Published on .

Most Popular
Change is coming to Leo Burnett Co.'s giant Leo Burnett USA operation and it comes none too soon. Chairman-CEO Richard Fizdale's plan to carve its huge Chicago-based operation, with 1,900 full-time staffers under one roof, into a cluster of mini-agencies, certainly is not a new idea. But for an agency as proud of its traditional ways of doing business as Burnett is, it's nonetheless dramatic.

However, Burnett's future success also rests on taking action above and beyond a restructuring. What the

company really needs to assess is leadership and succession. This isn't a call for Mr. Fizdale to disengage so much as a strong recommendation that he and his team recruit extraordinary outside talent on both the account and creative side, to form the kind of management alliances required today.

Historically, Burnett's single biggest strength was the ability of its account side to address client needs extraordinarily well. But as time went by, Burnett lagged behind changes in the industry, most notably account planning, a discipline that takes the brand and creative closer to the consumer.

The agency needs to open its closed culture and bring in new blood and new ideas. Where top ad talent regularly moves from agency to agency, Burnett made news last week simply by bringing one outsider-Nike's former global ad director, Joe McCarthy-on board as a senior consultant to Burnett's creative department. That's at least a first step.

Other giant advertising agencies have suffered bad patches. Young & Rubicam and Ogilvy & Mather had wrenching down-and-out periods not long ago but found the people, energy and new ideas to bounce back.

Burnett, for years an almost serenely successful agency, has not had to face that painful duty. There's no avoiding it now if Mr. Fizdale's aim is to restore momentum to his proud agency and give it a future as bright as its past.


One recent sunday, reading our copy of the New York Times Book Review, we had an idea: "Why not put the reviews online, with a hotlink to an online bookstore for instant gratification?"

Well, no sooner had the Times Online and other online news sites signed a deal with bookseller Barnes & Noble to do just that than the critics came crawling out of the woodwork. Not the book critics-the ethics critics.

In a misguided effort to apply rigid, print-driven rules to fluid cyberspace, some critics are claiming that, because these media companies get a commission on books sold via links from their sites, their editorial integrity is at risk.

No one believes more strongly in the separation of church and state in newsrooms than we do, but please-this is just silly. A hotlink option to buy a book is a reader service that has no analog in the print media world, and it's beyond even the appearance of impropriety to think an online hotlink will somehow influence writers and editors of the New York Times Book Review (whose goal in any case is to get people to read more books).

Let's get this straight: The separation of church-and-state principle is fundamental to American publishing. It should not be trivialized by being used as a bludgeon against every Internet effort to find ways to serve readers