Hot team halved: Labbe exits Burnett after 13 months

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Jeff Labbe, Leo Burnett USA senior VP-creative director, is leaving Chicago after just 13 months to "get back to the West Coast and build a reel."

Mr. Labbe is half of a hot creative team recruited by Burnett Deputy Chief Creative Officer Mark Tutssel last year to infuse new blood into the agency's creative department. At the time, Mr. Tutssel called Mr. Labbe and Kash Sree, the partner Mr. Labbe leaves behind, "the No. 1 creative team in the world." Before his stint at the Publicis Groupe agency, Mr. Labbe was riding high with a Grand Prix for his role in developing the much-vaunted "Beware Things Made in October" campaign for the Fox Sports Channel while at Omnicom Group's TBWA/Chiat/Day, San Francisco. When Mr. Sree joined the agency as senior VP-creative director, he had just picked up a Grand Prix award for Nike's "Tag" while at Wieden & Kennedy.

While Mr. Labbe's departure only reinforces the long-held image that coastal creatives won't stay in Chicago, Mr. Labbe, 38, said he simply longed to go back home to his roots and his daughter.

`freedom'

"I want the freedom right now to roam," Mr. Labbe said. "There's quarter horses and thoroughbreds and I've always been the short sprinter. I want the freedom to express myself creatively."

Despite the anticipation for great things at Burnett, Mr. Tutssel's dynamic duo kept a fairly low profile, even as they produced work for such clients as McDonald's Corp., Hallmark Cards and Nintendo. So far, none of those campaigns have received the kind of buzz that work from other new teams or long-time Burnetters have gotten-namely that of Kellogg's Red Berries, Beck's beer and Kraft Food's Altoids.

But Mr. Labbe and Cheryl Berman, Burnett's vice chairman-chief creative officer, say an effort for the Ad Council promoting the use of kid's car seats and new work for Nintendo could be the long-awaited breakthroughs. "All in all, it's not real to think that people are going to come to an agency and two months later come up with a blockbuster campaign,," said Ms. Berman.

Mr. Sree did not return calls for comment. But Burnett will try out different partners for the copywriter "to see what sticks," said Ms. Berman, although she said she could see him working with many partners, including Mr. Tutssel.

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