John Condon, a 19-year Burnett vet who's the creative chief on accounts including Kellogg Co. and Beck's beer, has emerged as the front-runner to replace Cheryl Berman as the Publicis Groupe agency's top U.S. creative, according to insiders and executives close to the agency. A decision could be announced by the agency's annual breakfast, slated for Dec. 2.
If Mr. Condon gets the nod-nothing has been finalized yet, executives maintain-the move would disappoint those inside Burnett who had hoped to attract a high-profile creative to revitalize the agency's old-school image.
But Burnett's efforts to reel in a rock star have been stymied by the fact that Ms. Berman will remain, the executives said, and her ongoing presence could create an awkward situation for anyone coming in from the outside.
That said, Mr. Condon has things going for him. He has a solid reputation as a creative; some of the Kellogg work, including for Pop Tarts, has been among the agency's better efforts. He's helped develop a number of talented younger creatives. He's well-liked inside the agency. And he's also shown an ability to navigate between conflicting parties in what had been a fractious creative department.
Naming a top creative is crucial part of agency president Rich Stoddart's effort to get the agency growing again after several rough years. While the agency has won some clients-it recently landed Samsung-it has lost a string of others in recent years and revenues declined in 2004. "Creative is the most important thing that clients are looking for," said consultant JoAnn Davis.
The agency declined to comment. Mr. Condon didn't return calls.
Installing a new top creative could finally bring some order to a creative department riven by conflict in recent years. Ms. Berman and her deputy Mark Tutssel (now deputy chief creative officer Leo Burnett Worldwide) were at odds before Tom Bernardin, now CEO of Leo Burnett Worldwide, joined the agency in early 2004.
In July of that year, Mr. Bernardin made moves to clarify management roles between the two. He also gave their lieutenants-including Mr. Condon-more autonomy. At the time, he said he was making the moves with Ms. Berman's succession in mind.
Leo Burnett announced in January it was looking for a successor for Ms. Berman. At the time the agency said Ms. Berman, retaining her title of chairman of Leo Burnett North America, would assume a broader role in the agency.