Leo Burnett struts it stuff

THE FOLKS AT LEO BURNETT CANADA ARE FOND OF SAYING it's a network agency that walks like an independent. Dom Caruso, the shop's president and COO, says he doesn't plan on changing his stride with the pending merger of its parent company, New York's Omnicom Group, with Paris-based Publicis Groupe SA.

"It won't have any bearing on our presence here or what we're focused on," he says. "It just means we're part of a bigger holding company than we were before."

Caruso and the rest of the team at the Canadian arm of Leo Burnett are driven to not just maintain independence, but to show that a Toronto-based agency in a large network can be more than an "adaptation shop." It has been leading by example, winning a second consecutive LB network AOY title last December as recognition for award-winning work and big account wins.

"For agencies in Canada that are part of a network, I think that is something anyone would aspire to," Caruso says. "What we are trying to show is, [in] Canada, we can be leaders. We can be a place in the world that other offices look at and say [we should be doing more of what Toronto is doing]."

Following an honourable mention in the Digital AOY category last year, Leo has once again set a high standard on the awards circuit, picking up hardware for work with James Ready, Ikea, Raising the Roof and others, including AOY title at the Kinsale Shark Awards in Ireland and two Silvers and a Bronze Lion for design at Cannes.

Caruso credits the success to changes made over the last couple of years, such as investing more in producing top-notch design for clients, continuing to integrate digital into the shop, and doubling the strategic planning team to an 11-person lineup. Caruso says stepping up its planning game in particular has paid dividends.

"When we win new clients, one of the things we hear is that we were providing leadership in strategy."