LEO'S VALEDICTION-A CALL FOR CONTINUED EXCELLENCE

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The date, Dec. 1, 1967; the place, Chicago's Prudential Building Auditorium. The event was the annual Leo Burnett Co. employees' "Breakfast at Burnett's," with the speaker Leo Burnett himself, who delivered what in effect was his valediction. (Mr. Burnett had stepped down as chairman earlier in the year to take the post of founder-chairman, which he held at the time of his death in 1971.)

In his remarks, titled "When to Take My Name Off the Door," the legendary 75-year-old adman urged the continuing pursuit of excellence by telling the gathered faithful what reasons would make him demand they remove his name from the agency after his departure.

Among them were: "When you lose your itch to do the job well for its own sake-regardless of the client, or the money, or the effort it takes. . . When you stoop to convenient expediency and rationalize yourselves into acts of opportunism-for the sake of a fast buck. . . When your main interest becomes a matter of size just to be big-rather than good, hard, wonderful work.

"When your outlook narrows down to the number of windows-from zero to five-in your office.

"When you lose your humility and become big-shot weisenheimers. . .a little too big for your boots.

"When the apples come down to being just apples for eating (or for polishing)-no longer a part of our tone-our personality.

"When you disapprove of something, and start tearing the hell out of the man who did it rather than the work itself."

"When you stop building on strong and vital ideas and start a routine production line.

"When you start believing that, in the interest of efficiency, a creative spirit and the urge to create can be delegated and administered, and forget that they can only be nurtured, stimulated and inspired.

"When you start giving lip service to being a "creative agency" and really stop being one.

"Finally, when you lose your respect for the lonely man-the man at his typewriter or his drawing board or behind his camera or just scribbling notes with one of our big black pencils-or working all night on a media plan. When you forget that the lonely man-and thank God for him-has made the agency we now have possible. When you forget he's the man who, because he is reaching harder, sometimes actually gets hold of-for a moment-one of those hot, unreachable stars."

Mr. Burnett wound up by saying that if these "whens" came to pass, he would insist that his name be taken off the door. And he threatened to materialize some night, sneak into the office and rub his name out on every one of the floors.

"And before I DE-materialize again," he said, "I will paint out the star-reaching symbol, too. And burn all the stationery. Perhaps tear up a few ads in passing. And throw every goddamned apple down the elevatorshafts.

"You won't know the place the next morning.

"You'll have to find another name."

His name is still on the door, and the apples are in their bowls.

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