Strategic thinker covers Burnett bases

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On a day Susan Wayne was advising a co-worker about a business problem, the exec VP-group account director at Publicis Groupe's Leo Burnett USA turned to her favorite trick. She reached into a vase on her desk and pulled out a slip of paper that said, "If you don't enter the lion's den, you will never captivate the lion."

"When we get stuck, she always turns to quotes for inspiration," says Denise Fedewa, senior VP-planning director, the colleague Ms. Wayne was helping. "She's not afraid to look at things differently. She'd always say, `Let's turn the page horizontal and look at it again.' "

It's a small example of the 38-year-old's insightful leadership style that led management to add her to the Chicago-based agency's top account management slots as the fifth to what some staffers called the Fab Four.

"She can get at the heart of a client's business issues, and she's really strong at target segmentation and how to motivate growth out of different segments," says Bob Brennan, president of Leo Burnett Worldwide. "She's very strong at translating business opportunities into creative strategy and then driving the work against that strategy."

Mr. Brennan and other management elevated Ms. Wayne to her current post in February after she helped pitch and win a long-term strategic and branding assignment for Gap Inc. and for her leadership in repositioning Hallmark Cards.

"She's a really great strategic thinker. Regardless of the brief we were working on, or even how do we get there, she would ask, `Should we be thinking in a different direction?' " says Kylie Watson-Wheeler, director of advertising for Hallmark.

One of the last MBAs that Burnett recruited during the late `80s, Ms. Wayne worked her way through package-goods brands including Kraft Foods' Velveeta and Procter & Gamble Co.'s Prell shampoo, Noxzema cleanser and Secret deodorant, later launching that brand overseas. With Ms. Fedewa and others she realized a need for specialized women's research and co-founded Burnett's LeoShe research unit.

"My true love is consumer understanding," says Ms. Wayne. "I still use my analytical skills all the time. You need both, because it's business and increasingly numbers driven."

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