"Last year was a battle for our culture, our soul," Mr. Brennan said. "We stopped fighting about the work." It was a candid admission from an agency that had a rich creative legacy but had lost its way.
Today, there's no doubt the work is again a priority. Burnett has stepped up on the creative front, most recently hiring the impressive talent behind campaigns such as the Cannes Grand Prix-winning "Tag" for Nike and Gold Lion winner Fox Sports. Perhaps more importantly, Burnett is doing work that works, picking up a dozen ad-effectiveness awards in June.
Its shakeup has also extended to another agency tradition-its once-sacrosanct holiday bonus-by tying it more closely to performance. "People had gotten used to being rewarded for their tenure," said Cheryl Berman, Burnett USA chairman-chief creative officer, "rather than for making the client No. 1, as Leo used to say."
Non-believers may find the statement ironic, considering that four top Bcom3 executives will pocket $300 million in cash and securities after its sale to Publicis. Keeping the client in the forefront becomes tougher when there are shareholders and financial targets to satisfy. But Burnett certainly looks to be taking the right steps to put the focus back where it should be-on the business.