Burnett's star faded some in 1997, after the 1996 departure of United Airlines and then Miller Brewing Co. creative followed by the loss of its lead agency status on McDonald's Corp. -- all of which damaged the agency's long-standing creative reputation and left morale low and dissension high. Burnett announced it would spin off its media operations -- the victor in Procter & Gamble Co.'s print AOR review -- and reorganize into seven mini-agencies built around client groups. By yearend, Burnett also acquired a 49% stake in London creative shop Bartle Bogle Hegarty for $50 million. But the strict hands-off covenants required by the sellers have many wondering what Burnett will gain from the relationship.
Once again, the rumors are that Burnett's prized Hallmark Cards account is putting feelers out to other agencies.
And with the first of the three mini-agencies up and running, early reviews from insiders are mixed. Another question about the Bartle deal: Will Burnett's prize client P&G demand that Bartle forsake rival Unilever?