Heating up Windy City creative

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The addition of five outsiders to Leo Burnett USA's creative team speaks volumes about the agency's aspirations-particularly the recent hiring of a pair that has created notable campaigns with a lot of buzz.

Jeff Labbe, Burnett's newest senior VP-creative director, hails from Omnicom Group's TBWA/Chiat/Day, San Francisco, and has an impressive reel that includes Cannes Gold Lion winning "Beautiful," for Nike as well as Fox Sports' "Beware of things made in October" and Levi's "Bellybutton."

"Its 75 indoors," quipped Mr. Labbe, when asked about his move from the Golden State to the Windy City. "We wouldn't be doing this if we didn't believe in Leo Burnett. They've got so many fantastic brands that want to do good work and believe in advertising. And [they] have money to support advertising." He's got his eyes on the H.J. Heinz Co. , Kraft Foods' Altoids and U.S. Army accounts.

He is joined at Bcom3 Group's Burnett by his onetime partner at independent Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore. But Kash Sree, a globetrotter born in Singapore, comes from a much more international background, having worked at WPP Group's Ogilvy & Mather in London, Batey Ads in Singapore and Omnicom's DDB Worldwide in Sydney. "I'm kind of new to America, so for me Chicago could will be on the West Coast," said Mr. Sree, now a Burnett senior VP-creative director, who covets the Heinz and Nintendo accounts. He's looking forward to the challenge of tackling the clutter of American TV. "In the U.K, you only have a three-minute ad break," he said. "Here you have to work a lot harder, mostly in the first three to four seconds."

Creatives around the city welcome the new talent from the coasts, saying it will help upgrade the image of Chicago's overall product but wonder if Burnett will suffer from "transplant rejection."

With hot creatives finally beginning to invade Chicago agencies, "there is a better chance they'll stay [in the city] if things don't work out with who brought them here," said one creative director eager for the potential windfall.

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