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

March 2009 Archives

Chesney Corona Final Screen.jpgIt was a marketing match made in beer heaven. And it's back for an encore. We're talking, of course, about Corona beer's sponsorship of country crooner Kenny Chesney. As it did last summer, Corona has signed on to sponsor Chesney's latest tour, dubbed "Sun City Carnival Tour." To promote the newest sponsorship deal, longtime Corona ad agency Cramer-Krasselt/Chicago has produced a new Corona spot that has Chesney in his blue chair on a moonlit beach in what we are led to believe is Mexico. Ever so softly, Chesney is heard playing his guitar and singing "Beer In Mexico." His message reaches a group of revelers situated further down the beach, who raise their Coronas in a toast to Chesney and, presumably, the brew they are drinking. The new spot debuts on the Academy of Country Music Awards telecast on Sunday, April 5, on CBS.

RPM Advertising/Chicago turns 15 on April Fool's Day. The agency started in 1994 as a three-man operation in a downtown Chicago loft apartment. It now occupies offices in the west loop, has agency billings approaching $50 million and employs over 90 people. RPM also has a roster of more than 30 clients, many of which are casino-related. They include the Turtle Creek Casino and Grand Traverse Resort, both in Michigan. The agency also worked on the $550-million Horseshoe casino relaunch last year in northwest Indiana. To celebrate its 15 years in business, RPM has just debuted a new Web site at www.rpmadv.com

DraftFCB/Chicago has been named agency of record for Sharpie, EXPO and Prismacolor brands of writing instruments and art supplies, which are all part of the Newell Rubbermaid Office Products unit. Sharpie is the familiar maker of permanent markers and pens. EXPO is a brand of dry erase markers and accessories. Prismacolor produces art supplies.

DraftFCB's initial campaign will include print, TV, retail and digital work and is expected to launch this spring. A television campaign will follow in the summer. Speaking of the decision to go with DraftFCB, Sally Grimes, global vice president of marketing for parent Newell Rubbermaid, said the agency "delivered a powerful creative idea with an eye for tight integration."

PX016_392C_7.JPGYou gotta love those Chicago Blackhawks. Apparently more and more people who watch their games on TV do. Comcast SportsNet/Chicago, the television home for the most televised Blackhawks games this season, delivered its highest Blackhawks ratings ever last Friday evening (March 27) -- a 2.13 rating for live coverage of the team's home game again the New Jersey Devils. The rating peaked during the 9:45 p.m. quarter-hour at a 2.6. The 2.13 for last Friday's game represents the highest rating since Oct. 5, 2006, when the Comcast telecast of a game against Nashville delivered a 1.95 rating.

PX016_392C_7.JPGYou gotta love those Chicago Blackhawks. Apparently more and more people who watch their games on TV do. Comcast SportsNet/Chicago, the television home for the most televised Blackhawks games this season, delivered its highest Blackhawks ratings ever last Friday evening (March 27) -- a 2.13 rating for live coverage of the team's home game again the New Jersey Devils. The rating peaked during the 9:45 p.m. quarter-hour at a 2.6. The 2.13 for last Friday's game represents the highest rating since Oct. 5, 2006, when the Comcast telecast of a game against Nashville delivered a 1.95 rating.

Euro RSCG/Chicago has expanded its relationship with Sprint by being named the telecommunications organization's digital marketing agency of record. The expanded relationship takes effect immediately and is in addition to the agency's relationship as Sprint's direct marketing agency of record.

Work will begin immediately and spans email, microsite and landing page efforts. In addition to the creative development of these programs, Sprint will look to Euro RSCG to develop strategy and digital planning, programming, information architecture and testing.

"Our partners at Euro RSCG have done great things with our direct marketing efforts, and we look forward to similar successes in the digital space," said Bronson Broockerd with Sprint.

United States Internet advertising revenue continued strong in 2008, topping $23 billion for the year, according to the 2008 Internet Advertising Revenue Report, released Monday by the Interactive Advertising Bureau and PricewaterhouseCoopers. Full-year revenues totaled a record $23.4 billion, exceeding 2007's performance (itself the former record of $21.2 billion) by $2.2 billion or 10.6 percent. Fourth-quarter online revenues of $6.1 billion mark the first time the interactive advertising industry achieved and surpassed $6 billion in a single quarter. The quarterly figure represents a $154 million, or 2.6 percent increase, from fourth quarter of 2007, which had revenues of $5.9 billion.

This is the fifth consecutive year of record results. Search remains the main driver of revenue growth, according to the report, showing a 19.8 percent increase over 2007. Digital video, however, more than doubled its revenue with an increase to $734 million from $324 million in 2007.

The growth in online advertising in 2008 came despite an overall weakness in advertising spending. Nielsen has reported that United States advertising for the full year 2008 was down 2.6 percent compared to 2007.

Judd Sirott, nephew of veteran local broadcaster Bob Sirott, has been named host of Cubs Central Pregame, heard before every Chicago Cubs broadcast on WGN-AM (720). Sirott will assist Pat Hughes and Ron Santo in the Cubs radio booth, handling one inning of play-by-play each game and updating the Major League Baseball scoreboard. He also will contribute to Cubs Postgame, including Cubs Plus, the expanded postgame show heard after most games.

Sirott has been the host of Chicago Blackhawks Pregame, Postgame and intermission reports on WGN, a role in which he will continue in addition to his new Cubs duties. Prior to joining WGN, Judd Sirott called National Hockey League games nationally for HDNet for the two years. Previously, Sirott, 39, was the voice of the American Hockey League's Chicago Wolves from the team's inception in 1994 to 2006.

WYCC-Channel 20 will switch to all-digital broadcasting on April 16, 2009. Channel 20's all-digital launch is earlier than previously announced and 58 days prior to the federal deadline for all stations to go digital. The station said it will continue to broadcast its regular programming on Channel 20 and will develop expanded programming on digital channels. The digital format provides heightened picture and sound quality.,As an added benefit, digital-only broadcasting will allow WYCC to be more environmentally friendly. The analog shut-off will drop the station's carbon footprint from 700 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually to just over 100 tons.

The A.C. Nielsen company has reported that as of March 15, 96.5 percent of Chicago area viewers were equipped to received the federally-mandated digital signals. WYCC will continue to promote awareness of the national changeover to all-digital broadcasting to help get out the word to those who have not yet made provisions for the change.

WYCC-Channel 20 is a public broadcast station operated by -- and licensed to -- the City Colleges of Chicago.

The Chicago White Sox have tapped Flowers Communications Group to assist in leading the team's multi-cultural public relations initiatives. "The African-American and Latino communities in Chicago have shown a strong tradition of support for the White Sox," said Scott Reifert, White Sox vice president of communications. "By working closely with Flowers, we hope to continue to grow interest in the White Sox with these two important fan bases."

FCG will assist with White Sox targeted outreach programs, including the second annual Double-Duty Classic (July 10), the team's tribute to the Negro Leagues, Dia del Deporte (May 9) and the team's annual Latino family and fitness event.

Flowers is a Chicago-based integrated marketing communications agency that executes national, regional and local programs in the top 20 United States markets. Other clients include Altria Group, American Honda Motor Co., McDonald's and MillerCoors.

King Head Shot.jpgEuro RSCG/Chicago CEO Ron Bess is putting not one, but two agency presidents in place at his agency. He is promoting Joy Schwartz, an executive director and an eight-year veteran at the shop, to the post of co-president, and Bess is bringing in Jamie King, formerly president and CEO of Publicis & Hal Riney in San Francisco, to work alongside Schwartz as co-president. Both will report to Bess.

If recent history is any indication, co-presidencies are a dicey proposition at any ad agency. Leo Burnett Worldwide CEO Tom Bernardin tried such a structure a couple of years ago, and it was a bomb. He brought in Juan Carlos Ortiz from Burnett's Latin American operations to manage alongside Rich Stoddart. Both even sat at desks in the same office. But Ortiz was gone within a year.

A Euro RSCG spokesman insisted King was being brought in to the Chicago agency on his own merits, but King's past ties to Euro RSCG Chief Creative Officer Steffan Postaer can't be discounted as a major factor in King getting the job. Together they ran the Burnett unit known as LB Works, which was eventually dismantled -- a move that did not sit well with Postaer. Both he and King quickly departed Burnett after LB Works was dissolved. Postaer wound up at Euro, and King headed west to Publicis & Hal Riney.

Under the new management arrangement at Euro RSCG, King will focus on new business development, while Schwartz deals with clients and agency operational matters. Schwartz has spent the majority of her years at Euro RSCG working with clients such as Sprint and Citi, which use the agency for direct marketing efforts.

No doubt having King around will make Postaer feel as if he has turned back the clock a bit to a time when he and King happily tended to their own little fiefdom at Leo Burnett.

PX187_3D18_7.JPGIt's not hard to fathom what parent Clear Channel Communications was thinking when the broadcasting behemoth made the abrupt decision Monday to dump the syndicated "Tom Joyner Morning Show" at its urban adult WVAZ-FM (102.7) and replace it with the syndicated "Steve Harvey Morning Show," which had been airing on sister Clear Channel urban contemporary station WGCI-FM (107.5).

The reason for the switch can be summed up in two words: young adult. In a press release announcing the changes, Clear Channel dropped in ample hints that it wanted to pull in a younger morning demographic on WVAZ. The release noted that the Harvey show is the number-one-rated syndicated morning show in the top 50 metro markets among young adults 18 to 34 and adults 18 to 49, as well as women 25 to 54. As has often been stated, advertisers covet the younger demos, and that clearly is what the Harvey show, with its heavily comedic bent, is in business to deliver. And with advertising sharply dropping off at nearly every radio station nationwide, managers at every station are doing what they must to pull in advertising.

Though Joyner has a long history here in the Chicago market, his syndicated show appealed, for the most part, to an older listener base. In a email sent to his fan base on Monday, Joyner wrote that "we got where we are by knowing who you are, what you want and by Super Serving our audience." Joyner also suggested in his email just how important the Chicago market was to his syndicated show. "Chicago is home, it's the Mother Ship, the Flagship, all those words that mean it is the place that launched the TJMS," he wrote.

Meanwhile, Clear Channel is expected to announce by week's end what will repalce Harvey on WGCI. It's likely to be another show popular with young adults.

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The Chicago Tribune is reporting this afternoon that Tom Joyner is out as the morning host on WVAZ=FM 102.7 Tuesday morning. The Clear Channel station will replace the host after a 13-year run with Steve Harvey in a simulcast of his WGCI-FM 105.7 morning show. WGCI declined any comment on permanent plans for WGCI or Steve Harvey, saying only that this arrangement will last through March 31.

The legions of fans who regularly read Sun-Times critic Roger Ebert's take on the movies will want to tune in to ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7's 10 p.m newscast on Sunday and the station's 4 p.m. newscast on Monday for Kevin Roy's report titled "Roger Ebert's New Normal." Roy examines how Ebert's life has changed since he lost his voice in the wake of several surgeries. Among other things, Roy reports that Ebert is now cancer-free and is more prolific than ever in his writing. Roy accompanies Ebert during one of the movie critic's visits to the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, which is credited for helping Ebert regain his ability to walk. The report shows Ebert meeting with his doctor and the various physical therapists who, over time, have become like family to Ebert.

Separately, WLS has hired a new special projects producer Ross Weidner. He replaces Jason Knowles, who recently joined WLS' reporting ranks. Weidner comes to WLS from ABC-owned WTVD-TV in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., where he was an investigative producer and researcher. Before joining WTVD, Weidner interned with the ABC News investigative unit under the guidance of Brian Ross.

Take it from us. Broadcaster Mike North knows how to juggle balls like nobody else juggles balls. He's always got something new going on. The latest project from the North camp is www.chicagosportswebio.com, an Internet concept developed by North in conjunction with David Hernandez, North's business partner and president of Spectrum Entertainment Group. Chicagosportswebio is slated to kick off Apr. 6. In a nutshell Chicagosportswebio.com will be a destination for all things Chicago-sports related. Along with North and Dan Jiggetts, whose "Monsters in the Morning" TV show will be simulcast on Chicagosportswebio.com, talent associated with the new online venture include Matt Weber, Fred Huebner, Jonathan Hood, Tim Doyle, Chet Coppock and boxing legend Boom Boom Mancini. To help launch and promote the new online broadcasting venture, North and Hernandez have cut a deal to make Chicagosportswebio.com a sponsor of the upcoming Chicago Bears draft days, April 25 through 28.

X00023_9.JPGThe filling-in goes on. News/talk WGN-AM (720) has tapped Emmy Award-winning journalist Rita Cosby as the latest fill-in host for its mid-afternoon radio show, which has been without a host since John Williams moved to the station's morning drive slot late last year. WGN describes Cosby as a "veteran TV host, radio host and best-selling author." She's currently a special correspondent for CBS' syndicated prime time show "Inside Edition," where she interviews newsmakers and key political figures. She also has been a guest host on several nationally-syndicated radio programs. Though she has name recognition, Cosby would be an odd candidate for a full-time gig at WGN. Cosby reads more Hollywood than midwest, and that might not be such a good read for WGN listeners. But Cosby will have a whole week on WGN to bond with listeners. She is set to fill in from Mar. 23 through 27.

So now that Jonathon Brandmeier has signed on the dotted line to stay at WLUP-FM (97.9) for at least one relatively brief year, the question now is: what does news/talk WGN-AM (720) do to fill its vacant mid-afternoon host slot? Garry Meier has been mentioned repeatedly as one possible candidate for the job.

But now that WGN management has waited so long to fill that slot in the hopes they might somehow find a way to accommodate Brandmeier, the station finds the annual baseball season fast approaching. That could make naming a permanent replacement less urgent, because the 1 to 4 p.m. slot will be filled with ballgames on many weekdays over the next six months. So it would be hard for any newly-installed talent to gain quick traction if his or her show were repeatedly pre-empted by baseball.

Though negotiations have not always gone smoothly,WGN executives have certainly been talking to Garry Meier and his agent (who is also his wife) about a deal for the mid-afternoon gig. But they could wind up turning to an alternative talent that won't demand the big bucks a number of big names in the radio world could command not that long ago.

Executives running radio stations today, however, know the business can no longer readily support million-dollar salaries. But sources say Meier apparently isn't yet convinced he can't get a big-bucks deal out of WGN's bankrupt parent Tribune Co. If they feel they need to put a host in the mid-afternoon slot sooner rather than later, WGN executives could pass on Meier and go with another, potentially lesser name who is competent and can be had at a price WGN can live with. Stay tuned, as they say.

Respected veteran local television production executive Randy King is out as production manager at Weigel Broadcasting, where he had held that job for the past year. Weigel Executive Vice-President Neal Sabin said the broadcasting company's needs in that arena had evolved over the past year and that King, despite his excellent credentials, was no longer ideally suited to the organization's production needs. Sabin said a couple of people will probably be hired to replace King, and they will work on developing local programming on multiple platforms for Weigel.

Prior to joining Weigel, King was president of production at Rivet Animation & Design and executive vice president for television at Window to the World Communications, parent of public television station WTTW-Channel 11. At Channel 11, King oversaw production of shows such as "CEO Exchange," "Soundstage" and "Legends of Jazz." Saban said he is still looking at candidates for the productions jobs at Weigel, and indicated he would have a clearer picture of how the new production arm will operate in about six weeks.

Chosen_stills_0003.jpgSears is set to unveil a new spring ad campaign from Young & Rubicam/Chicago on Wednesday. The new work pushes the various clothing lines available at Sears and makes clothing prices a highly visible part of each television commercial. The commercials carry a new tag line "Life. Well spent." The new tag comes in the wake of the tag "Where It Begins," which began to disappear from Sears advertising almost as soon as it was introduced by Y & R in 2007. With this new campaign Sears appears to be targeting consumers who have become very price-sensitive since the economic downturn began last year. The new TV commercials are not high concept, but do include plenty of images of young and older models wearing clothes from Sears. Another round of commercials featuring hard goods is expected a bit later.

PX00049_7.JPGYea, we're stuck -- at least for now -- with a new tag line ("Let Friendship Shine") and a star logo for Chicago's 2016 Olympic bid that fail to impress. Though executives with the Chicago 2016 bid committee haven't exactly been talking up any of it, there is more to come in the way of marketing materials connected to the Olympic bid -- specifically several short videos that will be shown to the International Olympic Committee's Evaluation Commission when they reach Chicago in early April.

We're not sure exactly why the videos aren't being promoted with much zeal. Perhaps it's because the Chicago 2016 committee thinks the bang will be bigger if the work is kept under wraps until the big unveiling for the Commission.

In any event, on Friday our spy caught sight of one Chicago 2016 video being filmed by a crew headed by director Tony Scott's director of photography. The crew was spotted at Union Station, which is a local landmark of sorts. As our spy also noted, "these films will be a good indication of the quality of the end game for this (Olympic) pitch." Indeed.

Tony Scott is the brother of director Ridley Scott. Tony Scott has directed a number of films too, including "Top Gun" and "The Last Boy Scout."

Two Chicago radio stations at opposite ends of the political spectrum -- WIND-AM (560) and WCPT AM & FM (820 & 92.5) -- are partnering for an event billed as "The Great Debate," which will take place Thursday at the Meadows Club in Rolling Meadows. The gathering will feature Thom Hartmann from WCPT and Michael Medved representing WIND. They will debate a variety of issues facing our nation, ranging from the economy and health care to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The debate will be moderated by Cisco Cotto of WIND and Dick Kay of WCPT. The Great Debate will be broadcast live for listeners with access to an iPhone and will be available as a podcast on both stations' Web sites following the event.

Is it a sign of the times? Time Out Chicago, the weekly where-to-go and what-to do magazine, has parted ways with Marketing Director Tony Barnett, a founding member of the TOC staff. He has been replaced by his assistant, Julie Sprich-Hammer. In an email to friends and business associates, Barnett said his departure from the magazine "came as very unexpected news."

Reached by phone, Barnett refused to elaborate on what may have prompted his exit from TOC, which, by all indications, was involuntary. "I'm going to move on, and I wish them all the best at Time Out Chicago," said Barnett.

TOC Editor-in-Chief and General Manger Frank Sennett was just as circumspect in his comments to us on the reasons for Barnett's leavetaking. Sennett declined to say whether Barnett's exit may have been a cost-cutting move. But he did suggest Barnett's exit was not performance-related. "Tony did a wonderful job for us, and now he's moving on," added Sennett.

It takes a lot of time and effort to keep track of the comings and many goings of marketing honchos in Chicago -- an advertising market that has been in a state of considerable tumult for a while.

But lately we've been busy tracking Pat Dermody, who was for nearly a decade a big shot at DDB/Chicago. Dermody was president of integrated marketing when she exited DDB in early 2007. While at DDB, Dermody got a lot of credit for helping lure to the agency the huge Dell Computer account, which, of course, is long gone from the shop.

Post DDB, Dermody quickly showed up at Leo Burnett/Chicago, where she came on board as executive vice-president, director of retail, a new position at the time. She was supposedly charged with leading Burnett's retail-oriented new business efforts. But coincidentally or not, after Dermody signed on at Burnett in early 2007, the agency didn't manage to generate much new business. Which may -- or may not -- explain why Dermody very quietly exited Burnett recently.

But she appears to have landed on her feet again as a vice-president, media buying for digital and social networking at Sears Holdings Corp., which has proved a revolving door for a number of executives in marketing and other areas of expertise since the company was set up by hedge fund guru Eddie Lampert.

White Sox TV - Catching 3.jpgThe Chicago White Sox advertising campaign for 2009 is celebrating traditions unique to the baseball team and its fans. The campaign tagline is: There are traditions and there are White Sox Traditions."

This theme gives the White Sox and it's ad agency Energy BBDO/Chicago the chance to concoct all manner of wacky traditions and weave them into the advertising. The official White Sox campaign for the 2009 won't kick off until closer to the season opener in early April, but Energy BBDO already has completed two teaser commercials that offer a taste of what is to come. And the work leaves no doubt the agency is going for off-beat, oddball humor.

The first of the two teaser spots introduces us to a White Sox fan who starts growing a beard at the end of one season and doesn't cut it off until the next season begins. It's a tradition, apparently, that annoys his wife no end, who leaves little hints in the form of disposable razors whenever and wherever she can. But his wife's disapproval doesn't appear to phase this particular gentleman, who can keep track of when the new season is slated to begin by the length of his beard.

A second spot is all about the male head of family who loves to sit in the stands and catch foul balls and home runs. So we get to see this particular gentleman practicing catch with a pepper mill, a fish and various vegetables.

You get the picture. Both spots are obviously big on visual gags which depend for their humor on how much the particular gags amuse viewers. We were only mildly amused, but other, potentially more rabid White Sox fans may find these teasers more hilarious than we did.

Lew's view: B-

Jon Stewart has had his fun lately with the on-air talent from CNBC, and now team NBC - the cable squad, including the "Morning Joe" crew on MSNBC - is firing back, with stock shouter Jim Cramer booked to visit Stewart Thusday.

Stewart, who hosts the fake news program "The Daily Show" on Comedy Central has been taking the financial market mavens at CNBC to task since Rick Santelli, one of the network's talking heads, threw a megahit populist rant on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange last week. Santelli gained embed fame when he called the Obama administration to task over plans to help bail mortgageholders out with federal money.

Santelli, who whipped the traders on the floor into a frenzy of outrage over the promise of public assistance, had booked to come on Stewart's show, but canceled last minute last Wednesday.

"The Daily Show" had prepared a video skewering of Santelli and his CNBC colleagues to play before he came on as it was, and ran the 10-plus minute piece as a flaming spear aimed his way when he,as Stewart put it, "bailed out" himself. And it was on in a quickly brewing feud that threatens to blow up the internet.

Teeth were nashed and voices were raised in the debate over the blame to be placed at the feet of CNBC for the lack of predictive reporting on the economic and banking crisis consuming the globe.

Should they have been taking tougher looks at the companies and markets they covered? Was their investment advice filled with shoddy reasoning and reckless TV bravado? Or was Stewart simply a primping comedian who mined a rich catalogue of video prognostication for cheap laughs?

The latter opinion is what CNBC's sister network, MSNBC weighed in with on Joe Scarborough's "Morning Joe" show Tuesday.

Scarborough, a former Republican congressman from Florida, brought CNBC "Mad Money" host Cramer, a long-time Democrat, on for an 11-minute segment aimed at defending the investment guru to Stewart's rants. The main defense seemed to be that Stewart's staff had nothing better to do than dig through hours of video to find whatever mistakes they could in a cynical attempt to mine laughs at the expense of context.

Some might call that reporting or even demanding accountability, but Cramer and company cried foul, going so fr as to claim the comedian was acting in a politically partisan manner.

Stewart, not to be outdone, came back Tuesday night with a revised video diatribe aimed solely at Cramer, taking his claims of innocence over Bear Sterns buying advice and finding footage to counterdict his protests, including a "buy" recommendation on Sterns stock from as recently as fall of 2008, just weeks before the then $69 stock crashed to $2 as the investment firm completed a freefall.

And now Cramer is getting his chance to fire back in person, with plans to hit Stewart's guest chair Thursday night on "The Daily Show."

If Cramer is smart, he'll show up, unlike Santelli. And he'll be prepared for a pre-interview sendup from Stewart's staff that will be less-than-kind to his recent history and part in the continuing financial collapse.

Independent marketing and communications agency Jacobson Rost/Chicago has
named Pat Goggin as chief strategy officer. Goggin, 42, was most recently
an executive vice-president, director global growth, at Leo Burnett
Worldwide.

Post-production house Optimus/Chicago has promoted Ruben Vela II to the
position of editor, bringing the total number of Optimus editors to 15. Vela
started in the business at Edit Sweet, which was acquired by Optimus in
2001.

Alan Schlossberg has left Kelly, Scott & Madison/Chicago to launch a barter
firm BarterAds LLC. Schlossberg was a partner and director of media
development at KS&M.

In the wake of the launch of its "Not What You Think" ad campaign, the
Chicago Public Library is launching a design contest to bring attention to a
hip, shortened version of the library's official Web site,
www.chipublib.org. Ruth Lednicer, the CPL's director of marketing, hopes
the contest will underscore the library's commitment to trying new ways to
connect with users who increasingly relate to topics through visual
elements. For more info about the contest, visit
www.chipublib.org/notwhatyouthink.

Kristen McGirk and Eric Densmore have been promoted to account directors in
AbelsonTaylor/Chicago's expanding ethical pharmaceuticals unit.

EssentailsCover.jpgTake it from us. When Time Out Chicago magazine launched four years ago, there were plenty of naysayers who were convinced the magazine would never last. And that was long before the unbelievably hard times that have now hit just about every form of print journalism. Four years later, however, Time Out Chicago is still kicking, which is about three years longer than most in local publishing circles probably expected the weekly entertainment and listings guide would last.

That's not to say it's going to be all smooth sailing for TOC going forward. No general interest consumer magazine -- or newspaper for that matter -- could expect that to be the case in this environment. But per Frank Sennett, TOC editor-in-chief and general manager, the Chicago weekly magazine appears to have survived the recent effort by a group of investors in the start-up to sell their share in the publication. Of course, when we heard an investor group wanted out, we were baffled. Who in their right mind would think they could get anything close to their original investment out of a magazine deal now when no one seems terribly interested in buying even a share of a print publication.

Sennett told us this group of unnamed, but antsy investors have come to their senses and backed off of selling their share in the magazine. Chicago-based Joe Mansueto and his local investor pool still hold the controlling interest in Time Out Chicago, and Mansueto appears to be among the firm believers in a future for print publications.

Meanwhile, Sennett and his gang are prepping for the debut of a Time Out Chicago kids edition targeted at parents with children that would be published at least twice a year. There's certainly no indication, right now, that Time Out Chicago is planning to disappear. Rather the cover of the fourth anniversary issue seemed to suggest a message about TOC's attitude about itself as it turned four years old: "Essential Chicago, the Tools You Need to Thrive in the Windy City."

Oprah goes 24/7 on Sirius XM

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Sirius XM Radio and Harpo Radio have officially relaunched the Oprah & Friends satellite radio channel as Oprah Radio, a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week outlet on XM channel 156 and on Sirius channel 195 as part of "The Best of XM" package. Daily and weekly shows will feature talent such as Maya Angelou, medical expert Mehmet Oz, fitness trainer Bob Greene, financial expert Jean Chatzky, design expert Nate Berkus and former news anchor-turned inspirationalist Daryn Kagan. "We are thrilled to be expanding our already robust radio programming for fans who are seeking to live their best lives," said Erik Logan, executive vice-president, Harpo Inc., in announcing the relaunch.

Should Emmis Communications-owned WLUP-FM (97.9) wind up losing the services of morning drive show host Jonathon Brandmeier to Tribune Co.'s WGN-AM (720), the classic rock station will have to come up with something pronto to replace its morning star. Sources say one possible option that could work -- at least for a while -- is a syndicated comedic radio show called "The Bob & Tom Radio Show," fronted by Bob Kevoian and Tom Griswold. Punchline magazine referred to them as "midwest radio gods."

For WLUP, the chief virtue of picking up such a show would be the cost -- quite low in comparison to retaining Brandmeier and his production team. The downside is that Chicago audiences typically don't respond well to syndicated product. But Rick Balis, the man taking over programming responsibilities at the Loop in the wake of Thursday's mass firings, knows the Bob & Tom show well, because it airs on the St. Louis station KSHE-FM (94.7) that Balis also programs.

The Chicago Journal company is closing one of its neighborhood weeklies, selling two and keeping two more. The paper to be shuttered is the Chicago Journal West Town, which covers Wicker Park Bucktown and Ukranian Village. The Oak Park-based media company started the West Town paper in 2005. The two papers being sold to Ron Roenigk of Inside Publications are the News-Star and the Booster, two of the last three of the Lerner newspapers the Chicago Journal company bought in January, 2008, from the Chicago Sun-Times. Roenigk's company publishes Inside, a weekly newspaper in the North Center and Lincoln Square neighborhoods. Meanwhile, the Oak Park company is keeping the flagship Chicago Journal, which started in 1999 in the South Loop, West Loop and Near West neighborhoods of Chicago. The Journal company also will continue on with Skyline, the familiar former Lerner weekly in Lincoln Park, Old Town, River North and the Gold Coast.

APRIL COVER.JPGFor the first time in nine years, Oprah Winfrey is sharing the cover of O magazine with another celebrity -- First Lady Michelle Obama. Inside the April issue, Winfrey also has an interview with the new First Lady that addresses everything from the joys of White House pie to Obama's decorating philosophy, which seems to have a lot to do with sofas. "I want comfortable sofas," said Obama in the interview. "You've got to be able to make a fort with the sofa pillows! Everything must be fort-worthy."

Winfrey's interview is accompanied by images taken by noted photographer Bruce Weber, who was working for the magazine for the first time. For those who concern themselves with such things, Michelle Obama is wearing a Michael Kors dress in the cover shot and a Dear cashmere cardigan. Winfrey's dress is by Rachel Roy New York.

Winfrey obviously was determined to make a statement by sharing the cover with Obama. "Say what you will about books -- people do judge a magazine by its cover, which is why it's important to me keep the cover of this one looking fresh," said Winfrey. "And right now nothing -- and I mean nothing -- is fresher than the family that moved into the White House in January, sparking a national spirit of renewal the likes of which I've never seen."

PX00201_7.JPGIf WGN-AM (720) was hoping to spice up the proceedings by bringing in Garry Meier this week to try out for the mid-afternoon host slot vacated by John Williams, then station management appears to have gotten what it bargained for.
Meier on Thursday made reference more than once on air to President Barack Obama and what the radio talent called the "Ovaltine Office." For those who may not immediately recall what Ovaltine is, it is a dark chocolatey drink that was a favorite beverage for growing youngsters decades ago. But Ovaltine is not talked about -- nor drunk so much, we suspect -- nowadays. Reached late Thursday afternoon after his fill-in WGN gig ended for the day, Meier said the "Ovaltine Office" term he used was not meant as a show of disrespect for the President, but rather to suggest that Obama has re-energized the Office of the President. Others, of course, might have a different interpretation.

Meanwhile, Meier told us it felt great to be back on the air, and clearly, he would be happy to accept the mid-afternoon job at WGN should it be offered to him as early as next week. But as WGN management prepares to decide who will take over on-air duties in mid-afternoon, Meier may find himself competing down to the wire for that job with WLUP-FM (720) morning drive show host Jonathon Brandmeier. Meier said he and Brandmeier are friends. As of Thursday Brandmeier had not resigned with the Loop, and that station's on-going negotiations with the morning host could be impacted by another round of staff firings at WLUP on Thursday.

condon_print_preferred.jpgLeo Burnett/Chicago finally acknowledged what we first reported a while ago -- John Condon is out as chief creative officer. Per an agency spokeswoman, Condon's future plans are unclear, but he apparently hopes to return to the creative front lines at another agency. Condon spent 22 years at Burnett, the last three as the agency's top creative. Burnett President Rich Stoddart tapped him for that job after Cheryl Berman exited that post in 2005.

Burnett's global Chief Creative Officer Mark Tutssel will oversee Burnett's flagship creative department while a worldwide search is conducted for Condon's successor. Candidates from within the agency will be looked at too, the spokeswoman said. The exit of Condon now leaves both Burnett and DDB/Chicago -- two of the city's largest ad shops -- without creative leaders. DDB has yet to name the successor to Paul Tilley, who jumped to his death from a hotel window in late February, 2008.

A Burnett spokeswoman believes the top creative post at the agency could be hugely appealing to the right candidate. "We want someone with some chutzpa who will attract attention," said the spokeswoman. But like DDB, Burnett has some image issues that may make it tougher to lure a top creative talent. Burnett has been in a major new business slump recently, and it didn't help when news of a whistleblower lawsuit alleging overbilling of the United States Army (a former Burnett client) first surfaced in January. Burnett paid more than $15 million to settle the lawsuit out of court.

One ex-Burnett creative we recently heard from was impressed that we were able to "break through the Kremlin" to get the news of Condon's exit. Not exactly the most flattering description of Burnett, but it comes from someone who knows the place well. It's a telling description of how agencies such as Burnett -- and others -- have morphed in the age of the conglomerates that now largely control the ad industry.

Meanwhile, Condon was sent on his way with just a brief statement from Burnett Global CEO Tom Bernardin: "As chief creative officer, he has improved our creative product and global ranking. He's an extraordinary creative, and we will miss him."

Congrats to Willie Wilkov, who has been promoted to vice-president of marketing for the Chicago Sun-Times. Wilkov also will oversee marketing initiatives at the scores of other Sun-Times News Group publications.

MarketSense has acquired Robert Brandt and Associates in Burr Ridge. The Brandt company will now operate under the MarketSense name, with corporate headquarters located in Burr Ridge. Key employees of RBA, including Robert Brandt, will join the MarketSense team.

The Illinois Lottery is seeking a Chicago-area firm that can provide public relations and integrated communication services to the African-American community on behalf of the Lottery. Interested vendors must have at least 10 full-time employees and be able to provide sufficient dedicated staff to address the Lottery's needs on a time basis. Written proposals are due by Mar. 24.

Joe Kim has been named a partner and executive vice-president at the Maddock Douglas agency in Elmhurst. Kim has more than 16 years of experience in management consulting, focusing primarily on operational innovation and leadership development.

Zebra Technologies will partner with Ogilvy Public Relations/Chicago on corporate communications and product public relations programming for its two main divisions, Specialty Printing and Zebra Enterprise Solutions.

The River North Association has relaunched as the River North Business Association. The organization will continue to provide the same membership benefits and networking opportunities to the River North community.

Cobra Electronics has joined the client roster at Schafer Condon Carter/Chicago. SCC will work with the company to launch the Cobra Electronics Aura camera and the Driving Hazard Database.

Sam Karow is joining Chicago Creative Partnership as director of integrated marketing and media services. For the past 13 years, Karow was with Starcom, where most recently he was a media director on the Bank of America business.

Two by Four/Chicago has added the Hotel Arista as a client. The property is an eco-friendly luxury hotel that opened in the fall of 2008, in Naperville's new 31-acre mixed-use City Gate Centre complex. Two by Four will work on strategy, advertising, design and interactive.

Virtual public relations firm GreenMark has been retained by the Kenosha Civil War Museum to handles its official opening in the summer of 2009.

Jim Kokoris has been promoted to president and general manager at JSH&A Public Relations in Oakbrook Terrace. Kokoris has been with the agency for more than 13 years.

All Terrain Public Relations/Chicago has been named public relations and social media agency of record for Bioelements, a professional skincare line.

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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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