Professor Burns was senior partner and director of research and account planning at Carmichael Lynch Advertising from 1985 - when Carmichael Lynch and The Burns Group combined their resources to become one of the strongest and highly respected agencies in the country - until 1997 when The InterPublic Group acquired the Agency and he joined the faculty at The University of Texas at Austin. Neal was also an adjunct faculty member at the University of Minnesota teaching classes in consumer behavior and advertising, high technology marketing and ethics.
Earlier in his career Burns served as associate executive director for the Higher Education Coordinating Board in Minnesota; director of marketing for the Systems & Research Division of Honeywell Inc.; and head of the Environmental Stress Branch of the US Navy's Air Crew Equipment Laboratory working with the Project Mercury Team. Burns has published more than75 rather arcane articles and papers and his work had been honored with dozens of advertising awards.
At the University of Texas at Austin, Dr. Burns is the founder and director of the Advertising Department's account planning program. He has served as director of the Center for Brand Research since 2002. He is also a member of the Faculty Council and the Latino Media Studies Committee.