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Leo Burnett Case Study

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Leo Burnett Company, founded in Chicago in 1935, was one of North America’s premier advertising agencies. It had created numerous well-known brand icons, including The Marlboro Man, Kellogg’s Tony the Tiger, and the Pillsbury Dough Boy. This case talks about LB’s current strained relationship with its client Ontann Beauty Care (OBC). LB was hired by OBC to launch its new “Forever Young” product line.

1. Assuming the role of an LB employee: As a full-service agency, LB offered the complete range of marketing and communications services and products. As an LB employee I would be part of a multi-disciplinary team that serviced a particular brand. I would receive details of the work to be done by the supervisor of my home department. Informally I would report to a project team leader who usually would be an account director or a vice-president of client services director. I would be responsible to this person for meeting project deadlines and managing my individual client relationships. I would be simultaneously working on two or three different brand teams that would serve local clients. Client needs and project deadlines would dictate the amount of time I spent on a given day as part of a particular brand team. The work environment would be open and fast paced. In general I would be juggling with the work for two to three different clients at any given moment. I would spend a lot of hours interacting with colleagues talking about projects and following up on client requests. The volume of work would also require me to spend long hours at work.

As a result I would also be involved in social activities with my colleagues after a long day at work. My relationship with my colleagues would be friendly and based on mutual trust. As part of the Forever Young virtual team, assuming I am working in the London office in addition to interacting with my local team members I would also be interacting with members located in a different region (Taiwan, Toronto). I would have challenges in interacting with team members located in different regions due to time-zone constraints and also since the level of trust would not be high due to lack of prior experience working with them. I would have less autonomy in my tasks if I was working in Toronto since I would have to get an approval from the London office for certain tasks. Some of the key challenges I would face in working as a virtual team would be – “building trust, cohesion, and team identity, and overcoming isolation”.

2. Difficulties faced by the Forever Young global advertising and communications team faced throughout the launch process: Two satellite teams were created by LB in Taiwan (Asian market) and Toronto (North American market) for the launch of the Forever Young brand. The control of these satellite teams was centralized at the global office in London. These LB satellite teams also interacted with the OBC teams in London and Toronto. The LB London global office supplied the global template creative and satellite teams were required to localize the template for their respective markets. While the launch in the Asian market was highly successful, the results of the North American market were poor. For the North American market it was decided that the LB team in London would produce English television and print advertising, which would be used in the Canadian market. The LB team in Toronto would design and produce the direct marketing and web site materials because the London office did not have strong in-house capabilities in these areas. While the Toronto office had control of the design of these communication pieces, the U.K. office would provide the inputs/approvals in order for the pieces to be visually consistent with the print advertising.

This division of the same task across the two virtual teams resulted in the work of the teams moving in different directions. There is also evidence of poor communication between the London and Toronto teams. Both teams noticed that their creative work was not in sync but no one highlighted it as an issue and assumed that the other team would adapt their look and feel. Another example of poor communication was the discussion of the direct mail concept. A set of well-documented instructions would have been easy for the London team to understand and the lack of which resulted in loss of time during a meeting, in which the client was present too, and friction among the two teams. The communication between the two teams was not direct. Information mainly flowed through David and Forin to Carmichael. Ideally the team members should have been asked to reach out directly to resolve issues quickly. It would also have helped build a good relationship between the teams. There was also an assumption that the European market was identical to the North American market. The London team chose the model and the photographic material for the advertising campaign.

The Toronto team was not involved in the above two decisions which increased their frustration. The other issue was faced during the development of the website. The members of LB’s Toronto team who were responsible for the web site development received directions from OBC’s London team and the members of LB’s Toronto team, who were responsible for the development of the direct marketing materials, dealt with OBC’s Toronto team. The instructions from these two OBC teams were often inconsistent and they repeatedly requested changes of the marketing materials resulting in the web and direct marketing materials being out of sync. These issues were not escalated to Carmichael through proper channels resulting in significant loss of time. After poor results from the Canadian national launch more control was handed over to the London team. New creative teams were created and had to present alternative ideas to global OBC and LB team. There were differences which team would present first, which office received what compensation for the development, and whether or not overall remuneration packages were fair. Around the same time there were also significant personnel changes in both the London and Toronto teams.

3. As Janet Carmichael, do you now decentralize the team. As Janet Carmichael my priority is to retain OBC as a client with a successful launch in the North American market. The main issue over here is not related to the centralized control by the London office. The teams in Taiwan also followed the same structure and were successful. While the team in Taiwan had greater autonomy they also did a good job of communicating with the London team.

Decentralizing and handing over control to the Toronto team would not be a feasible option. In the absence of David there is no one in the Toronto team with the required expertise to lead the brand and the team. I would prefer to give the Toronto team the same (as the team in Taiwan) amount of autonomy for direct and indirect marketing. The Toronto team has a good understanding of the North American market. The global team at London would provide oversight and give the final approval. That way the London team would feel that they are still part of the process while the Toronto team would have the necessary freedom required for their creative work. I would also define the communication/escalation protocol to be followed by the two teams so that the team members interact directly with each other and that issues get escalated in a timely manner when required.


1. Leo Burnett Case study.
2. Kirkman, Bradley L., Rosen, Benson, Gibson, Cristina B Tesluk, Paul, McPherson, Simon O. Academy of Management Executive; Aug2002, Vol. 16 Issue 3, p67-79, 13p, 4 Black and White Photographs, 1 Chart

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