13.6.2012 Casey Martin

Leo Burnett Launches Farmhouse; A Center for Innovation & New Ventures

Today, advertising agency Leo Burnett USA announced the launch of Farmhouse, its innovation and new venture center. Farmhouse’s mission is to conceive and develop new-to-the-world products, services, and experiences, providing an upstream complement to Leo Burnett’s core marketing communications business.


“Leo Burnett is famous for creative work that deeply accesses the human condition,” said Rich Stoddart, President of Leo Burnett North America. “This orientation positions us well to succeed in the innovation space, because the best new products and services are usually the ones that are the most human.”


One part of Farmhouse’s business is consultative, providing growth strategies, new product concepts, product designs, naming, and other services to clients. The other part of the business functions as principal, pursuing innovation either in alliance with other ventures, or focused on intellectual property originating at Leo Burnett itself.


Described not as a “think tank” but rather as a “do tank,” Farmhouse has already been retained for new product assignments by several of the agency’s top existing clients. In addition, Farmhouse has forged ties with the new business incubators 1871 andImpact Engine; is sponsoring Northwestern’s Kellogg Innovation Network and theUniversity of Chicago’s Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship New Venture Challenge; is working on a revenue sharing arrangement with a leading digital technology company; and is developing a new consumer wellness product.


“We have all the elements required to take a hands-on role in populating the marketplace with compelling new creations. I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity,” said Paul Earle, Farmhouse’s Executive Director. Earle was previously President of the intellectual property acquisition and development company River West Brands.


In addition to drawing on the deep creative and strategic talent at Leo Burnett, Farmhouse has retained Craig Sampson as Senior Fellow. Sampson was the founder and longtime head of the Chicago office of IDEO, the renowned global innovation firm.


“I’m looking forward to fusing design and design thinking with the kind of storytelling abilities for which Leo Burnett is known,” Sampson said. The formation of Farmhouse is another notable development as the City of Chicago undergoes an entrepreneurial renaissance.


“Chicago is fast becoming a world class hub for new business creation, and we are thrilled to see Leo Burnett say ‘we’re in’ through Farmhouse. The kind of branding sophistication they bring can play an important role in our startup ecosystem,” said Kevin Willer, CEO of the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center, and co-founder of Google’s Chicago office.


The “Farmhouse” brand has deep roots in the history of Leo Burnett and the brand marketing industry at large. From the 1940s through the 1960s, Leo Burnett—the person—would regularly gather the company’s senior leadership at his farm in northern Illinois. The intensive work sessions there produced a number of breakthrough marketing platforms, characters, new product concepts, and advertising campaigns that still resonate in popular culture today.


The identity was created by Casey Martin.