When the agency Leo Burnett launched Tony the Tiger as the cartoon mascot for Kellogg's Frosted Flakes 60 years ago, telling children the sugar-coated breakfast cereal was "Gr-r-reat," it was the start of a longtime client-agency relationship. But now If Tony could growl in a really nasty way, he would.
Eight staffers from the Chicago agency with experience on the Kelloggs account have left to start their own shop.
And Leo Burnett has filed a court injunction against them, alleging the group are after a multimillion-dollar Kellogg's project which they worked on at Burnett and its marketing services arm, Arc
The agency say that late last Friday seven of 11 employees working on a Kelloggs CRM project (short for customer relationship management) , along with one other staffer involved with another Burnett, Arc CRM project, resigned ,effective immediately.
Three of the eight told Burnett they were starting their own business.
Burnett says in the complaint: “The timing of the resignations was intentionally designed to maximize the defecting employees’ ability to persuade Kellogg's that they were the only people capable of completing the CRM project.
"Additionally, the defecting employees know the time deadlines under which Burnett-Arc is operating on the Kellogg's project and in leaving when they did, it is apparent they assumed Burnett-Arc would not be able to meet the client’s deadlines and that, as a result, the client would have ‘no choice’ but to hire defendants as the replacement for Burnett-Arc.”
Burnett admitted to Adweek that it will be tough to meet its Kellogg's project deadlines after losing those employees.
“Defendants know that, too, and it is obvious that they factored that into the timing of their resignations, as they know Kellogg's will not endure a delay of up to six months or more for Burnett-Arc to try to fill these suddenly open positions,” the complaint said.
Without saying exactly what it was, Burnett described the Kellogg project as a "showcase" . Burnett-Arc would be able to leverage what the learned from it to create similar "optimisation" projects for other clients.
Says Burnett, "If the defecting employees are permitted to continue working on and finish the project, they then will try to claim the project as their own in efforts to showcase it to other potential clients, this depriving Burnett-Arc of the value of its investment in the project.”
A spokeswoman for Leo Burnett in Chicago told the Drum, "Leo Burnett is being aggressive in its handling of this situation, protecting our client, our investment, our people and our intellectual property. We will not comment further on pending litigation or personnel matters."