Chicago Sun-Times
Lewis Lazare follows Chicago media and marketing news

February 2009 Archives

Marketing "Desire" on Broadway

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lewDesire.jpgNo one would mistake it for an upbeat evening in the theater. That's really not playwright Eugene O'Neill's usual style.

But despite its dark, primal underpinnings, the Goodman Theatre's production of O'Neill's "Desire Under the Elms" (which concludes its local run this weekend) is headed to Broadway, where shows have been dropping like the proverbial flies in recent weeks. Even several upbeat popular musicals haven't been able to keep going as the public slam shut their wallets and refuse to spend on anything much more than the bare necessities. All of which should make the rather downbeat "Desire Under the Elms" an interesting test of what can and cant' work in the Broadway arena at this moment in time.

The first ad for the New York engagement that begins April 14, debuts in the New York Times Sunday, and it suggests the show's producers, who include Steve Traxler of Chicago's Jam Theatricals, are hoping a very positive review of "Desire" in Chicago by New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood will help sell the intense production to a demanding Big Apple audience. A steamy image of a bare-chested, buff Pablo Schreiber adds a touch of sexiness to the launch print ad. That can't hurt. And a large headshot of Brian Dennehy, widely admired for his work with the show's director Bob Falls, should perk up some interest among fans of the veteran actor and director.

Still, this "Desire Under the Elms" isn't likely to be the easiest of sells on Broadway now. But it will be worth well watching to see how successful "Desire's" marketing effort and the show itself are on the Great White Way.

A sign of the times. Or, more specifically, of the Tribune Co., which on Friday, said it will shut down the television operations in its Washington, D.C. news bureau and eliminate 10 staff positions. The print reporters in the bureau, which now services all Tribune Co. publications, aren't affected by the TV operation shutdown. But Cissy Baker, who had overseen all operations inside the Tribune Co. Washington news bureau, is leaving. She will be succeeded by Kerry Luft, a Chicago Tribune associate managing editor who now becomes chief of the Washington News Bureau.

In an email to the Washington bureau staff, Bob Gremillion, Tribune Publishing's executive vice president, said the bureau will rely on "existing internal resources" and a news-sharing arrangement with CNN to service television stations in the Tribune Broadcasting stable with the necessary video feeds.

Our thoughts and prayers are with Michael Herlehy, a founding partner at Tom Dick & Harry Advertising/Chicago. Michael is now at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Tex., where he is undergoing treatment for Hodgkin's cancer, which had been in remission, but returned a month ago. He is expected to be at the center going through chemotherapy and then a stem cell transplant for the next six weeks. That will be followed by at least six more months of outpatient therapy in Houston. Michael's wife Sherri is by his side in Houston, but she is planning to fly back to Chicago on weekends to be with the Herlehy kids Conner and McKenna.

Fortunately, Michael has medical insurance, but additional costs for travel, living arrangements and food are expected to total $40,000 to $50,000. To help defray those costs, Michael's partners at TD&H and other friends are organizing a "Herlehy Helper" fundraiser on March 26, at Joey's Brickhouse restaurant, 1257 W. Belmont, in the Lakeview neighborhood. There will be an open bar, food, silent auction, raffles and a lot of good karma. Tickets are $60. For more information, contact David Yang at 312-327-9531 or Brandy Isaac at 312-961-1178. Or purchase tickets online at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/56036. If you can't attend the event, donations are welcome too at the same online site.

whodunduckfeet.jpgMystery maven Agatha Christie has nothing on the Aflac duck. A new Aflac spot from the Kaplan Thaler Group/New York set to break Monday strikes a note of high mystery. At the top of this new "Whodunit?" commercial, the lights go out in the home parlor of an injured women on a dark and stormy night. When the lights come back on, the woman with her leg in a cast is seen holding a wad of cash. Who put it there? Various and sundry parlor guests try to figure out who the benefactor could be as that fine feathered star waddles around trying to drop hints for the rather clueless would-be mystery solvers. It's all done with a very high-camp edge, which is the only way this sort of hokum could work.

For those keeping count, this "Whodunit" effort marks the 43rd execution starring the Aflac duck that Kaplan Thaler has produced.

Update on the John Condon matter at Leo Burnett/Chicago. Sources are reporting that ex- -- or soon-to-be-ex -- Chief Creative Officer Condon left the Burnett building at 35 W. Wacker on Monday, possibly for the last time. And as we suspected he would, Burnett Global Chief Creative Officer Mark Tutssel reportedly has arrived on the scene presumably to help sort out who will run Burnett's creative department going forward. Whether Tutssel can find an outsider who wants the job now remains to be seen. John Montgomery is one name we've heard mentioned in recent days as a possible internal choice to replace Condon. Another is Peter McHugh. But it's entirely possible Tutssel may decide an infusion of new blood is urgently needed. Meanwhile, Burnett still has not officially confirmed Condon is exiting as chief creative officer in Chicago.

X00048_7.JPGIs Garry Meier contemplating some sort of radio comeback? He did a brief stint on John Howell's morning show at WIND-AM (560) today, and now sources say he's landed a three-day gig next week at Tribune Broadcasting's news/talk WGN-AM (720) during the 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. time slot recently vacated by John Williams, who moved into the morning drive slot at the station. WGN General Manager Tom Langmyer told us Meier is officially "filling in," and he wouldn't comment further. Meier famously worked on radio with Steve Dahl for many years and then with Roe Conn at WLS-AM (890). Meier is a known entity in the Chicago market, which could appeal to WGN. The Tribune Broadcasting station is looking for Williams' permanent replacement in the mid-afternoon slot.

lew26 COL BW_fin.jpgRoland Martin, the Chicago-based radio and television journalist and commentator, is getting his big break on cable channel CNN. Starting in mid-April, Martin will begin filling in for Campbell Brown as the host of her early evening "No Bias No Bull" CNN program while Brown takes maternity leave for around eight weeks. Martin, of course, is no stranger to CNN, where he has served since 2007 as a commentator on a number of the news channel's regular programs, including "Anderson Cooper 360" and "The Situation Room."

Since last September Martin also has served as senior analyst on the Tom Joyner morning show at Clear Channel Radio's urban contemporary station WGCI-FM (107.5) in Chicago. Martin will relocate to New York and the CNN studios there while he is filling in for Brown. And a spokesman for Martin said the "No Bias No Bull" show will use the same producers and stick to its regular format while Brown is away. Meanwhile, Martin is developing another program for CNN that will probably air on Saturdays. The exact format and launch date are still to be determined.

Rather miraculously, Chicago fine arts radio station WFMT-FM (98.7) raised $518,221 in its just-concluded 11-day membership drive, exceeding its announced goal of $500,000 in the midst of a severe national economic downtown.

WFMT General Manager and Executive Vice-President Steve Robinson said the station's avid and growing band of supporters are, in large measure, responsible for the astounding results. "I think people realized that in this economy it's more important than ever to support the station," said Robinson, who also admitted it helped to extend the membership drive from the typical eight days to an unprecedented 11. "Two-thirds of the way through the drive, I wasn't sure we were even going to crack $400,000," said Robinson.

The average contribution during the just-completed drive inched up slightly to around $144 from $143 last November, and the number of callers this month was about the same as in November. What also impressed Robinson was the fact that 24 percent of those who pledged in February were first-time callers and contributors -- an indication the station continues to forge close bonds with its listeners.

Now Robinson is thinking he may not go 11 days for the next membership drive in June. He believes nine or 10 days may suffice. And he wants to try a couple of new things, like offering would-be WFMT members the chance to buy paintings donated by local artists. The paintings would be hung in local galleries where would-be buyers could go to view the work -- thereby generating visibility for the artists, foot traffic for the galleries and monies for WFMT. A win-win all around.

City Hall.jpg"Wicked," the wonderful musical about the witches of Oz, was a transformative theater event in Chicago, where it ran at the Ford Center for the the Performing Arts/Oriental Theater for three-and-a-half years and grossed well in excess of $200 million. Among other things "Wicked" proved that major Broadway musicals could sustain long runs in Chicago, and that the right shows can help make the city a destination for a broad cross-section of tourists and theater afficionados.

But make no mistake. Along with the show's considerable charms, marketing was a major factor in "Wicked's" phenomenal success here. No opportunity was lost to expose the show to customers again and again and again. And every print ad that ever ran for the show ran in color to make sure the color green -- so important in the telling of the "Wicked" story -- was forever attached to the musical and its marketing game plan.

"Wicked" is gone from Chicago now, and it is not likely to return for several years. But the show last month did return to San Francisco, which hosted the musical's pre-Broadway tryout run -- long before anyone knew it would become such a popular hit with the public in America and theater capitals around the world. And just to demonstrate how popular "Wicked" now is and how happy all of San Francisco was to see the show return there, the powers-that-be behind the musical managed to pull off another astounding marketing coup: Several of the city's major landmarks, including City Hall, were lit at night entirely in green as a welcoming gesture.

Should Chicago be fortunate enough to welcome back the high-grossing "Wicked" at some point, one can only imagine how much of our city could be turned green to celebrate the occasion. Yes, it wouldn't surprise us one bit if we saw green up and down the Magnificent Mile next time "Wicked" arrives.

DDB/Chicago: An insider's take

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The ad world isn't an easy-- or often very happy -- environment to work in these days. Witness the following observations we received in a letter from an insider at DDB/Chicago:

"I am a current DDB/Chicago employee who has been troubled by recent events. In particular, the recent layoffs on Feb. 6, 2009. On that date, an entire creative group (who worked on Wrigley) was let go along with a member of the Studio (probably their best employee), as well as employees who had been with the company for over 20 years. Although I am grateful to still have my job, it troubles me that these individuals were let go while the head of the Omnicom Group awarded himself a $25 million bonus. If he and the other top managers could see who they let go, they might have reconsidered. Forgoing the $25 million bonus would have definitely saved their jobs and many, many more. There is no more loyalty for good, hard, honest work. The individuals that were laid off have worked hard, while others have not even done their job. Every time this is spoken of with the intention of changing things, it falls on deaf ears."

Of course, scenarios not unlike what this DDB insider has observed are playing out at other agencies too. And none of what is happening is going to make for a very pleasant work situation at many ad agencies in the months ahead. As long as the bottom line is what truly matters at the publicly-traded ad agency holding companies such as Omnicom, then it is the holding company managers who make sure the numbers are made that will get the big bonuses, while peons are brought in and kicked out at will to make sure the top honchos get what they believe are their just rewards.

So the plot thickens. After we reported Friday that John Condon appeared to be out as Leo Burnett/Chicago's chief creative officer and then heard nothing from Burnett after attempting to reach an agency spokesperson for official comment, Burnett now is playing coy about Condon's current and future status with the agency. But all signs indicate Condon's future won't involve running Burnett's creative department, though an agency spokeswoman maintained Monday that Condon still is the top creative today -- as this is written.

As we also reported on Friday, sources continue to say Condon may have been offered a lesser post in the agency's creative department that he could take if he were willing to swallow his ego and accept such a role. If Condon concludes his employment prospects beyond Burnett are slim to nil in the current economic environment, the dethroned creative leader just might opt for a lesser job at the agency. But it could make for an uncomfortable situation within Burnett's creative department.

The confusion at Burnett about how to handle -- from a public relations standpoint -- Condon's exit from the top creative post may stem in part from concerns about clients that hadn't yet been fully prepped for an upheaval within the agency's creative unit. It's also entirely possible Burnett doesn't yet have it's post-Condon creative leadership game plan fully in place, so it is letting Condon and his fate twist in the wind while the agency figures out where it goes from here. And believe us when we say there is a lot to figure out.

X00023_7.JPGThis just in. Longtime Chicago radio personality Garry Meier will return to the airwaves for one day only on Wednesday, Feb. 25, as he sits in with John Howell on WIND-AM (560) from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. Meier will fill in for Cisco Cotto, the other half of the "John and Cisco" morning show. Meier is best known for his stints at WLUP-FM (97.9), WLS-AM (890) and WLS-FM (94.7) with Steve Dahl and his show with Roe Conn at WLS-AM. Most recently, Meier hosted a show on WCKG-FM (n 2007. John Howell and Cisco Cotto have hosted mornings on WIND since October of 2006. Recent guests on their show have included Gov. Pat Quinn and embattled Sen. Roland Burris. WIND is owned and operated by Salem Communications.

PX038_7412_7.JPGWhere was the buzz? Granted the talk about the ads heading into the Super Bowl earlier this month was less than usual. But the hype about the commercials slated for the 81st annual Academy Awards telecast was even more low key, if that's possible. Sure, we're in an economic tailspin. But why should that keep the ad world from at least trying to generate some excitement about their work for a big television event like the Oscars.

Of course, when we finally saw most of the TV commercials that ran during Sunday's Oscar telecast, we fully understood why the talk was minimal. Except for True North nut snacks' mini-documentary spots (including a nice tribute to Chicago's Lisa Nigro, founder of the Inspiration Cafe), the commercials were hugely underwhelming. MasterCard, which has impressed before with some story-driven spots, sought to emulate its successes of years past, but didn't quite. And the Coca-Cola work totally fizzled, especially in comparison to the delightful "Heist" spot on the Super Bowl.

But for us, there was much to take note of in the multiple J.C. Penney executions. If what we saw on the Oscars is any indication, the retailer seems to be returning to formulaic stand-and-model advertising -- this after the retailer's ad agency Saatchi & Saatchi/New York tried to push the department store chain's advertising in a phony, pretentious high-concept direction. We didn't think that nonsense would last long, and sure enough, it appears the company is shifting towards something far more pedestrian.

Blame it on the economy, but this kind of advertising, as mundane as it may be, probably speaks to the core Penney's shopper more effectively than that weirdo revolving house commercial Saatchi foisted on the world when it took over the Penney's account from DDB/Chicago.

PX236_3299_7.JPGAs we all know, ratings matter in television. A lot. So there was some reason for ABC, the network home for the 81st annual Academy Awards, to be happy about what happened in Chicago, where the ratings for the three-and-a-half hour slog of a telecast actually improved 11 percent year over year from a 28.5 in 2008 to a 31.6 Sunday night.

No word yet on how the show did nationally, but it appears the ratings improvement in Chicago may be attributable to a couple of factors that had nothing to do with the quality of the awards show itself, which we personally found severely lacking. First, as at least one television executive told us, people are simply staying home more at night now, given the economic downturn. Consequently, more people may have been sitting around looking for something to watch. Second, the other networks didn't aggressively counterprogram the Oscar telecast, which left viewers lacking any cable options little else that was enticing.

Though the Academy Awards producers tried hard to deliver a show with a lot of different twists, the final product failed -- in the worst way -- to dazzle. Hugh Jackman lacked his typical charisma. And the host was used very sparingly, except during some hideously-conceived production numbers, especially the medley featuring a cast of who knows how many poorly-utilized dancers. Plus this year's Oscar winners, while no doubt talented performers, lacked that always-welcome element of surprise when they came on stage to accept their statuettes. And who can explain why so many of the evening's video sequences were shown on screens inside screens that badly diminished their impact.

All in all, this Oscar telecast left so much to be desired. But hey, the ratings were up in Chicago.

John Condon is believed to be out as Leo Burnett/Chicago's chief creative officer, informed sources report. A Burnett spokesperson could not be immediately reached for comment.

The agency's top creative leader was evidently tossed to show the agency is supposedly serious about turning itself around and boosting its image, which has taken a major beating in recent years. Just days ago, Burnett Worldwide CEO Tom Bernardin and Burnett/Chicago President Rich Stoddart were busy telling trade publication Advertising Age about the agency's so-called "spectacular" 2008, but the year apparently wasn't spectacular enough to keep the agency -- one of Chicago's largest -- from dumping its top creative executive.

But truth-be-told, Condon was pretty much a non-starter from the get-go in Burnett's top creative post, though he had been with the agency for nearly two decades when he got the job. Stoddart anointed Condon chief creative officer after long-time creative leader Cheryl Berman announced she was vacating the position in 2005. After taking control of what was then a 200-person creative department, Condon mostly dropped from sight, and the agency's creative output seemed to slump badly at times. Perhaps the agency reached it lowest ebb creatively when it was handed the Washington Mutual ad account and then unveiled an imbecilic campaign with stodgy bankers in a holding pen acting like total stooges.

Condon, of course, also presided over several downsizings of Burnett's creative unit, as the agency continued to lose accounts and Bernardin and Stoddart seemed clueless about how to return the agency to its glory days. At least one source suggested Burnett had offered to keep Condon around to work on its Kellogg business -- the one client Condon seemed most interested in and the one with which he had perhaps the most success. But it appears Condon is gone for good.

Now the question becomes who will replace Condon and take on the herculean task of lifting Burnett out of a deep, dark hole. Word is the agency probably will look for a hotshot outside the shop who can bring some new energy and fresh perspective to Burnett and its problems. Burnett's Global Chief Creative Officer Mark Tutssel is likely to have a say in who that person is, though Tutssel hasn't been a major presence in Chicago for years now, and one wonders how much of a feel he has for what is happening at Burnett and for the management overhaul the place so desperately needs.

X00205_7.JPGIf we were so inclined, we could probably spend most of each working day just trying to keep track of all the shenanigans that come with being an outrageous, outspoken mid-morning talk show host like Mancow Muller, who now does he gig with Pat Cassidy at WLS-AM (890). But we don't have all day. And we can only take so much!

Still, we wanted to advise our readers that Muller and Cassidy do plan to give a Florida college student and McDonald's worker named Julio Osegueda his big audition as a radio disc jockey during Thursday's show on WLS. Osegueda is the young man who caught Barack Obama's eye last week at a town hall meeting in Florida. And if you're into collecting unusual images, you also might want to seek out a copy of the February issue of a radio industry trade magazine called Talkers. On the cover is a large image of the Dalai Lama in India reading an issue of Talkers on the back cover of which is an ad promoting Muller's WLS gig. Bizarre.

KF-CorpID-FINAL.jpgWhen we got our first look at Kraft Foods new corporate brand identity Tuesday, our first thought was "why?"

Then it struck us that the new identity seems inspired by the recently re-imagined smiley Pepsi logo, as well as those flowery whatcha-ma-hoozies that we can only describe as decorative Swedish kitsch. But after talking to a Kraft spokeswoman about the new identity, we quickly realized Kraft and one of its roster ad agencies Nicor/London actually spent a lot of time and money talking to thousands of Kraft employees all over the world before someone sat down and painstakingly designed this new visual that is being introduced along with a new corporate theme line "Make Today Delicious."

So far, Kraft says it doesn't plan to smack the new logo or theme line on packaging for any of its myriad products or put it in advertising, but the company will use it on the corporate Web site and for internal purposes. Apparently, Kraft CEO Irene Rosenfeld believes this new identity will help every one of the tens of thousands of Kraft employees focus more intently on doing a better job of turning around the packaged foods behemoth -- a process that is now entering year three of what was intended as three-year effort.

We have no problem with rethinking corporate identities, but it seems a strange thing to be focusing so much effort on at a time when so much other work needs to be done at companies like Pepsi and, yes, Kraft. And, more important, we wonder whether such a brand image redo is really going to help employee morale all that much. Kraft employees are paid good money to do their jobs. Things such as this new corporate identity aren't essential to getting any of their respective jobs done well.

This new Kraft logo may in fact provide a moment's distraction as everyone at the company thinks for a few seconds about how they are going to make their day as delicious as Rosenfeld wants it to be. But at the end of the day, we just hope everyone Rosenfeld has hired has done more of what Kraft really needs to do to be a competitive packaged foods company once again.

SX00003_9.JPGDr. Laura Berman is starting a new radio show on the Oprah & Friends Channel on Sirius XM satellite radio. Called "Better in Bed," the show premieres Wednesday, Feb. 18, and will air five days a week from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. central time on XM Channel 156 and Sirius Channel 195. In a statement, Berman said of her new show: "My goal is to give listeners all of the resources they need to have the love, intimacy and satisfaction they want in and out of the bed. Whether it is sharing the newest science on love and attraction, counseling couples in crisis or answering listener questions, this live show is going to be energetic, fun and informative."

In conjunction with the new radio show start-up, Berman said she will discontinue her Sun-Times column and her regular Friday morning segment on NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5. Her last Sun-Times column will be next Tuesday.

White.jpgTelevision legend Betty White is coming home.

The Oak Park native and five-time Emmy Award winner will be the guest of honor at a brunch on Mar. 15, in the Empire Room at Chicago's Palmer House Hotel. The event will celebrate Women's History Month and benefit Chicago's Museum of Broadcast Communications. The Chicago Chapter of American Women in Radio & Television is co-sponsoring the event. AWRT began as a national organization in 1951, around the same time that White's extraordinarily rich television career started.

Melissa Forman, morning personality on WLIT-FM (93.9), will host the public question-and-answer portion of the brunch. ME-TV will provide video highlights of White's career, including clips of "Life with Elizabeth," "Mary Tyler Moore Show", "Golden Girls" and "My Name Is Earl," among others.

Tickets to the brunch range in price from $50 for individuals to $500 for a table of ten. Tickets can be ordered at www.museum.tv or by calling 312-822-0512.

KIP.jpgKip Lewis is the newest on-air talent on "SportsNite," Comcast SportsNet's nightly sports news program. Lewis, who begins his on-air duties on Mar. 2, will primarily handle on-site reporting on a variety of Chicago's collegiate and high school sports teams. He will also occasionally co-anchor "SportsNite." Lewis most recently was a weekend sports anchor and weekday sports reporter for WRTV-TV, the ABC affiliate in Indianapolis. Lewis also is a former professional football player in CFL, WFL and a free agent signee for the Detroit Lions.

Lewis joins a "SportsNite" on-air team that also includes Pat Boyle, Mark Schanowski, Chris Boden, Gail Fischer, Chuck Garfien, Sarah Kustok, Josh Mora and Luke Stuckmeyer.

Window to the World Communications is adding a new digital TV channel to its portfolio of television and radio outlets, which include public television station WTTW-Channel 11, WTTWHD, Create, the Spanish language station Vme and radio station WFMT-FM (98.7). Scheduled to go live on Mar. 30, the new digital channel is called WTTW Prime. The new channel is intended as an alternative to WTTW's regular programming, and will include repeat showings of some of WTTW's favorite programming, including "Check, Please!" and "Antiques Roadshow. WTTW Prime also will be an outlet for a number of public affairs programs and exclusive specials and series, in addition to new programs such as "Exchange" with Daljit Dhaliwal and "Inside Washington."

The addition of WTTW Prime is not expected to add much in the way of overhead to Window To The World's television operations. WTTW's Vice-President of Content Dan Soles will make most of the decisions about what programs will air on WTTW Prime. While the added digital outlet won't entail new staffing or added costs to produce programs, it does offer the potential for additional income if WTTW can find new sponsors to underwrite the programming on WTTW Prime or possibly increase the sponsorship fee for existing WTTW sponsors of shows that also air on the new digital outlet.

WTTW Prime will air on 11.2 for viewers with converter boxes or over-the-air digital TVs, and through Comcast on Channel 243.

It's definitely what we'd describe as painting in broad strokes. Very broad strokes. O-Cedar, the hardy little company that's been making mops and brooms for over a century, was looking for ways to spread the word about a spring promotion that includes 50 free music downloads with the purchase of a mop or broom. The company turned to Winnetka-based Bandwidth Marketing Group for some up-to-the-minute suggestions about how to use viral marketing to get out the message about the spring offer.

Bandwidth obliged with a video that has just been posted on YouTube. The video in questions does indeed show artist Allen Addington using several brooms to paint a large image of the composer Beethoven. Through the magic of editing, the entire process of creation takes a mere 43 seconds in the video, but we suspect it took somewhat longer in real time. However long it took to paint, we must say the finished portrait looks great.

And to think it was all done with brooms. O-Cedar should be happy. Beethoven probably would be too. And we know O-Cedar customers will be thrilled to get the 50 song downloads along with their highly utilitarian broom. Or mop.

"Party!" Now there's an exhortation that is sure to get the attention of a lot of local ad agency professionals who have suffered through a lot of miserable weather and agency downsizing in recent weeks. And there it was at the top of an open house invite emailed to us today. The man who invited us (yes, even us) to the office-warming event next week is David Stevenson, who is apparently anxious to show off the new digs of the agency he founded called Two by Four/Chicago. Among the shop's most high-profile clients, locally anyway, is the Chicago Bears. Two by Four, as Stevenson will tell you, used to be the lead agency for the Chicago White Sox, but then they weren't. And we'll say no more. It's a sensitive subject for Stevenson.

Still losing the White Sox account hasn't stopped Stevenson and his agency from moving on up and around in the local ad world to new offices at 10 N. Dearborn St., in the heart of the Loop. Several Chicago ad industry sources who have visited the offices told us how cool the new Two by Four space is. There's even reportedly a Sun-Times newspaper honor box at the entrance. How neat.

Though he always seems to be busy with one client or another, Stevenson may have a little more time over the next few months to enjoy his new office space, because he has passed responsibility for organizing the next Chicago Creative Club awards show to two new leaders: Matt Brennock of Fusion Idea Lab/Chicago and Liz Ross of Tribal DDB/Chicago. We know Stevenson worked hard to make a success of the 2008 awards show honoring the best creative work from Chicago ad agencies, and the event really was a vast improvement over the previous several sorry CCC shows. Now let's hope Brennock and Ross can match what Stevenson made happen.

In the meantime, let's party!

It's hard work being a high-profile on-air radio talent. Just ask Mancow Muller, who's trying with each new day to fully sort out his complicated on-air relationship with his mid-morning co-host Pat Cassidy, even as both of them work on tweaking their talents to comfortably fit the mold at news/talk WLS-AM (890). All of which is partly why Muller called to tell us he is trying to organize an on-air DJ audition for one Julio Osegueda, a previously unheralded Florida resident who is trying to juggle his responsibilities as a McDonald's worker with classes at college, where he is studying communications.

Osegueda would probably have gone on doing what he does without anyone, including Muller, paying much attention had he not caught the eye of one President Barack Obama, who singled the young man out in a crowd earlier this week and let him talk in front of a microphone. With his arms flailing, Osegueda put on quite a show for the President, who for reasons we can't fathom seemed to conclude the young man had some genuine communications skills that might help him achieve his career goals.

Which brings us to Muller, and his efforts to get Osegueda in a radio studio to find out just how much talent the man has as a disc jockey and what he could achieve. Yes, it's mostly a stunt, but Muller needs something new to keep himself and the public entertained should his current fascination with Drew Peterson start to wane. Last we heard from Muller, he hadn't finalized a firm date for Osegueda's on-air audition. But it could happen. Any minute.

Meanwhile, we'll let the public draw its own conclusions about another of Muller's auditions already in progress, namely that of exiled former WMAQ-Channel 5 reporter Amy Jacobson. "I need a female sidekick," said Muller. Could she be the one?

The Chicago Urban League is producing a new half-hour weekly television show that will air Sunday mornings starting Feb. 22 on Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32, with an encore airing on WPWR-Channel 50. Called "NextTV," the entirely locally-produced program is designed to showcase the transformation of African-Americans as they grow their businesses, makeover their careers, enter the job market and discover the tools needed to achieve financial security. Urban League CEO and President Cheryle Jackson is credited with spearheading the drive to get the show produced and on the air. To view a video preview of the show, visit the Chicago Urban League Web site.

Knowles ,Jason.jpgTo replace general assignment reporter Dan Ponce, who split last month to pursue a singing career, ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7 has reached into the reservoir of talent in its own news department to find Ponce's successor. Starting on Saturday, Jason Knowles joins the ranks of on-air reporters at the station with the city's top-rated newscasts. Knowles had been at WLS since 2004, working primarily behind the scenes as a special projects producer. Before coming to WLS, however, Knowles worked on air at several other television stations, including ABC-owned WTVG-TV in Toledo, Ohio, and WKAG-TV in Hopkinsville, Ky.

Per WLS President and General Manager Emily Barr, she and WLS News Director Jennifer Graves felt Knowles was ready to do more in front of the camera for the station. But just to be sure, they gave him an assignment one recent Saturday to cover a shooting incident. They liked the results, and Knowles now has the general assignment gig, having beat out some 200 other reporter talents from around the country who submitted tapes to Graves.

Barr said Knowles initially will do news stories for the station's early morning and mid-day news reports. He also will have the opportunity to fill in for reporters working the evening newscasts when they are on vacation or otherwise engaged.

Lachky, Bob.jpgThe other shoe just dropped.

In a move that is sure to reverberate in the worst way throughout the offices of beleaguered DBB/Chicago, Bob Lachky said today that he is leaving his post as chief creative officer at Anheuser-Busch at the end of February, bringing to an end a 20-year stint at America's most prominent brewery. In an interview Tuesday, Lachky said he is still mulling what he wants to do next, but his job of overseeing creative development of advertising for A-B's portfolio of beer brands will not be filled. Instead, that job will be shared by several people in A-B's revamped marketing department, including Vice President, Marketing Keith Levy; Vice President, Trademark Brands Gregg Billmeyer, and Vice President Import, Craft & Specialty Group Andy Goeler.

Lachky's exit comes just a week after the 2009 Super Bowl, where for the first time in a while, none of the seven commercials A-B telecast during the game won USA Today's much-referenced Ad Meter popularity contest. Six of the seven spots that A-B debuted during the game were created by DDB, where Lachky was an account executive for six years before jumping to A-B.

With Lachky's A-B job now being decentralized, it remains to be seen how DDB's relationship with A-B will play out. Because of Lachky's previous ties to DDB, many observers have long maintained he heavily favored the Chicago shop, even though much of its creative for Budweiser and Bud Light hasn't been especially fresh or attention-grabbing the past several years. And the agency failed to make A-B's hugely expensive Bud.tv online venture a must-visit destination.

With A-B now under InBev's control, the Belgium-based brewing giant may decide it wants to shake up the St. Louis brewery's agency roster, which also includes Cannonball in St. Louis, LatinWorks in Austin, Tex., and Euro RSCG in Chicago. The exit of Lachky paves the way for that possible eventuality. But on Tuesday, Lachky and others at the brewery insisted DDB is still the lead agency and would continue in that role for the foreseeable future. If DDB were to hold on to some or all of its A-B business, InBev, which is known for running a tight ship, could also try to get more work out of the agency for less money.

But even as DDB's relationship with A-B is taking a potentially disturbing turn, much more remains unsettled within DDB, where a year after the suicide of creative leader Paul Tilley, agency leader Rick Carpenter has yet to name a new chief creative officer. Sources say the funds needed to cover the salary of a new creative honcho have been tied up in payments to Tilley's widow over the past year.

Lachky's departure also comes just a month after the abrupt retirement of another powerful A-B marketing executive Tony Ponturo. As recently as last fall, trade publication Advertising Age indicated Anheuser-Busch's top marketing executives had been resigned by InBev and were paid bonuses to continue on with the company. But obviously, things have changed at A-B.

It very well may go down in journalism annals as one of the most pathetic efforts at damage control ever. We're talking, of course, about Leo Burnett Worldwide CEO Tom Bernardin's chat with trade magazine Advertising Age on the occasion of his fifth anniversary at the agency. Rich Stoddart, Bernardin's minion in charge of the flagship Chicago office, participated too, ostensibly serving as chief cheerleader.

Much was made in the interview of Bernardin's having set up a global management team at Burnett, but management of any sort, sadly, seems to be the very weakest link in Bernardin's skill set, whatever that may be. We need only point out the period of time not that long ago when Bernardin brought in Juan Carlos Ortiz from Burnett's Latin American operations and set him up as co-leader at Burnett's Chicago office. As ill-advised as that co-leadership scheme was to begin with, Bernardin took it one step further and actually put Ortiz and Stoddart together at desks in the same office. It was a laughable scenario that couldn't -- and didn't -- last long. Needless to say, Bernardin failed to mention that development when he was talking with Ad Age about his dubious managerial achievements at Burnett.

Bernardin and Stoddart can try with all their might to spin their way out of a bad situation at Burnett. But the most recent round of at least 75 layoffs at Burnett and the costly settlement of --and ugly fallout from -- a lawsuit alleging the agency overbilled the United States Army are still fresh in our mind. Bernardin and Stoddart should be confronting the grim realities of where Burnett finds itself at the start of 2009. Instead they're trying to proclaim themselves heroes. It's a travesty.

The Wm. Wrigley, Jr., Co. announced Monday that it was suspending its Chris Brown-driven Doublemint campaign after news leaked out during the Grammy awards that the singer had been arrested for battery of a woman, possibly girlfriend and fellow singer Rhianna.

The campaign features an R&B groove by the singer while a dancer performs various moves with a pack of gum, its bright green package standing out against a dark background.

Wrigley stopped short of saying they will drop the troubled R&B star completely, saying it would suspend any current advertising or any related marketing until the situation is resolved, adding that the 19-year-old should be "afforded the same due process as any citizen."

A company statement expresses concern about what it calls "serious allegations made against Chris Brown."

How much grimmer can it get? Unconfirmed reports have reached us that DDB/Chicago laid off more employees on Friday. The actual number axed was impossible to come by, but one reliable source said it was at least "a handful of creatives." If that proves to be the case, these creatives would be exiting from a DDB department that has been without a leader since Paul Tilley jumped from a hotel window and committed suicide nearly a year ago. DDB is not alone in shedding staff, of course. A number of agencies that have reported slumps in client spending are cutting staff too. Leo Burnett/Chicago just cut at least 75 people across several departments. The problem in Chicago has been made worse by the absence of major new business wins at most local agencies. And all eyes are now focused on DDB/Chicago, in particular, to see whether Anheuser-Busch InBev will start to make any changes in its agency roster soon. DDB has been the lead agency on the Budweiser and Bud Light brands for many years.

We wondered why Howard Draft has been keeping such a low profile at DraftFCB. Now we know. Turns out the man who masterminded the merger of Draft and Foote, Cone & Belding was planning to shift responsibility for day-to-day operations of the merged entity from himself to Laurence Boschetto, who will now shift from DraftFCB president and chief operating officer to chief executive officer, while also retaining the title of president. Howard Draft, who had been CEO, now becomes executive chairman and Jonathan Harries, the agency's worldwide chief creative officer, adds the title of vice-chairman.

An agency spokesman said Howard Draft won't entirely disappear upstairs with this change in titles. He will still be involved in the strategic evolution of the shop, while he spends more time schmoozing with clients -- something his CEO responsibilities didn't allow as much of as he would have liked.

But no matter how much Howard Draft and the rest of the top executives shift around their job responsibilities, the fact remains DraftFCB has yet to fully rebound from the horrendous WalMart debacle of 2006, which saw the agency win and then lose the discount retailer's nearly $600-million ad account in a matter of weeks after questions were raised about how the account was won. The dark cloud left by that ugly turn of events will take a long, long time to dissipate. We'll see if turning over DraftFCB's reigns to Boschetto really helps move things along.

Brian Conley, a Knoxville real estate developer, has reportedly made an offer for the entire Creative Loafing Inc. chain of six alternative weeklies, including the Chicago Reader. Conley has offered $13.3 million.

That's about one third of the debt that drove Creative Loafing to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in September, 2008.

Seven veterans of the Chicago broadcasting industry are headed for the Silver Circle. At an Apr. 24 event at the Millennium Knickerbocker Hotel Chicago, the Chicago/Midwest Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences will induct seven 2009 honorees into its Silver Circle, which honors outstanding individuals who have made significant contributions to their local television market.

Those slated to join the Silver Circle this year are: Elizabeth Brackett, WTTW-Channel 11 correspondent, host and reporter; Marcia Danits, CBS-owned WBBM-Channel 2 and CBS network courtroom artist; Paul Davis, veteran broadcaster and newsroom administrator; Arne Harris (posthumous), former Tribune Co.-owned WGN Chicago Cubs producer and director; Robin Robinson, Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32 news anchor; James Stricklin, former NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5 news cameraman and documentary videographer, and Jerry Taft, ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7 meteorologist. A list of all previous Silver Circle honorees can be found at www.chicagoemmyonline.org.

Marti Barletta, a prominent Chicago-based author and consultant who specializes in marketing to woman, handed out a scorecard to the men and women with whom she was watching the Super Bowl last Sunday. She collected the cards at the end of the game and tried to discern if there were any notable differences in the way the men and women attending her party rated the ads. She discovered both sexes pretty much agreed about which ads were funny and which flopped. Barletta's partygoers laughed at the Pepsi Max male-focused "I'm Good" spot, but at the end of the spot, they couldn't make the connection between all the antics and the cola. Two popular commercials with the Barletta crowd were the Anheuser-Busch Clydesdale spots "Stick" and "Circus." And Coca-Cola's charming "Heist," which showed insects stealing a bottle of cola, was deemed visually "gorgeous." "Heist" was also praised for delivering on the "Open Happiness" tag line. Coke Zero's "Mean Troy," however, got a big thumbs down from the Barletta crowd. But the big winner was E-Trade's baby spot, which featured a singing sidekick this year. Barletta's survey participants found it both "funny and heartwarming." Maybe. But the concept was recycled.

This just in. Tribune Broadcasting said Wednesday it intends to "integrate" the operations of its 24-hour cable news station CLTV with Chicago's very own WGN-Channel 9. Of course, in this day and age, "integrate" is one of those euphemisms that typically get trotted out when a company is looking to do some serious downsizing. A Tribune spokesman confirmed that integrating the staffs of the two stations is likely to result in some layoffs, but exactly how many has not yet been determined. Also still to be worked out is how WGN's unionized on-air talent will work alongside CLTV's non-unionized anchors and reporters. Tribune may try to cut a deal with the union that would allow on-air talent at both stations to move back and forth between the two television outlets. But when all the integration dust has settled by the summer of this year, Tribune Broadcasting says CLTV will continue to operate as stand-alone channel.

PX00049_7.JPGWe could almost hear the collective sigh of relief and renewed hope coming from inside the Chicago 2016 offices when Barack Obama was elected the nation's 44th President last November. Almost immediately, the powers-that-be within the local Olympic bid organization trying to bring the 2016 Summer Olympics to Chicago seemed to fixate ever more intently on Obama as the man who could get sports' biggest event to the Windy City.

And from what we've heard about the goings-on inside Chicago 2016 since Obama's election and subsequent inauguration, the President continues to be viewed as the most potent weapon in the city's Olympic bid arsenal. That was underscored in an e-mail we received this week from the Chicago 2016 press office that was comprised of Chicago 2016 Chairman and CEO Pat Ryan's rather fawning "reflections" on Obama and his inauguration, which Ryan and his family traveled to Washington, D.C. to witness. Among the things noted in Ryan's remarks was the generous face time he and his family got with Obama while in Washington. "You could see his (Obama's) ability to directly communicate one-on-one," said Ryan, adding "I got a strong sense that he is going to continue to relate really well to the American people as President."

On the matter of what the Obama presidency means to Chicago 2016, Ryan said Obama "sees himself as a unifier, and in that sense, the President's agenda and Chicago 2016's message are completely aligned." Ryan went on to note that Obama is "an athlete, so for him sport is personal, as it is for all of us at the bid."

It may be the creepiest thing in the 2009 Super Bowl of Advertising. We didn't catch the full import of the moment initially, but the eerie irony of the visual gag at the end of the Bud Light spot called "Meeting" can't be ignored.

We're talking about the moment when the young executive and his chair are seen crashing through an office window and hurtling to the ground. The spot was created by DDB/Chicago, which for the past year has been operating in the shadow of the tragic suicide of Paul Tilley, the agency's managing director of creative. Tilley jumped to his death in February of last year from a hotel window near the DDB offices in downtown Chicago.

Who knows if the DDB creatives who came up with "Meeting" were consciously or subconsciously channeling the horrific details of Tilley's suicide. But there the spot is, for all to ponder, and seen in a certain light, it's no joke. Given its prominent position in the post-kickoff ad slot, "Meeting," by the way, was not a huge hit with ad critics or the public.

While we're on the subject of Tilley's death, sources suggested last week that one reason DDB may have been so slow in naming a new chief creative officer could have something to do with payments the agency has reportedly been making to Tilley's widow. There were rumblings those might be coming to an end soon and that the agency would then have funds freed up to pay a new chief creative officer.

Whatever the case, DDB needs to move quickly. With Anheuser-Busch having come up short in USA Today's Ad Meter rankings this year and with the brewery now fully under new ownership, it's possible changes in A-B's ad agency roster could be in the offing. For years, A-B has been one of DDB's largest and most lucrative clients. It's a huge chunk of business the beleaguered shop cannot afford to lose.


So what did the budding MBAs of the world think about the 2009 Super Bowl of Advertising. For five years, Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management has been conducting its own Super Bowl ad review with a group of its MBA students.

We haven't always agreed (rarely in fact) with this group's assessment of the ads, primarily because creativity seems to be mostly an irrelevant factor for these reviewers. We suspect that's because most of these people don't have a creative bone in their body, so they prefer to assess advertising based on other factors with which they are more comfortable. In the case of the the Kellogg crowd, we're told they rank the Super Bowl ads using a strategic academic framework known as ADPLAN. The acronym, developed by Kellogg faculty, instructs student critics to grade ads based on Attention, Distinction, Positioning, Linkage, Amplification and Net equity. As we said, creativity seems to have gotten lost in all of the graduate school's managerial mumbo-jumbo.

But we digress. With the help of this ADPLAN framework, the Kellogg students this year ranked Monster.com's "Double Take" spot as the best ad in the Super Bowl. The Kellogg folks also liked ads for Doritos, E-Trade and Denny's. "This year's Super Bowl featured hard-hitting advertising," said Tim Calkins, Kellogg professor of clinical marketing. He must have been thinking, in particular, of the Doritos spot that featured the hard hit to the man's privates.


So what did the budding MBAs of the world think about the 2009 Super Bowl of Advertising. For five years, Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management has been conducting its own Super Bowl ad review with a group of its MBA students.

We haven't always agreed (rarely in fact) with this group's assessment of the ads, primarily because creativity seems to be mostly an irrelevant factor for these reviewers. We suspect that's because most of these people don't have a creative bone in their body, so they prefer to assess advertising based on other factors with which they are more comfortable. In the case of the the Kellogg crowd, we're told they rank the Super Bowl ads using a strategic academic framework known as ADPLAN. The acronym, developed by Kellogg faculty, instructs student critics to grade ads based on Attention, Distinction, Positioning, Linkage, Amplification and Net equity. As we said, creativity seems to have gotten lost in all of the graduate school's managerial mumbo-jumbo.

But we digress. With the help of this ADPLAN framework, the Kellogg students this year ranked Monster.com's "Double Take" spot as the best ad in the Super Bowl. The Kellogg folks also liked ads for Doritos, E-Trade and Denny's. "This year's Super Bowl featured hard-hitting advertising," said Tim Calkins, Kellogg professor of clinical marketing. He must have been thinking, in particular, of the Doritos spot that featured the hard hit to the man's privates.

Let history note that the King of Beers was finally dethroned during the 2009 Super Bowl of Advertising. Yes, for the first time in quite a while, Anheuser-Busch didn't win USA Today's absurd Ad Meter contest that determines which of the Super Bowl ads was most favored by a small group of anonymous people sequestered in a room.

We certainly weren't surprised A-B got beat. The brewery's ads have been losing a lot of their punch the past couple of years. But by the same token, we weren't exactly overjoyed to find that an inanely scuzzy Doritos spot beat out all other competition in the Ad Meter ratings.

The winning Doritos commercial is one of those efforts that makes you realize -- whether you want to or not -- where our mass culture is headed and why advertising should only be handled by professionals who presumably have some respect for the brands with which they are entrusted. The winning Doritos spot, as most people know by now, was created by amateurs who seem to have a thing for playing with crystal balls and hurling them at people's genitals.

That such an effort made it on to the Super Bowl was infuriating enough. That the commercial was raved about in some circles should have any self-respecting professionals left in advertising screaming bloody-murder at the top of their lungs. But we doubt anyone has the guts for that.

It's not exactly a "Heidi" moment, but Super Bowl viewers in the Tuscon-area were inflicted with several second of full-frontal male nudity from an adult channel Sunday night. It's unclear if the bevy of viewer outrage directed at KVOA was because of the perversion or the interrupted play of a closely contested game.

After you've dad time to wade through the $409 million in commercials aired during the Super Bowl, take some time to pick through the history of Super Bowl advertising and see where you think this year's efforts rate.

What did you think of the Super Bowl ads this year?

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About the blogger

Lewis Lazare has written the Media Mix column for the Chicago Sun-Times for the past seven and a half years.

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