Chicago Sun-Times
Lewis Lazare follows Chicago media and marketing news

Recently in Susan Credle Category

Leo Burnett/Chicago chief creative officer Susan Credle is getting her close-up in the January, 2011, issue of Chicago magazine, set to hit newsstands in a matter of days. The Credle profile was written by Marcia Froelke Coburn, one of the city's finest long-form reporters. We got an advance look at the story today, and we can report that it is a balanced assessment of Credle and her first year on the job at Leo Burnett, where she arrived in October, 2009, as chief creative officer, after having spent her entire career at BBDO/New York.

Froelke Coburn writes at length about some of the Burnett work Credle has said she is most proud of, namely the "Mayhem" campaign for Allstate and the charming Happy Meals animated spots for McDonald's. There is the requisite recounting of how Credle handled -- and came to love -- the M&M's business, a primary focus during much of her time at BBDO. Credle also talks with Froelke Coburn about wanting to foster an environment at Burnett where clients are encouraged to "go for long-term investment over short-term splash."

On the personal front, Credle discussed how she had tried -- but was unable -- to have children with husband and architect Joe Credle: "If I had had children, I don't think I could have done this job -- not as well as I have," said the Burnett creative boss.

Credle has only been at Burnett for a year. It's much too early to say what kind of lasting impact she will have at the iconic Chicago agency, and Froelke Coburn wisely stops short of suggesting Credle will be the one who burnishes Burnett's slightly tattered image and restores at least some of the agency's former greatness.

We finally heard from Tim Pontarelli, and we can now re-confirm that, yes, after more than 20 years in the employ of Leo Burnett/Chicago (with much of that time spent on the agency's Hallmark business), Pontarelli has indeed parted ways with the shop. But he apparently did not leave the agency as one of the victims of the recent bloodbath/restructuring that claimed more than two dozen employees.

Rather Pontarelli coincidentally exited at the same time because he did not wish to accept a new, non-Hallmark-focused job that chief creative officer Susan Credle had offered him. "It was time to go," said Pontarelli, who is looking forward to some time off to consider his options, which might include working for another agency or getting into the production end of the business, including directing. In fact, he is headed out to the west coast now to hang for a while with his mentor Joe Pytka, one of the most legendary of all TV commercial directors and the man who helmed Pontarelli's masterpiece, the Hallmark spot titled "Hooper."

Meanwhile, we're told that the Hallmark account has now been put under the control of Burnett creative Jeanie Caggiano. She also heads up the Allstate account, where "Mayhem" has been much in evidence in recent months -- referring to the high profile campaign that personified mayhem and aimed to amuse some viewers and strike fear in the souls of others.

But Caggiano and others probably were not pleased to hear the news coming from Allstate the past couple of days: Allstate policyholders in large numbers are not renewing their policies. That could signal a need for a change in marketing tactics. Will "Mayhem" prevail? We'll see.

Stephen Leps, the outgoing creative director at Zig/Chicago, wasn't talking about his future plans last week when he announced he is exiting the shop. All he would say was that he expected to take another job in Chicago in several weeks. Well, if he does wind up taking another job in Chicago -- and nothing is signed on the dotted line yet -- it looks as if it will be at Leo Burnett/Chicago, where chief creative officer Susan Credle is busy revamping the creative department. Leps and Credle are not strangers. The two have known each other for a while, and there was a time when Leps might have wound up at BBDO/New York, Credle's former place of employment. But that moment passed, and Leps opted to stay with Zig/Toronto.

FDR - Family Table.jpgRecently-arrived Leo Burnett/Chicago chief creative officer Susan Credle's big moment really is almost here. An Allstate commercial called "Nothing To Fear," the first major TV spot she has fully shepherded to completion at her new professional home, is supposed to appear for the first time during the fourth commercial break on NBC's telecast of the opening ceremonies of the Vancouver Winter Olympics. That means the 30-second spot should air between 7:10 and 7:15 p.m. here in Chicago, we're told. We've taken a look at the commercial in advance of its premiere, and we'll have more to say about it in our column in Monday's Sun-Times. In the meantime, have a look for yourself at the spot tonight and see what you think. It's a taste of what's happening at the dawn of a new era at Leo Burnett.

PX207_7B6B_7.JPGFriday night will be a big night for Susan Credle, Leo Burnett/Chicago's relatively new chief creative officer. It will mark the debut of the first major commercial she has overseen from start to finish since arriving at Burnett in early October. It's an Allstate execution with actor Dennis Haysbert that will debut during the Vancouver Winter Olympics opening ceremonies on NBC. A lot of effort went into the development and creation of this spot. It was even being re-edited as late as Wednesday. Like it or not, the Allstate effort should say a lot about what kind of creative standard Credle will adhere to as she attempts to remold Burnett into more of a creative force than it has been in recent years.

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.

Susan Credle_Current.jpgThe search for a new chief creative officer at Leo Burnett is over. Susan Credle, 45, is Burnett's new creative leader, effective Oct. 5. "This is a decision rooted in the best driver for our business -- the creative product," said Tom Bernardin, Burnett Worldwide chairman and CEO.

Credle is coming from BBDO/New York, where she is an executive creative director and a hugely-admired member of one of the few outstanding creative departments left in the American advertising industry. Sources say Credle has been at BBDO for nearly a quarter century. She started out as a receptionist, and because her energy and interest in the ad business caught the attention of BBDO executives, she was made a junior copywriter. Credle then worked her way up the ladder.

At BBDO, Credle has worked on some of the agency's most high-profile accounts, including AT&T and M&M's. She will become Burnett's second female creative leader in recent memory, following in the footsteps of Cheryl Berman, who worked her way up through the Burnett hierarchy to eventually lead the agency's creative department. Credle will face a big challenge at Burnett, which has struggled mightily in recent years to attract new business and demonstrate a sharp, winning creative profile. But sources who know Credle say she is ready for what awaits her.



About the blogger

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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