Somerfield sacked Burnett

Why is it that advertising agencies seem unable to take bad news with grace?

Why is it that advertising agencies seem unable to take bad news with grace?

As a result of Leo Burnett’s misrepresentation of the facts, you have carried an article that discredits your magazine and the industry (“Counter Culture,” MW August 19).

Martin Sutherland, head of advertising for Somerfield, telephoned Leo Burnett managing director Stephen Whyte on August 9 and told him we were parting company with the agency. There was no contract, and by doing it in this discrete [sic] manner staff could be told in a way that would minimise disappointment.

When Somerfield began to receive calls from the media, we maintained a “gentlemanly” approach, which we thought was the best way to handle the situation. We didn’t talk of “firing” but “parting company”.

We have discovered that although we fired Leo Burnett, Whyte told his staff the opposite. We apologise to those who worked on our account for ending it. They are not well-served by their management by not being told the truth.

Martin Sutherland wrote a letter to Stephen Whyte in exasperation on August 13 reiterating the conversation. The last paragraph reads: “I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your hard work over the past eight months. I do regret, however, that we have not parted company in the discrete and amicable manner discussed on Monday night.”

Your article was a confusion of extrapolations and quotes, some of which were from people who – notably not prepared to be named – patently know nothing about the food industry.

For us it all descended into farce with the caption to the picture of our former group marketing director Phil Smith: “Phil Smith: left his post as marketing director after the arrival of Simons as chief executive.” Simons has been chief executive of Somerfield since 1994.

At Somerfield we are considering developing a new range of sour grapes… for the use of advertising agencies!

Jill Rawlins

Head of public relations



Apologies for the caption which should have read: “Phil Smith: Left his post as marketing director after the recent reorganisation”. But we make no excuses for the tenor of the article. Editor.


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