Leo Burnett (1891-1971)
Leo Burnett was born in 1891 in St. Johns, Michigan. He studied journalism at the University of Michigan and after graduating in 1914 he worked as a reporter for the Peoria journal.
In 1917, he worked in advertising with the Cadillac Motor company, where he eventually became advertising manager.
He next moved to Lafayette Motors, then to the Homer McKee Agency in Indianapolis and finally to Erwin Wasey and Co.
In 1935 Burnett borrowed $50,000 and founded the Leo Burnett Company in Chicago.This was extremely risky especially since the U.S. was in the middle of the Depression.
When the doors of his agency were opened in 1935, the receptionist put a bowl of apples to welcome every visitor. When the Chicago's public got the news that Leo Burnett have away apples to every visitor, an issue in a newspaper appeared: "it won't be long 'til Leo Burnett is selling apples on the street corner instead of giving them away."
However, Burnett believed that "when you're on your economic bottom, then the only way to go is up." And ever since, apples have been offered to every visitor of a Leo burnett worldwide office.
In 1945, LeoBurnett Company launched a memorable campaign for the American Meat Institute, in which read, uncooked meat was placed on a red background and the copy urged the reader to eat more meat.
This type of ad was original at the time because meat was always shown cooked. But Burnett felt that the image of meat should be a virile one, best expressed in red meat.
This "red on red" campaign became the classic example for Burnett's technique of Inherent Drama.
In every product and service, there exists some inherent drama - something inherent in the product, something that makes people continue to buy it, something made the manufactureer make it, etc. - that makes the product stand out. And every ad should emphasize it.
"Inherent Drama" became the cornerstone of Burnett's Chicago School of Advertising. Unlike the ad agencies of New York, Burnett wanted ads to revolve more around the customer's point of view, especially the down to earth, wide-eyed perspsective of Mid-westerners.
Some of the characters he created for his advertising were:
He emphasized the use of popular archetypes and symbols, often drawn from history and folklore, tht easily penetrates prospects' minds with basic desires, beliefs and instincts. The Jolly Green Giant is partly based on the Paul Bunyan story.
And when Burnett created the Marlboro Man in 1955, it's masculine image of a cowboy turned the minor cigarette brand with a predominantly feminine image into a big seller.
Burnett also stressed the use of "earthly vernacular" words that project a firendly kind of humanness that makes the ad fun instead of annoying or threatening. Phrases like: "Winston tastes good like a cigarette should."
He always referred to a folder on his desk labelled "Corny Language" where he collected words, phrases, and analogies which convery a feeling of sodbuster honesty and drive home a point.
Burnett's business philosophy was based on his famous quote: "When you reach for the stars, you not not quite get one, but you won't come up with a handful of mud either."
Leo Burnett died in 1971, aged 78, at his beloved family home in Lake Zurich, Illinois.