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Leo Burnett/Chicago parts ways with top creative John Condon, sources report

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John Condon is believed to be out as Leo Burnett/Chicago's chief creative officer, informed sources report. A Burnett spokesperson could not be immediately reached for comment.

The agency's top creative leader was evidently tossed to show the agency is supposedly serious about turning itself around and boosting its image, which has taken a major beating in recent years. Just days ago, Burnett Worldwide CEO Tom Bernardin and Burnett/Chicago President Rich Stoddart were busy telling trade publication Advertising Age about the agency's so-called "spectacular" 2008, but the year apparently wasn't spectacular enough to keep the agency -- one of Chicago's largest -- from dumping its top creative executive.

But truth-be-told, Condon was pretty much a non-starter from the get-go in Burnett's top creative post, though he had been with the agency for nearly two decades when he got the job. Stoddart anointed Condon chief creative officer after long-time creative leader Cheryl Berman announced she was vacating the position in 2005. After taking control of what was then a 200-person creative department, Condon mostly dropped from sight, and the agency's creative output seemed to slump badly at times. Perhaps the agency reached it lowest ebb creatively when it was handed the Washington Mutual ad account and then unveiled an imbecilic campaign with stodgy bankers in a holding pen acting like total stooges.

Condon, of course, also presided over several downsizings of Burnett's creative unit, as the agency continued to lose accounts and Bernardin and Stoddart seemed clueless about how to return the agency to its glory days. At least one source suggested Burnett had offered to keep Condon around to work on its Kellogg business -- the one client Condon seemed most interested in and the one with which he had perhaps the most success. But it appears Condon is gone for good.

Now the question becomes who will replace Condon and take on the herculean task of lifting Burnett out of a deep, dark hole. Word is the agency probably will look for a hotshot outside the shop who can bring some new energy and fresh perspective to Burnett and its problems. Burnett's Global Chief Creative Officer Mark Tutssel is likely to have a say in who that person is, though Tutssel hasn't been a major presence in Chicago for years now, and one wonders how much of a feel he has for what is happening at Burnett and for the management overhaul the place so desperately needs.

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Lewis Lazare has written the Media Mix column for the Chicago Sun-Times for the past seven and a half years.

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