HumanKind: The Back Story (Nothing New On Wacker Drive)

“Acts not ads.” – from HumanKind
John Warrillow, author of Built to Sell and Drilling for Gold, says “there is no faster way to gain credibility for your business than to write a book.” I think that’s a particularly narrow view of how to grow a business, but I don’t discount the importance of having a book under one’s belt.
Pat Goggin, Chief Strategy Officer at Jacobsen Rost, also knows something about the importance of a book. While working at Leo Burnett in South Africa, Goggin says he came up with the concept that eventually became HumanKind, the new book from Burnett Worldwide CEO Tom Bernardin and chief creative officer Mark Tutssel.
In July, Lewis Lazare of Chicago Sun Times reported that Dan Santow, a PR executive with Edelman/Chicago, was the ghostwriter of much — if not all — of the text. So, it appears that HumanKind (a book we recently promoted in a free giveaway) was conceived by a former Burnett executive and written by a hired hand, not by the guys in corner offices.
“When I first conceived the idea it was widely rejected by both Tutssel and Bernardin and I was called a ‘tree hugger,'” says Goggin. “Maurice Levy then fell in love with it, as did Kevin Roberts (who wrote Lovemarks). I was then called into Bernardin’s office and told ‘you may be smart, but the smartest people never win. The idea belongs to Leo Burnett and Mark and I are going to author the book.’ I said that was fine, just credit me as the originator of the idea, like Mark is credited for creative awards at Cannes. I was fired shortly thereafter,” says Goggin.
Goggin says he’s not bitter, and that he never intended to write the book, he just wants to be credited for the idea. He also says he was never given a real reason for his dismissal from the agency–that he was doing a bang up job leading global new business initiatives at the time. “When I asked for credit, all of a sudden I wasn’t the loyal soldier anymore,” he adds.
“I believe in Leo Burnett the man, but the modern organization is not living up to his ideals,” says Goggin. “I didn’t want HumanKind to be a meaningless gesture, and if I don’t go on record in some way, I’m perpetuating horrible behavior.”
Of course, it’s only fair to give Burnett’s leadership a chance to respond to the criticism. “We started thinking about HumanKind back in 2006, when we first experienced the powerful wave of user-generated content. Since then, many people – inside and outside of Leo Burnett – helped us celebrate and shape HumanKind.” This message was delivered to me this afternoon by the agency’s PR team, the same team that sent me free copies of the book. By the way, Agency Spy also received five free copies to give away to its readers.
The irony here can’t be missed. HumanKind–the book and the concept–is about moving advertising beyond superficial marketing practices to deal with real life stuff like helping people. “People, purpose, participation and populism” are the calls to action in the book. But if we’re to believe Goggin’s account, the process by which this book was born was far from enlightened or new school in any way.
I asked Goggin why he thinks Bernadin and Tutssel acted the way they did. He said, “Maurice Levy needs his percentage and you can either manage the top line by building the business or you can cut the hell out if it. Leo Burnett has let over 1000 people go under this leadership team. I’m hardly unique,” says Goggin.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.