Harold Burson dies at 98: Agency Brief
It’s a somber day in the industry as another distinguished leader passes. In last week’s Agency Brief, it was reported that Adam Smith, GroupM’s futures director, died at the age of 58 after a battle with cancer. Today, WPP’s BCW announced that Burson-Marsteller co-founder Harold Burson has passed at the age of 98.
A revered pioneer in the public relations industry, Burson grew the one-man consultancy he founded in 1946 (then known as Harold Burson Public Relations) into the world’s largest PR firm in 1983. Through a series of mergers (including with Cohn & Wolfe in 2018), the firm has evolved into BCW (currently the third largest PR firm by revenue). But it’s not just the PR industry that has felt the effects of Burson and his firm. As Ad Age reported in October, BCW is one of several PR shops to enter ad agencies’ territory by introducing creative, social, digital and paid media capabilities to its suite of services.
While he stepped down as CEO of Burson-Marsteller in 1988, Burson kept a watchful eye over his company including by coming into work “nearly every day well into his 90s,” according to his obituary. In naming him the “century’s most influential PR figure” in 1999, PRWeek credited Burson with developing training programs that “set the benchmark that other agencies only recently caught up with.” The feature stated, “His mentoring of talent has spawned a whole wave of ex-Burson PR agency startups.”
“He was a strong proponent of the corporation’s role in society as a social entity, insisting that the mission of a corporation was to deliver a good product at a fair price, treat its employees fairly in terms of compensation and retirement, deal fairly with suppliers, support essential community activities in areas where it operated, and reward its stockholders with a fair return on their investment,” Burson's obituary reads.
Born on Feb. 15, 1921, in Memphis, Tennessee, Burson actually started his career in journalism. Once a 14-cents-per-column-inch stringer for a Memphis newspaper, he covered the Nuremberg Trial in 1945 at the age of 24, according to the obituary, and he was the only reporter to obtain an interview with Chief American Prosecutor Associate Justice Robert Jackson. Burson was also a U.S. Army veteran, and following his discharge in 1946, he opened his PR firm in New York that would go on to achieve global success.
Another exec exits Publicis
The wave of Publicis departures continues. As Adweek first reported on Thursday, BBH New York Chief Creative Officer Gerard Caputo is leaving to become a creative director for Wieden & Kennedy New York. While the independent agency is one of the industry’s hottest shops right now, creating acclaimed campaigns for clients like Nike and winning major accounts in New York like McDonald’s, the move might seem odd to some outsiders, since going from chief creative officer to creative director would appear to be a significant step down. However, W&K does maintain a flat structure having only creatives, creative directors and one executive creative director (Karl Lieberman) in its New York office. A creative director within that model would likely have more responsibility than a creative director at another shop that employs various chief creatives, account creative directors, group creative directors and so on.
For Caputo, anyway, it’s not about the title. “I look at my career as less about a title and more about what feels right for me,” he tells Ad Age. “I’ve always admired Wieden. When this opportunity came up, it seemed to be the right thing to do. A lot of people get caught up with titles. Leadership happens at all levels.”
He adds, “I feel so lucky to have been a part of BBH. I had so many career achievements there.”
“We are incredibly grateful for the contributions Gerard made during his time at BBH,” says Brett Edgar, managing director of BBH NY. “A creative problem solver who cared deeply about his team members and the agency as a whole, he truly embodied the Black Sheep spirit. We wish him every success in his next endeavor.”
W&K NY also announced that, joining Caputo, Marques Gartrell from Deutsch New York will also be coming aboard as creative director.
Janet Granite to edge Flo out of the spotlight?
A brand can go a long way by having a great, recognizable spokesperson consumers adore. Flo from Progressive, KFC’s Colonel Sanders and Dos Equis’ Most Interesting Man in the World have all drummed up fandom and support for the brands they represent. Now Granite Transformations & Trend Transformations, a relatively unknown international home remodeling franchise, is hoping a quirky personality can take its brand into the mainstream. Say hello to Janet from Granite, a no-nonsense spokesperson who swoops in to save consumers from potentially disastrous home remodeling projects. Played by actor Llana Isaacson, the character is now appearing in a new campaign from full-service agency The EGC Group. The campaign will run across TV, radio, print, social, direct mail and email through the month of January, but it seems Janet Granite may be here to stay. Whether she becomes a cultural phenomenon like Flo, Colonel Sanders or The Most Interesting Man in the World remains to be seen.
“Quirky characters and funny ads are memorable,” says Vanessa Conde, VP of marketing for RockSolid Granit, the franchisor of Granite Transformations and Trend Transformations. “People don’t want to be displaced from their home for months due to home remodeling, especially in the kitchen. Janet tells them exactly why we are the best options for their renovation needs.”
After 30 years in operation, Barber Martin Agency rebrands to Yebo (pronounced “yay-bow”), a South African expression of affirmation. The rebrand aims to reflect the agency’s new mission “to create positive impact in everything we do.” The agency says the name was developed by its think-tank InnoPod. “For us, it is part of culture—our CEO [Robyn Zacharias, who is also president] hails from Zimbabwe and it’s about the Yebo effect we have on our clients, culture and community,” says Chief Creative Officer Deb Hagan.
In another rebranding highlight: Serviceplan, the independent European agency founded in 1970 and based in Munich, has undergone a (long overdue) rebrand to celebrate its half-century anniversary. The company whose previous name seemed to suggest it was some sort of utilities company will now go by House of Communications, which is perhaps an equally boring, not very descriptive moniker. Nevertheless, all of its sibling brands will be folded into House of Communications including Serviceplan, Plan.Net, Mediaplus, Facit, Solutions and Consulting.
Los Angeles-based relationship marketing agency RQ is launching a sibling company, a creative experiential shop called XQ (meaning Experiential Quotient). Chris Roberts, former director of global music projects at Red Bull, has been brought on to lead XQ. The shop says it will focus on leveraging relationships with brands, creators and artists to “help brands show up in culture and connect in real life with target consumers.”
Brownstein Group has become an official member of Worldwide Partners, a global network of independent advertising and marketing agencies. Brownstein Group has maintained a strong presence in Philadelphia since its founding there in 1964. Its clients include Saint-Gobain North America, ACI Worldwide and DuPont. It is the first Philadelphia entity to join Worldwide Partners, which was founded in 1938.
Some wins of the week
Pittsburgh agency Smith Brothers has been named agency of record for McCain Foods, the frozen potato products manufacturer, following a review managed by JLB & Partners. The assignment is for McCain’s full-service integrated communications including strategic planning, creative, production, media, analytics and web development. McCain supplies all sorts of potato products from fries to appetizers for chains like McDonald’s and other retailers, restaurants and schools. Work is expected to kick off in the first quarter.
Seaboard Foods, Kansas-based pork producer behind the Prairie Fresh brand, named Bader Rutter as its agency of record. Headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the agency says its growing Chicago office helped to score the win and will lead the account. Bader Rutter will be responsible for increasing Seaboard’s brand presence through marketing, communication and strategy. “This business is in our DNA,” says Bader Rutter Chairman Greg Nickerson, who notes that he grew up on a pig farm.
Other hires, promotions and moves
Denise Wong, who became president of L.A.-based Midnight Oil in 2018, has a new gig as CEO of One & All, an agency serving the nonprofit sector. Before Midnight Oil, Wong held leadership roles at McCann, Grey, Ogilvy and DDB. "Giving back is a priority in the world today, with individuals increasingly looking for brands and organizations that are in line with their values and that are communicating with authenticity and true purpose,” Wong says.
Nic Owen, 72andSunny Amsterdam president and partner, is departing the agency to spend more time with his family. His LinkedIn reads that he is currently “Oscar Howl Owen Wiseman” and “grateful to be able to take a break from work.” Before 72andSunny, he spent time at W&K, Mother and Anomaly."Over the last seven years Nic Owen has been a force of creativity, growth, and fearless leadership,” says a 72andSunny spokesperson. “He's an inspiration to us and although we aren't working together now, he will always be part of our 72andSunny community. We're thrilled for him and his family to get a little down time and are eager to see what he'll do next—we know it will be big."
Innocean USA poached Tim Murphy, partner and president of Siltanen & Partners Advertising, as chief operating officer. Murphy was with S&P since 2006 and credited with helping transform the then-creative boutique shop into a full-service agency. Murphy was also president and partner of City of Angels Creative Enterprises, S&P’s in-house content creation laboratory, production and post-production shop since 2011.
Kantar appointed Ian Griffiths as chief financial officer to succeed Robert Bowtell, who has held that position since 2001. He will join on January 16. Griffiths was most recently chief operating and financial officer of ITV, where he is credited with helping transition ITV from being dependent on U.K. advertising to being an international and digital business.
Mark Rosenegk has joined Dentsu Aegis Network’s The Story Lab as global VP of brand entertainment. He will be based in London and previously led partnership teams at ITV, Fremantle Media and Endemol Shine, where he is credited with driving advertiser and licensing relationships with brands including "MasterChef," "The X Factor" and "Britain’s Got Talent."
Matt Bayer, Cadreon’s senior VP, heads to independent media agency Crossmedia, where he will take up the newly-created position of head of integrated media sourcing. In the position, he’ll be the centralized leader of all the agency’s media activations spanning its planning and buying teams. At Cadreon, IPG Mediabrands’ ad tech unit, Bayer built and led the company’s advanced TV practice.
Bernstein-Rein has added Kira Clifton as senior VP and head of media connections and Jules Boasberg as senior VP of client engagement. Clifton takes up the newly-created role from Publicis’ Starcom, where she was senior VP and global group director. Boasberg rejoins the agency after taking a five-year hiatus to work as the chief marketing and growth officer for Bradley and Montgomery and then executive VP of strategic growth for Thruline Marketing. He was executive VP and growth officer at Bernstein-Rein from 2008 until 2015.
Grey London hired Raquel Chicourel as chief strategy officer. Most recently, she held that role at M&C Saatchi and before that was head of strategy at Saatchi & Saatchi, board planning director for AMV BBDO and planning director at BBH London.
Marketing communications agency Wray Ward promoted Lucas Weber to director of digital platforms from content strategist, a role he took on in 2016. In the newly-created position, Weber will be responsible for the agency’s digital platform solutions including marketing automation, user testing and CRM.
Mark Penn’s Stagwell Group announced a series of hires and promotions including Anas Ghazi, former growth officer of Kantar, as managing director and chief strategy officer; Politico veteran Alexis Williams as executive VP and head of marketing; Merrill Raman, chief information officer of Harris Poll, as managing director of enterprise data; and National Journal’s Regan Considine as senior director. The team will be led by Beth Lester Sidhu, chief operating officer and newly-promoted chief marketing officer.
Independent agency B-Reel in London has hired Dominic Goldman as executive creative director. This will mark his return to London from Los Angeles, where he was a group creative director for 72andSunny. His prior past roles include creative director and managing partner at BBH, executive creative director for Grey London and joint executive creative director then global creative director at Iconoclast.
Agency &Barr has named Christian Wojciechowski as creative director. A veteran of Tribal DDB and The Martin Agency as well as a founding member of Pyro at The Richards Group, Wojciechowski has worked with brands like Nike, Hummer, Converse, Walmart, Mitsubishi, Pepsi, Microsoft, P&G and Samsung.
Kate Julian has joined branding and marketing agency OffLeash as senior director of client services. Previously she built and led client services teams for agencies like SE2 and Location3 Digital Marketing. At OffLeash, Julian will work closely with clients from “discovery to delivery to align expectations so they receive the right services within a carefully managed budget,” the agency says.