Condon Asked to Step Down as Chief Creative at Leo Burnett

Said to Be in Discussion About Changing Role at Agency

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CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- John Condon has been asked to step down from his post as chief creative officer of Leo Burnett USA, according to two people familiar with the matter.

John Condon
John Condon
Mr. Condon remains at the agency but is said to be in discussions about what his role might be should he choose to remain at Burnett, where he has worked for more than two decades. Agency spokeswomen said early Friday and reiterated today that he was still chief creative officer.

One possibility is that Mr. Condon might wind up as the creative lead on the agency's Kellogg business, one of several accounts thought to have grown stronger creatively since he took the post from the legendary Cheryl Berman in 2006. Allstate -- which had been on the verge of firing Burnett not long before Mr. Condon arrived -- is another example of an account where the work clearly improved, as it is now widely regarded as the agency's best U.S. case, and not by a small margin.

But Mr. Condon did little to improve the agency's woeful new-business performance. The shop today does not contain a single major client that it didn't already have when Mr. Condon took the job. PetSmart and Washington Mutual fled during that time, as did nearly all of Burnett's work for longtime client Walt Disney Co.

'Spectacular' performance?
During a recent interview with Ad Age, Leo Burnett Worldwide CEO Tom Bernardin maintained that the agency's performance, particularly in the U.S., was "spectacular" last year. Mr. Bernardin's statement primarily referred to a growth rate at the agency that he said approached double digits. But because much of that was tied to increases in business from General Motors, which has since dramatically scaled back spending, it's unclear how sustainable those gains are -- particularly given the challenging economy.

But the helm of Burnett's U.S. creative department remains a coveted post, despite its challenges, because its roster still includes blue-chip marketers Allstate, Philip Morris, McDonald's and Hallmark.

Two requests for comment left with Mr. Condon's secretary were not returned. A Burnett spokeswoman declined to comment. News of Mr. Condon's potential departure from the agency was first reported by the Chicago Sun-Times' website on Friday.

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