As chairman and chief executive officer of J. Walter Thompson Worldwide from 1987 to 1998, Burt Manning led the venerable agency out of a period of devastating losses into one of its most prosperous and fertile times.
When Manning took the reins in 1987, JWT was reeling from a series of unprecedented business and reputational blows widely aired in the press. At the same time JWT¿s traditional structure and mindset - "a loose federation of proudly independent national agencies" - was ill-suited to serve its rapidly globalizing major clients.
Manning set out to bring stability to the company, restore the confidence of staff and clients and transform the old J. Walter Thompson into a unified, co-operative international network sharing ideas, professional practices and people in the service of their clients. In the process, JWT doubled its revenues and quadrupled its profits; grew from 117 offices in 32 countries to 222 offices in 77 countries; and produced acclaimed campaigns for such clients as Ford Motor Company, Unilever, Warner-Lambert, Kraft Foods, Kodak, Sprint, Nestle, Kellogg¿s, Bell Atlantic, DeBeers and Rolex.
Manning is the only head of JWT to come from the creative side of the business. He served as chief creative officer of the worldwide company before moving into corporate management as CEO of JWT/USA. Under his leadership, the agency was named Agency of the Year by ADWEEK magazine and Best All-Around agency for three consecutive years in the Advertising Age survey of clients.
In 1986 Manning left JWT to become principal in Jordan, Manning, Case, Taylor & McGrath Advertising. In 1987 WPP, the new owners of J. Walter Thompson asked Manning to return to JWT as chairman and CEO of the worldwide company.