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Lewis Lazare follows Chicago media and marketing news

Recently in Steve Peckham Category

Steve_Peckham_Dodgeball_PR-1.jpgWhat a hoot! The very pleasant Steve Peckham has turned up as senior vice-president and director of holistic services at Olson/Minneapolis. It's a new position. In his new role at Olson, it sounds as if Peckham will have a lot on his plate. Among other things he will oversee public relations, account management and interactive disciplines. In addition, he will provide senior leadership for some of the agency's largest clients.

Denizens of the Chicago ad industry no doubt will recall that for a while the very pleasant Peckham was brought in from Edelman/Chicago to man Burnett's empty public relations department, which had been gutted due to a combination of firings and departures for greener pastures. At the time he was recruited for the Burnett assignment, Peckham may not have known much about the intricate workings of an ad agency -- especially one as intricate and political as Burnett -- but he was unfailingly pleasant and willing to attempt to handle any request.

Clearly, he managed to learn enough from his time at Burnett to impress the folks at Olson. While Minneapolis may seem a cold and distant outpost to some, we know Peckham lived and worked there previously. So for him, it's more of a homecoming. For Chicago, well, Peckham's departure, if nothing else, deprives this city and its ad industry of one of its most pleasant persons.

Initially, it was to have been handled by mid-June of last year. Or so we were told from on high at Leo Burnett's flagship Chicago office. We're talking, of course, about what has turned into a terribly protracted search for a new public relations representative to handle media relations at perhaps the most iconic of Chicago ad agencies -- a job that has not been permanently filled for a year now. But we hear from the very pleasant Steve Peckham -- the agency's interim PR chief who has been on loan to Burnett from the global PR shop Edelman since last spring -- that Burnett does indeed expect to have a permanent PR person selected sometime in January.

Why has it taken such a ridiculously long time to find someone? Well, the Burnett powers-that-be apparently decided to put the search on hold last summer while they focused on finding a new chief creative officer. When Susan Credle was hired in September, that job was filled. And with Credle's input, the search supposedly resumed for the new PR chief. So it goes in the up and down, on again and off and on again world of advertising these days.

The advertising business is not without its major challenges, and whoever finally winds up in the PR seat at Burnett hopefully will have some understanding of what those challenges are and how best to present Burnett to the world in light of them. For truth be told, Burnett has been hard hit by those challenges in recent years. And the agency needs all the help it can get in re-burnishing its once glowing image within the Chicago ad world and beyond.

Looks like the delightful Steve Peckham will be around a while longer to field inquiries from the media at Leo Burnett/Chicago. We were told back in May that Burnett hoped to have in a place by mid-June a new chief spokesperson to replace the less-than-competent chief press rep who was axed back in January. Peckham was brought in from Edelman to handle PR chores on an interim basis.

But now, according to the delightful Peckham, it can be revealed that the search for a new spokesperson was, in fact, put on the back burner while Burnett executives focused on finding a new chief creative officer. As we now know, that search ended with the announcement last month that Susan Credle, late of BBDO/New York, would be the agency's new chief creative officer. Credle began her new job this week.

So with Credle's input, Burnett is restarting its search for that chief spokesperson, we're told. No indication, as yet, about just how much longer the search will take. But whenever that new PR person does arrive, he or she will soon thereafter help in the search for a second PR person to replace Abby Lovett, the agency's former spokeswoman for global affairs who left recently to take a job with Weber Shandwick.

Let's hope, after this whole, terribly protracted process is over, that Burnett winds up with two public relations professionals that know what they're doing. They could be a big help in getting Burnett back on track, now that Susan Credle is here to work on improving the shop's creative.

The very pleasant Steve Peckham, who for the past several months has served as Leo Burnett/Chicago's interim public relations representative/consultant, is obviously striving for some clever headlines on his press releases, which have become more frequent in the past few days as some relatively positive news has actually begun to emanate from the beleaguered shop.

Most notably that news includes the selection of Susan Credle as Burnett's new chief creative officer. That announcement was trumpeted in a press release with the headline "Susan Credle Leaves Big Apple for Big Apple Agency" -- a reference to New York's nickname and also to Burnett's historical ties to apples. It's fine to demonstrate some cleverness when making such announcements, but let's not mistake that for the big idea creativity that will be needed to get Burnett's creative department back on track -- something we hope Credle will get to work on as soon as she lands in her new Burnett office.

There was yet another touch of, uh, cleverness in the announcement last Friday that Burnett has won an assignment to help AOL communicate its "reinvention" as it legally separates itself from Time Warner Inc. This time the headline read "Leo Burnett: You've Got AOL," which just served to remind some of us how far AOL -- with its iconic "you've got mail" welcome -- has fallen from an Internet leader to a has-been in the eyes of many who were there when services such as AOL were just beginning.

This of course, is just an assignment from AOL with marginal remuneration for Burnett. It's something the agency probably wouldn't have bothered with if business were better.

But times being what they are, Burnett is going to help AOL reinvent itself -- much as we hope Credle will be successful in helping her new agency home reinvent -- or rediscover -- what once made it one of America's legendary shops.

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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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This page is an archive of recent entries in the Steve Peckham category.

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