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Rick Fizdale remembers the evening when his vision of integrated marketing came together-in sort of a backwards way.

He'd spent an entire day in New York, interviewing candidates to head a new direct marketing function at Leo Burnett Co. Surprised that a headhunter's search had located so many candidates-he eventually talked to about 100-Mr. Fizdale began each interview by asking a simple question: "Why are you here?"

What he heard back was a litany of complaints from heads of direct marketing agencies that had been acquired by general ad agencies. And in thinking about those complaints, Mr. Fizdale decided to propose that Burnett do just the opposite of everything he'd heard.

Burnett wouldn't set up a separate direct-marketing company; wouldn't treat direct marketing as a separate profit center; wouldn't allow the direct marketing specialists to do work for non-Burnett clients; and would train its generalists to become direct marketing specialists. One person would be responsible for each client's account, encompassing all media.

He wrote up the plan in a 90-page memo to Burnett's executive committee.

"I guess that night I thought I'd sort of `invented' integration," says the Burnett chairman-chief creative officer, who after a month in New York in 1986 hired Jerry Reitman and Bruce Lee as the agency's direct-marketing gurus.

Eight years later, Burnett remains the envy of big Madison Avenue peers still trying to integrate not only direct marketing, but promotions, PR and new media into their advertising groups. By the end of the 1980s, Burnett began integrating all those discplines-some better than others, but all to some degree.

"Everyone had to conceptualize integration-embrace it-and at least try it," he says.

Even today, the agency doesn't break out its billings by discipline. But Mr. Fizdale says he estimates nontraditional media account for from 10% to 20% of Burnett's total $4.2 billion in billings.

"Many in the industry were quite skeptical. But it really turned out to be relatively easy," says Mr. Fizdale, 55. "Because as it happened, this agency was integrated before I started here."

He won't go so far as to say integrated marketing saved Burnett, but, he says, "I've told our people that this agency's long-term survival depends on being able to do anything any client asks of us in consumer communications."

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