Leo Burnett: One company, two brands?

Leo Burnett’s decision to merge its below-the-line agencies, Arc and Triangle, (MW last week) gives the group a truly integrated set up not seen anywhere else in London, according to chief executive Bruce Haines.

Leo Burnett’s decision to merge its below-the-line agencies, Arc and Triangle, (<I>MW</I> last week) gives the group a truly integrated set up not seen anywhere else in London, according to chief executive Bruce Haines.

The merged shop, to be called Arc UK, will be led by Mike Spicer but overseen by Haines, who celebrates his fourth anniversary at the helm of Leo Burnett this week. The creative departments of the above-the-line agency and Arc UK will be moved onto the same floor at the group’s Kensington Village headquarters in London so they can work more closely together.

Haines says: “We’re doing things other agencies baulk at. They say they’re going to work hand in hand with their marketing services divisions but we’re one P&L [profit and loss account]. I’m running one company with two brands. That’s different to every other agency in town.”

Leo Burnett ousted Stephen Whyte to make way for Haines, who joined the agency in the expanded role of group chief executive in April 2002. He left Leagas Delaney, where he was chairman, at the end of 2001, ending a 15-year partnership with Tim Delaney.

Haines, 55, a former president of the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising, is regarded as one of the best man-managers around – a quality many attribute to his long relationship with the mercurial Delaney. One of Haines’ former colleagues says: “Bruce is incredibly fair and there was never a problem you couldn’t talk to him about. He also has huge gravitas and that’s important.”

Last year was solid for Leo Burnett, culminating in the network winning Samsung’s global creative account from WPP (<I>MW</I> October 27). While critics of the London agency’s new business record say Samsung was a network win, London will be the lead agency on the account alongside the New York office.

Leo Burnett London’s other recent wins include Scottish Widows, Ladbrokes, monster.co.uk and Coca-Cola’s “Make every drop count” campaign. It was forced to resign Scottish Courage after winning InBev’s Beck’s business and lost Morgan Stanley when the US bank’s head office moved the global account. The agency also parted company with Fiat in the UK last month (<I>MW</I> March 23).

Leo Burnett’s creative product has shown signs of improvement under executive creative director Jim Thornton, with the COI’s teen road safety campaign well received. But Haines admits: “We have to perhaps work harder to get the good work we do associated with our brand name.”

Some observers think Leo Burnett’s office location isolates it from adland. One industry source says it occupies the “middle ground with the likes of Publicis and Saatchi & Saatchi”. Another adds: “The location is symbolic. The agency is not in the cut and thrust of the industry.”

However, there is a belief that the agency has a “newly empowered” management team following the promotions of Paul Lawson to managing director and Ali Bucknall to executive planning director last year.

Haines has been linked with a number of high-profile positions during his time at Leo Burnett. He was forced to deny continuing industry speculation that he was about to join Grey Worldwide as group chief executive (<I>MW</I> May 27, 2004), but insists he has never been happier. “I intend this to be my last job in the business,” he adds. “I’m committed to Leo Burnett and I’m having the time of my life. Why would I want to move?”

Robert Lester

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