Sunday, August 15, 2010

Happy 75th, Leo Burnett.

Chicago-based creative powerhouse agency Leo Burnett, part of the Paris-based Publicis Groupe since 2002, celebrated its 75th anniversary last month. Do a little quick math and you’ll ponder this was a pretty big gamble for a 44-year-old former newspaper reporter to take smack in the middle of the Great Depression. But as we all know, the gamble paid off big.

Admit it or not, quoting the Chicago Tribune’s Phil Rosenthal, your stream of consciousness "includes plenty of runoff from Burnett brainstorms," especially if you’re over the age of 30.

You would never think of Marlboro as a women's cigarette, but that's how the brand was introduced in the 1920s. In the mid-1950s, Burnett and company repositioned the brand with the Marlboro Man, and after all these years, he still stands tall as the macho man of tobacco-land. Even if you’re too young to remember cigarette ads on TV, you know the icon.

The Green Giant Co. was the first Burnett client. How good was the Jolly Green Giant, introduced in 1936, as an advertising icon? The original name of the company was the Minnesota Valley Canning Company, until the Giant became so big, he overshadowed everything else.

My favorite Burnett quote – When you reach for the stars you may not quite get one, but you won't come up with a handful of mud either.” Nothing fancy about that. Burnett believed in keeping things simple, easy to read and understand, and memorable. And he literally regarded a great ad as “the most beautiful thing in the world.”

They don't make 'em like that anymore. With so much of today's advertising being derivative, sloppy, thoughtless and often too complex to remember the brand, we can all take a lesson from an Ad Man who died before many readers of this blog were born, but whose ideas continue to build good brands and increase sales.

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