grew more than 10% last year -- seems unlikely to continue given the severe recession, making winning new business more important than ever before.
Nevertheless, the change is jarring, given Mr. Bernardin's recent comments about the agency having a "spectacular" performance last year, particularly in the U.S. He based that claim on the agency's growth rate and its performance in award shows. The Gunn Report, which measures agency performances in award shows, ranked Burnett fifth in the U.S. last year.
In a statement, Mr. Bernardin said: "John served the agency admirably for 20-plus years at Leo Burnett. As chief creative officer, he has improved our creative product and global ranking. He's an extraordinary creative, and we will miss him. We wish him only the best in his new venture."
A Burnett spokeswoman said the agency had commenced an "aggressive" search for Mr. Condon's successor that would include both internal and external candidates.