BURNETT PUTS LONG-AWAITED U.S. RESTRUCTURING IN PLACE: WOLF, BERMAN STILL IN CHARGE; MINI-AGENCY SYSTEM ENDED

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The long-awaited restructuring of Leo Burnett USA hit last week more with a whimper than bang -- the players still look pretty much unchanged, and the mini-agency system finally breathes its last.

Linda Wolf and Cheryl Berman are still running the domestic operation, and many predictable Burnett executives were named to a new board of directors.

Ms. Wolf, 51, was promoted to CEO of the U.S. agency, from group president, Leo Burnett North America, a position that has been eliminated. Chief Creative Officer Cheryl Berman, 47, adds the title chairman for the U.S. shop. The duo has been running U.S. operations since 1997.

CLEARER DISTINCTION

The change appears to have little significance outside Burnett's Chicago skyscraper. Ms. Berman and Ms. Wolf, however, maintain it will increase flexibility for the agency and will help it build on the $500 million-plus in new business added during that last 12 months. They said the realignment more clearly will draw the distinction between the holding company and the domestic agency.

"People will have a better idea who to talk to about U.S. issues," Ms. Berman said, noting that there has been some ambiguity over whether she or Ms. Wolf was the contact on domestic matters, rather than Leo Group Chairman Rick Fizdale or Roger Haupt, the soon-to-be CEO.

As expected, Burnett's seven business units are being eliminated (AA, Sept. 13). Rather than making Burnett more nimble, the 2-year-old so-called mini-agencies made it more difficult to shift employees when work demanded it and reduced cooperation among units, Ms. Wolf said. Ms. Berman said clients weren't that impressed either.

"Clients would say, 'I don't want Unit A. I don't want Agency D. I want Leo Burnett,' " Ms. Berman said.

BRAND TEAMS REMAIN

Even though it's scrapping the mini-agencies, Leo Burnett USA will continue to keep brand teams together so that a client's creatives, account planners and production staff will remain located near each other.

"Our goal is to continue to try new things -- [to see] what worked, what didn't," Ms. Wolf said.

In addition to Ms. Wolf and Ms. Berman, the new Leo Burnett USA board will include:

nMary Bishop, new president and chief marketing officer, who will concentrate on new business and continue to direct Burnett's healthcare group.

nCathy DeThorne, exec VP and newly named chief planning officer, who will oversee LeoShe, Kid-Leo and other research.

nJeff Finkler, vice chairman and executive creative director, who recently joined the agency from its Toronto shop. He will head the Procter & Gamble Co. business as well as direct creative duties on Coca-Cola Co. He reports to Ms. Berman.

nMyron Lyskanycz, exec VP and newly named group managing director, who will direct urban marketing shop Vigilante as well as the Lapiz Hispanic unit.

nCarla Michelotti, exec VP, board secretary and general counsel for Leo Group.

nPete Volz, newly named chairman-CEO of NorthStar, Leo Burnett USA's direct,

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