Travelogue: Love Songs For Chicago

By SuperSpy 

It’s time to take a note from one of the old AS writer’s, the fab DownLow, and report one city’s ad biz. This time, we’ll be peering in at Chicago. In the late 1800s, only about 5 percent of the nation’s advertising came from west of Philadelphia and New York City. By the beginning of the twentieth century, the city was the beating heart of American advertising. There are a ton of shops in the Windy City, but those winds? They are volatile.

First of all, thank heavens the Chicago Ad Club got its shit together this year. There are some very talented people in Chicago who are just drowning in low morale and the Chicago Ad Club could represent a bit of a life raft. As we reported last month, the club rebounded from years of ghetto shows to have a decent performance this year. Nice work guys.

However, a club is just a club. Looking a little deeper, the malaise that has caught a hold of the business needs more than a little dingy.

Lets kick this off with EnergyBBDO. In April, CCO Marty Orzio resigned his post and though the reinvention of the shop was taking place before him, he helped bring the shop from no wins to shortlists for Cannes. He was replaced with Dan Feltsam Shortly thereafter, they landed the VTech Electronics and Learning Toys. So, perhaps the energy is back at the agency? Wait, wait… they still have Tonise Paul, president and CEO, to contend with. There is a strong argument coming from staffers that in order for Energy to get its house in order, Paul has got to leave it.

Meanwhile, over at DDB… there are some uppers happening for the shop. They won an Emmy for “Swear jar” created for Bud Light. On the downer side, Grant Hill was booted out of his role as Production Chief and there’s still the lingering threat that InBev’s will either pull back on spending or move the Bud account right out of DDB’s grasp. Plus, Euro RSCG/Chicago was recently tapped for a special project for the brewer. Oohh… that’s not good for DDB. As a small addendum, the shop took a slight hit when Dell moved its B2B business to Enfatico. The agency is trying to take that tech experience and snag another brand. Will it work?

As for EuroRSCG? They just seem to be sailing along, holding steady. With the departure of Rasuch, it seems the creatives are a much happier lot.

Then there’s small player Zig. The shop is looking to move into being a baller and thanks to a lot of confusion in the Chicago scene, lets give ’em a year or two. It might happen for them. The agency just locked down Elysian Hotels and Resorts.

And over at DraftFCB? Chris Miller from the almost run aground Element79, recently joined the agency. Draft also brought on Simon El Hage (which we reported) as Senior Vice President, Management Director, Multicultural Marketing, but, don’t get your hopes up. It’s still Draft.

On the account wins front… Leo Burnett Chicago was representing for the city when it pitched for Visa, but it went to TBWA. DraftFCB in Chicago was up for Philly Cream Cheese, but it went to Nitro. Ho-hum.

That said, Y&R Chicago seems to be doing alright. The shop landed Doubletree and Giant Eagle, though the latter is not huge, it’s still a nice size clocking in at an estimated $15-20 million.

Cramer-Krasselt is also keeping the local wins coming bringing home Johnsville Sausage, Burlington Coat Factory, and TruCredit.

As we said, there are so many shops. So fricking many. We could go on and on, but the bottom line seems to be why aren’t the Chicago agencies in the big reviews pitching for the big clients? Damnit and if they are, why aren’t they closing?

Thoughts? And for those of you who may say that Chicago’s ad scene may never recover, just remember that Leo Burnett started his legendary Chicago-based agency in 1935 by mortgaging his house. The Chicago ad folk have chutzpah. Never count them out. Dat Killa Chi is forever.