Leo Burnett/Chicago finally acknowledged what we first reported a while ago -- John Condon is out as chief creative officer. Per an agency spokeswoman, Condon's future plans are unclear, but he apparently hopes to return to the creative front lines at another agency. Condon spent 22 years at Burnett, the last three as the agency's top creative. Burnett President Rich Stoddart tapped him for that job after Cheryl Berman exited that post in 2005.
Burnett's global Chief Creative Officer Mark Tutssel will oversee Burnett's flagship creative department while a worldwide search is conducted for Condon's successor. Candidates from within the agency will be looked at too, the spokeswoman said. The exit of Condon now leaves both Burnett and DDB/Chicago -- two of the city's largest ad shops -- without creative leaders. DDB has yet to name the successor to Paul Tilley, who jumped to his death from a hotel window in late February, 2008.
A Burnett spokeswoman believes the top creative post at the agency could be hugely appealing to the right candidate. "We want someone with some chutzpa who will attract attention," said the spokeswoman. But like DDB, Burnett has some image issues that may make it tougher to lure a top creative talent. Burnett has been in a major new business slump recently, and it didn't help when news of a whistleblower lawsuit alleging overbilling of the United States Army (a former Burnett client) first surfaced in January. Burnett paid more than $15 million to settle the lawsuit out of court.
One ex-Burnett creative we recently heard from was impressed that we were able to "break through the Kremlin" to get the news of Condon's exit. Not exactly the most flattering description of Burnett, but it comes from someone who knows the place well. It's a telling description of how agencies such as Burnett -- and others -- have morphed in the age of the conglomerates that now largely control the ad industry.
Meanwhile, Condon was sent on his way with just a brief statement from Burnett Global CEO Tom Bernardin: "As chief creative officer, he has improved our creative product and global ranking. He's an extraordinary creative, and we will miss him."