Interactive shift for Burnett

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In-house unit scrapped; Giant Step to handle work

Leo Burnett Co. has disbanded its Interactive Marketing Group and is now funneling all work through its much smaller production-company unit, Giant Step.

Burnett has set up the 16-employee Giant Step as a separate company, with its own officers, board and budget. In addition to working for Burnett clients, Giant Step will pitch non-Burnett clients in non-competing categories, the same way its media department has pitched and won media-only business.

RESPONSE TO CLIENT NEEDS

The move is in response to client needs, said Rishad Tobaccowala, named president of Giant Step in the reorganization, from VP-interactive account director at the main agency.

"Clients are asking for two supposedly inconsistent things: People who understand how to build brands [and] ... people on the cutting edge," Mr. Tobaccowala said. "Giant Step is the interactive brand name for Leo Burnett. There is no Leo Burnett interactive department."

Giant Step, founded by twenty-something brothers Adam and Eric Heneghan, fits the bill. Burnett linked with the company in 1994 and this year took a majority stake. Both brothers are now VPs.

Giant Step will handle all creative work for Web sites, CD-ROMs and other interactive marketing applications; it will contract out to Burnett for additional services such as media research or legal services.

The company will launch a CD-ROM and Web site for General Motors Corp.'s Oldsmobile next month. It also created a McDonald's Corp. promotion on America Online enabling kids to create their own newspaper.

RECENT ACCOUNT WINS

Giant Step earlier this month won Web site accounts for Burnett clients Samsonite Co. and True Value hardware stores, where it competed against small, Web-focused shops.

Nearly every large agency has its own interactive group, but few have formally created a separate company. Burnett's goal, said Mr. Tobaccowala, is to better compete with Web developers while still keeping ties with the agency.

"If we were doing this to be a boutique, in 15 seconds that pleasure goes away," he said. "All our competitors are interactive specialist shops and all of them are trying to become agencies."

Copyright May 1996 Crain Communications Inc.

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