JWT Keeps Lights on in Chicago

NEW YORK JWT Chicago, in the midst of closing down, has retained its Illinois Bureau of Tourism business, which requires that the agency have an office in the state. As such, the WPP Group shop will maintain a small service hub in Chicago to handle the account, an agency representative said.

The office will be staffed with both account management and creative executives — about 20 in all, according to the rep.

JWT moved to shutter its Chicago office in April after years of business erosion, particularly involving once major client Kraft Foods. At the time, the agency said the move was part of broader restructuring in North America made “in response to the economic downfall.”

Other remaining clients — including Kimberly-Clark brands Depends, Poise and GoodNites and a handful of Nestle ice cream and baking products — have since shifted to JWT’s New York headquarters. Chicago first opened in 1891 and in April the office had just 50 staffers.

The Illinois Tourism hire, which was announced on a state Web site, came after a review. The account encompasses both creative and media duties.

The initial contract with JWT runs three years (through June 30, 2012), with an annual dollar value of more than $20 million, according to the notice on the state Web site. The bureau will also have the option of renewing the agreement for another two years after that, at an annual dollar amount of $22 million.

The notice identified the other finalists as Havas’ Euro RSCG and independent Cramer-Krasselt, both of which have offices in Chicago.

Major media spending on the account runs less than $5 million annually. Last year, the total was $3 million — the same as in 2007, according to Nielsen. Those figures do not include online spending.