Morgan Stanley and Leo Burnett: Who Fired Who?

15 August 2005

Craftsmen in such word-sensitive professions as advertising appreciate the versatility of locutions like 'resignation'. On the one hand it means' renunciation' - a voluntary act. On the other, 'acceptance of the inevitable'.

It is uncertain which is appropriate in the case of Leo Burnett, which last week proclaimed it had resigned as agency of record for its turbulent client, the investment bank Morgan Stanley. It cited "recent changes" as its reason for this sacrifice.

The bank, however, insisted it had opted to put the business up for review, adding that its incumbent shop had been invited to participate in the process.

Whichever, mucho dollars are at stake. TNS Media Intelligence reports that Morgan Stanley spent around $162.4 million (€131m; £89m) in US media during 2004, and some $50.1 million during the first five months of this year.

The "recent changes" alluded to by Leo Burnett almost certainly refer to the bloodbath at Morgan Stanley earlier this year. This triggered a number of board and senior level defections and the controversial appointment of John Mack as chairman/ceo.

One of the Morgan Stanley defectors was Philip Purcell, a former head of Dean Witter, absorbed by MS in the late 90s. Shortly after that takeover Burnett became the firm's agency.

Purcell's next career move will likely be followed with lively interest by Burnett's management.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff