JWT Closes Chicago Office

NEW YORK JWT is shuttering its Chicago office, two years after it was reduced to a satellite operation following the loss of most of its Kraft Foods business.

In 2007, Kraft shifted eight brands that then spent about $220 million annually in major measured media to other roster shops, including Ogilvy & Mather, Draftfcb and Nitro. The brands included Oscar Mayer, Lunchables, Kraft Singles and Ritz.

In the wake of the loss, president Ros King and executive creative director Graham Woodhall left, 20 staffers were laid off and the office became a satellite of New York.

Since then, Chicago has lost its last big piece of Kraft — Philadelphia Cream Cheese — and Nestle has shifted its Butterfinger brand to Interpublic Group’s Dailey & Associates in West Hollywood, Calif.

Chicago’s remaining business — Kimberly-Clark brands Depends, Poise and GoodNites and a handful of Nestle ice cream and baking products — will shift to New York. The closing will affect some 50 staffers and be completed within 60 days. The office first opened in 1891.

In an internal memo announcing the move, JWT North American leaders Rosemarie Ryan and Ty Montague wrote, “In a business fueled by ideas and the people who create them, losing good people is the most wrenching decision an agency can make. However, these are extremely challenging conditions and as a business, we have no choice but to respond to them.”

Ryan and Montague said the move was part of broader restructuring in North America that comes “in response to the economic downfall.”