WINDY CITY TURNAROUND: LEO BURNETT CO. -- AGENCY RATING: 3 STARS

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If any agency can prove what a difference a year makes, this is it. Leo Burnett Co. turned around after reorganizing into seven business units at the end of 1997 and racked up almost $700 million in new billings in 1998.

Burnett surprised critics by winning the $50 million H.J. Heinz Co. ketchup account; the $67 million direct-to-consumer account for Hoescht Marion Roussel's Allegra; the $100 million Sara Lee Corp. national media assignment; up to $35 million in Budget Rent A Car media; and the consolidation of Procter & Gamble Co.'s $75 million global Vidal Sassoon account.

Creative remains a soft spot, although Burnett scored with new campaigns for Kellogg Co.'s Special K cereal and the launch of General Motors Corp.'s Oldsmobile Alero.

The agency also addressed a longstanding weakness in direct marketing by hiring Tim Claffey, former general manager of OgilvyOne, Chicago, as head of direct and promotions, and Janet Horn, another OgilvyOne executives, to run database management efforts.

Burnett continued to insist it will remain independent, while exploring the sale of a minority stake to Dentsu and calling off a media merger with MacManus Group's TeleVest unit.

LOOKING AHEAD

Chairman Rick Fizdale said in December he would not retire yet. While this means Burnett is less likely to suffer more upheaval, insiders had been looking to a

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