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

May 2009 Archives

Just as the doors were about to close for good at JWT/Chicago, there appears to have been a reprieve. The shop is believed to have prevailed in a review for the $5 million Illinois Bureau of Tourism advertising account. JWT was the incumbent on the business, and in recent weeks, it had been competing with Euro RSCG/Chicago and Cramer-Krasselt/Chicago for the account. JWT's apparent win, sources say, means the Chicago shop would stay open at least as a satellite office to service the tourism account with approximately 20 staffers, including creative and account executives.

Perhaps the strongest aspect of JWT's work on the tourism account in recent years has been the eye-catching posters promoting a number of off-beat tourist destinations around the state. These executions helped pique interest in some attractions that vacationers otherwise might not have given a second thought.

Hauser_ObamaBlackberryHC.JPGIn the fierce battle for brand dominance between Blackberry and iPhone, the former gets a nice boost next month with the release of a wicked little tome called "Obama's Blackberry" (Little, Brown; 137 pgs. $13.99). As we all know, President Barack Obama came to the White House terribly attached to his Blackberry -- a fact that we're sure hasn't made the folks at Apple very happy. They'd much rather the President be wedded to an iPhone. But we digress.

A San Francisco-based comedy group known as Kasper Hauser has penned this witty little book of made-up emails between Obama and various entities ranging from First Lady Michelle to George W. Bush, Joe Biden, Queen Elizabeth, Oprah and Abraham Lincoln. A lot to and from Lincoln. They're all served up to amuse and delight, but in the process, the emails do capture a certain something about each of the parties involved, such as Biden's literal-mindedness, bordering on flat-out dumbness. Perhaps not unexpectedly, Kasper Hauser has done a particularly good job of summoning up the looney spirit of George W., who, in the midst of a panic attack, emails Obama to ask if his beloved, but missing-in-action dog Barney has, per chance, returned to his old stomping grounds.
It's all fun fluff. But there's no denying it's a great plug for Blackberry too.

Karen Sauder.jpgCongrats to Karen Sauder, the 2009 Chicago Advertising Woman of the Year. Sauder is a managing director at DraftFCB/Chicago. Sauder joined the agency in 2007, and per agency President Mark Modesto, has been a strong voice in the shop, especially for women, who have looked to her for inspiration. Born and raised in St. Louis, Sauder began her career in the marketing creative services department at Anheuser-Busch. She then worked as a regional manager for Frito-Lay, before joining the national advertising and promotions agency Zipatoni in 1998. At Zipatoni she rose through the ranks to become president of the shop.

The Ad Woman award is bestowed each year on a recipient who has made significant contributions to the advertising and marketing fields. Sauder will receive her award at a luncheon later in the summer.

Gertrude Inc./Chicago has been named agency of record for Binaca breath spay, manufactured by oral care brand conglomerate Dr. Fresh Inc. Dr. Fresh acquired Binaca in 2008, and is now focused on reviving the brand. Gertrude has a history of breathing new life into disregarded brands, including the iconic Lava Lite. Gertrude will roll out an integrated ad campaign for Binaca, including television work set to break on June 1. A brand packaging redesign is being featured in Walgreens stores and other outlets. Additional print executions and guerrilla elements will play out through 2009.

Everybody who thinks it's time for a regime change at Ogilvy/Chicago, please raise your hand. It no doubt surprised no one in the local ad community to find out that Ogilvy had lost its Oscar Mayer business, which parent Kraft Foods handed to the Chicago shop on a silver platter a couple of years ago. The OM business now is moving to McGarryBowen/New York, which along with its Chicago outpost, is becoming a popular destination for a variety of Kraft brands. The MB Chicago shop just outdid itself with a hip new Miracle Whip campaign.

But this isn't about MB. It's about Ogilvy/Chicago and the very unsavvy way that shop has been run in recent years by Joe Sciarrotta and Jack Rooney, two executives who seem to have an extreme fear of stepping into the spotlight. Maybe it's just because they're shy. Or more likely, it's because they're afraid the limelight would expose what a shabby job they've done of running the joint. Does anyone out there really have any idea what Ogilvy/Chicago is up to? Does anybody out there even care? More importantly, do Sciarrotta and Rooney really want their shop to grow and thrive? They certainly have given us no indication that is what they want.

It has been apparent for some time that their game plan was pretty much like that of the sorry management team of the about-to-die JWT/Chicago. In other words, let the whole thing sink into the muck and mire due to inertia and neglect. One wonders what Ogilvy brass in New York think about the sad situation here in the Chicago office? If they're thinking at all about it. Certainly they've got enough problems to deal with in the New York flagship office, which is plagued by the same issues evident in Chicago -- only on a bigger scale.

Rooney and Sciarrotta have had their chance -- and then some -- to make Ogilvy/Chicago a happening place once more. They haven't gotten the job done. It's time for a change.

Clear Channel Radio's smooth jazz WNUA-FM (95.5) is dead. Better forget about it, folks. You can be sure heartless Clear Channel Radio has, even though they continue to stream the format online. Still for those longing for another smooth jazz outlet, it is already here. It actually launched the same day WNUA died last Friday. The new station, WLFM-FM (87.7), which broadcasts from atop the Hancock Center, acquired the smooth jazz format broadcast rights from the Smooth Jazz Network (a division of Clear Channel).

As senior vice president and market manager, Patrick Kelley will oversee operations at WLFM, which he said in a statement will "deliver Chicago a hipper, cooler smooth jazz station." Kelley said he hopes to create a station with a very strong Chicago identity. WLFM will blend the most popular playlists from WNUA with new programming. including shows on which smooth jazz artists play the music and serve as hosts. WLFM's morning show from 6 to 10 a.m., for instance, will be hosted by Chicago native and jazz artist Brian Culbertson. WLFM will go by the nickame "The L."

SoloBareAd.jpgLike many other companies trying to craft an environmentally-friendly image, Solo Cup Co. is introducing new products fashioned from renewable materials such as sugar cane, bamboo and corn. Solo's big push in this direction, which launched last week, is called Bare, a line of single-use plates and cups. The debut print and television ad campaign from Schafer Condon Carter/Chicago is a simple attempt to suggest that the new Bare products are better for the environment through the use of copy such as "compostable," "recyclable" and "renewable." A single green leaf is another motif used in both the print and television executions to underscore Bare's connection to nature and the environmentally-friendly aspect of the new plate and cup line. The only aspect of the campaign that doesn't really work is the tagline "Inspired by real life." We're not quite sure what part of "real life" the tag is referencing, but the line sounds like it might be a better fit with a television show than it is with a collection of eco-friendly plates and cups.

CBS Radio-owned WSCR-AM (670) is launching its own version of a television reality show called "Pepsi Max Score Search." The sport-focused radio station soon will begin holding open auditions to look for Chicago's best undiscovered talent to take on the role of sports reporter for the station.

Auditions will be held at select locations throughout the Chicago area during June. Candidates will be recorded reading a 30-second pre-written script, which will then be posted on the WSCR Web site for review. A panel of broadcast industry experts will identify their top 10 candidates who will then meet with WSCR Program Director Mitch Rosen. Four finalists will be selected from that group. Visitors to the WSCR Web site will be able to vote for their favorite among the four candidates. The winner will be chosen during a live broadcast on July 18.

"We look forward to discovering a new talent and seeing what they can do with the opportunity," said Rosen. Interested parties can register to participate in the "Score Search" at

Scott Wild, a semi-legend in the Chicago advertising community, stopped by for a visit today, along with an apprentice named Tucker Loosbrock, a recent graduate from advertising school who is helping Wild with his latest project.

Wild has been doing a lot of freelance work since he departed Cramer-Krasselt/Chicago, where he was a group creative director who pulled down a handsome salary of around $250,000 a year. Some who work in the trenches in Chicago's ad community were aghast when they finally learned just how much Wild was making at C-K, but the agency paid him royally because they believed he could help elevate the shop's creative profile. And for a while Wild did do just that, until it became apparent he never was going to be a good fit at the shop. Wild's income today is nowhere near what he commanded at Cramer-Krasselt. He unabashedly informed us while he was in our office that he made $68,000 last year. "And you can print that," he told us. So we have.

Now, Wild, with Loosbrock's help, is embarking on a new venture developing subject-specific Web sites that he hopes will attract interested visitors who will contribute content and, in turn, pull in more visitors. Wild calls his start-up the Run Wild Network, and he wants to sell the "group creation network" concept to ad agencies and companies looking to leverage the Web's assets. Wild tested his concept with the development of the project. As Wild traveled around the country last year promoting the site and the end of the George Bush regime, over 5,000 people, by Wild's count, eventually participated in creating events for the site.

If his new Run Wild venture should fail -- something Wild isn't anticipating at this juncture -- he figures he can always fall back on his basic advertising skills. And Wild isn't shy about touting those. In his brochure for the Run Wild Network, Wild describes himself as the "international (sic) acclaimed advertising writer and creative director."

McGarryBowen/Chicago has finally found what it hopes is the right person to help pull in new business at the agency. Timothy Scott joins MB this week as managing partner, succeeding Adrian Keevil who left MB and the ad business in mid-2008 (yes it seems to take an extraordinarily long time to replace ad executives nowadays). Scott reports to McGarryBowen CEO John McGarry and will lead day-to-day operations in the Chicago outpost.

A veteran packaged goods ad executive, Scott apparently was tapped in part to help keep key client Kraft happy. The agency has just added Kraft cheese singles and Philadelphia cream cheese accounts to its growing portfolio of Kraft brands serviced out of the Chicago office.

Along with MB/Chicago Executive Creative Directors Ned Crowley and John Moore, Scott also will lead the charge on new business efforts, a task that has proved tough for every just about every shop in this city. Some local agencies have been pretty good at adding new business from existing clients, but otherwise it's been tough. McGarryBowen put out its shingle here in Chicago in late 2007, and said it would become a major contender in the marketplace. So far, however, it hasn't quite gotten there.

Scott arrives at McGarryBowen from DDB/Chicago, where he was a senior vice-president and global business director. He worked on DDB's Wm. Wrigley Jr. business. Scott also did stints at DraftFCB/Chicago and the soon-to-close JWT/Chicago.

PX178_5F16_7.JPGThursday May 21st, promises to be an interesting day for media-watchers in Chicago. That is when IFC is bringing together some of the city's top newspaper, television and Web news executives to discuss the sustainability and future of journalism in the Windy City.

The panel is comprised of: Don Hayner, editor-in-chief, Chicago Sun-Times; Gerould Kern, editor-in-chief, Chicago Tribune; Carol Marin, political correspondent, NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5 and Sun-Times columnist; Jeff Kiernan, news director, CBS-owned WBBM-Channel 2/Chicago; Marcus Gilmer, editor,, and Tran Ha, editor, Red Eye and TheMash. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan will make opening remarks. Also added to the panel at the last minute is noted former Washington Post investigative reporter and Vanity Fair contributing editor Carl Bernstein.

The event is being held in conjunction with "The IFC Media Project," a documentary airing on IFC that aims to draw back the curtain on news coverage. The Thursday panel discussion is slated to begin at noon at the Newberry Library, 60 W. Walton.

So what else is new in the news biz? Tribune Co.-owned WGN-Channel axed bodies on Thursday. Sources say it was yet another cost-cutting move tied to Tribune Co.'s bankruptcy filing late last year and the need practically everywhere in the broadcast industry to reduce staff to match lower ad revenue numbers. Gone from WGN this time around are reporter Jane Boal, as well as three producers and the head of human resources. The HR office, sources say, is being merged with that of the Chicago Tribune. This summer WGN is slated to merge its unionized workforce with that of non-union CLTV, which promises to be an interesting excercise. And one that could potentially become quite messy.

Just in time for the annual vacation season, the Illinois Department of Tourism is in the final stages of a review of its ad account. The finalists are said to be incumbent JWT/Chicago, which will cease to have a fully-functioning office in Chicago in about two weeks (go figure), Euro RSCG/Chicago and Cramer-Krasselt/Chicago. Of the three shops in contention, Euro RSCG arguably has fewer internal issues to deal with at the moment. It at least has a chief creative officer in place. C-K recently parted ways with its Executive Creative Director Dean Hacohen. The agency said it will look for a new exec creative director with a pedigree it can leverage. While that search is in progress, Marshall Ross is running the show creatively at C-K.

No one watching this review play out can figure out how the state's tourism department could realistically hand the account back to JWT, given that the agency has pulled the plug on its storied Chicago outpost. JWT/Chicago shop did some great poster work for the account, but that was about it. Some speculate that JWT could keep some sort of service office open here to handle the tourism account, but for such a relatively small account, it hardly seems worth the bother.

X00090_9.JPGSo now we are in a holding pattern as suspense builds about who will anchor NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5's 10 p.m. newscast. No announcement is expected until next month. But what once seemed a given -- that veteran newscaster Bob Sirott would assume a role as a 10 p.m. anchor -- suddenly seems somewhat less so. And whether it wanted to or not, WMAQ has raised the ugly specter of Rosati and Sirott possibly duking it out for a solo anchor assignment at 10 p.m.

At least a couple of factors make a potential battle for WMAQ's 10 p.m. anchor job(s) a messier matter than it might otherwise be. For one thing, well-informed sources say Sirott has a clause in his contract with WMAQ that specifically promises him a 10 p.m. anchor role in the post-Saunders era at the station. If, for whatever their reasons, WMAQ management doesn't offer him the 10 p.m. job, things could get ugly. Or at the very least, costly, if they have to pay off Sirott.

Furthermore, sources who know and respect long-time WMAQ on-air talent Rosati say she definitely should not be counted out in any fight that might ensue over the 10 p.m. anchor job Though her on-air demeanor couldn't be pleasanter, Rosati is apparently one tough cookie who developed a close bond of mutual admiration with Saunders over many years, but who also, sources say, fiercely guarded her right right to be seen as Saunders' equal on the 10 p.m. newscast. "She would count the 'reads' she and Warner would get each night on the newscast and make very sure he wasn't getting more than she did," said one source who knows Rosati well.

Should things take a somewhat surprising twist, and Rosati winds up fronting the 10 p.m. solo, it would mark only the second time in recent history that a woman has had such a role in the Chicago TV market. Sun-Times columnist Carol Marin fronted a groundbreaking 10 p.m. newscast on WBBM for a while. But perhaps in large part because of its unusual format, that newscast never caught on, and Marin left WBBM.

Phonevalley, a mobile marketing agency, has teamed with Kraft Foods, the world's second largest food company, to expand Kraft's so-called consumer engagement on mobile devices. Kraft is launching a mobile Internet site,, to offer existing and new members access to Kraft recipes while on the go. Supposedly the new site will be a welcome help to cooks who need to quickly access a recipe and its ingredients while making their way through the aisles at the grocery store. For those who like to keep things organized, the new mobile site also allows users to create their own recipe box for future reference.

PX148_2C30_7.JPGCreepy. Chicago attorneys Greg Adamski and Karen Conti, hosts of Tribune Broadcasting-owned WGN-AM'S (720) "Legally Speaking," will host a mock trial of the closing arguments in the murder prosecution of Drew Peterson for the death of his third wife, Kathleen Savio, on Thursday, May 28, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. The event will be open to the public and taped for broadcast on WGN on June 14 and 15. "The People v. Drew Peterson" will feature Greg Adamski as moderator, Karen Conti as prosecutor and lawyer Joseph R. Lopez as Peterson's defense attorney. Retired Cook County Circuit Court Judge Richard Neville will preside. A professional jury consultant will be present to screen and select jurors who will be taken from the audience. We're told the event is intended to be an "educational exposition," based only on facts that have been publicly reported.

The Publicity Club of Chicago's 50th anniversary Golden Trumpet Awards ceremony is set for Thursday at the Palmer House Hilton, with festivities commencing at 11 a.m. Sun-Times columnist Bill Zwecker and WGN-Channel 9 entertainment reporter Dean Richards are set to co-host the event, which is expected to attract more than 400 Chicago-area public relations professionals. Sue Markgraf, president and co-founder of GreenMark Public Relations, and Dave Bosch, communications director of the Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donor Network are co-chairing the event. Congrats to all the winners.

DavidSelby.jpgVeteran marketing and advertising executive David Selby, 52, has been named president (a newly created position) of Schafer Condon Carter/Chicago. He reports to SCC CEO Tim Condon. At SCC, Selby will be charged with managing agency growth and refining processes for maintaining SCC's creative product and entrepreneurial culture. Selby most recently served as executive director and co-leader of the marketing officers practice for global executive search firm Russell Reynolds Associates. Prior to that he served as the first chief marketing officer for the Potbelly Sandwich Works. From 1997 to 2002, Selby was with Sears, where he served in several senior marketing roles, eventually becoming the company's top marketing officer. His marketing career began at Leo Burnett/Chicago, where he spent 18 years working for several clients, including McDonald's, Walt Disney and Miller Brewing. SCC wrapped up 2008 by announcing new business from Garvey's Office Products, GoodFoods Group, Land O'Lakes Foodservice and an agency of record win on Armour-Eckrich.

Are there enough old-timers left at DDB/Chicago to get the job done? That was our first -- and most pressing thought -- when we heard that Anheuser-Busch is looking to produce more emotion-driven television advertising to try and boost flagging sales of its iconic Budweiser beer brand. Emotion-driven? Those middle-aged guys left in A-B's marketing department clearly don't talk much to the whippersnappers entrusted with creating most of the ads we see on TV today. These youngsters know how to crack a joke all right. At least a joke that smacks of snarky frat-house humor. But emotion-driven advertising? Come on guys! That requires a firm grasp of one skill that we're afraid is in dangerously short supply among the vast majority of young professionals in the advertising industry today. We're talking, of course, about storytelling -- crafting a gripping tale that engages the emotions in 60 seconds. Maybe less. It's not easy. The copy, visuals, music -- all have to coalesce just so to create a commerical with real emotional heft. This is what DDB/Chicago, A-B's lead agency on Budweiser, is now being asked to do. This would be the same DDB that for years has been driving its Bud Light punch line ad formula into the ground -- producing too many TV spots that were too often too dumb and unfunny. Now, suddenly, the agency is being asked to go all emotional. It's a tall order.

IMG_8953.jpgIt's still happening. Which -- given the somewhat less than rosy state of Chicago's advertising industry -- is something of a minor miracle. We're talking about the Chicago Creative Clubs Awards ceremony, slated for Sept. 10, 2009 at the Riviera Theatre in Uptown, a venue that couldn't be more different than the considerably more capacious Soldier Field, where the 2008 awards show was held. The Riviera will certainly provide a more theatrical environment for the show.

Given who is leading this year's award show, intended to honor the best creative from among the city's various ad shops, it should not be surprising that a different tack is being taken. Renegades one and all, the triumvirate spearheading the planning for 2009 CCC show includes Liz Ross, late of Tribal DDB; Matt Brennock of Fusion Idea Lab/Chicago, and Katie Juras, a locally- based producer who was at Element 79 until December of last year.

The three powers-that-be behind the 2009 CCC show are trying to establish a different template for this year's award ceremony, even to the point of calling it the "No Show." "We want this to be less your typically indulgent ego fest, and more about the ad community in Chicago as a whole," explained Brennock, who also indicated production and media people and clients would be welcome to attend along with agency types.

No decisions have been made about a host yet, but the trio of organizers hopes to come up with a presenting sponsor that could help defray the not inconsiderable cost of mounting an awards show. The evening's producers also want to keep entry fees as reasonable as possible to encourage agencies large and small to enter their best work.

Brennock also tells us the show organizers have created a Facebook group to further bring together the city's ad community. The group's name is "Second City My Ass," and Brennock told us the group's muse is said to -- somewhat tongue in cheek we presume -- Rosemarie Ryan, the JWT honcho who shall live in infamy for marching into town, shutting down the storied JWT/Chicago and then telling the world she hadn't a clue why the shop couldn't make it. No clue? Astounding.

Warner Saunders, a fixture in local television news for 40 years, won't return to his job anchoring the 10 p.m. news at NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5, a role he has been absent from since early March due to health issues. Instead Saunders will make a farewell live appearance on WMAQ's May 20th 10 p.m. newscast to say goodbye. The station then will air a tribute to Saunders on May 24th. WMAQ Station Manager Frank Whittaker was effusive in his praise for Saunders; "To recite all that Warner has done for NBC5 would take many pages; he has an amazing record of accomplishments." During the course of his career Saunders has won more than 20 Emmy Awards for news, sports documentaries, children's programs, talk shows and community town hall meetings.

Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32 is believed to have shed more employees today, in what one source familiar with developments described as a "bloodbath."

Sources had been predicting such an eventuality since last week, but a station spokeswoman said as recently as late last week she knew of no layoffs in the offing. The spokeswoman could not be immediately reached for comment today. It also could not be immediately determined how many people were axed, but WFLD is clearly reeling from a dropoff in advertising revenue. That is due in part to a general drop in ad revenue throughout the broadcasting industry, but also because WFLD's local newscasts generally trend at the lower end of the ratings spectrum among all Chicago TV stations.

WFLD, along with NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5, are spearheading a news-gathering joint venture involving four of the five top-rated TV stations in Chicago. On Monday WFLD and WMAQ, along with Tribune Co.-owned WGN-Channel 9 and CBS-owned WBBM-Channel 2, will start pooling camera crews and use the pool video footage in their respective newscasts. The venture is designed to reduce costs and help each of the participating stations presumably do more with fewer resources.

Ryan's Grill, Buffet and Bakery has named Schafer Condon Carter/Chicago as its agency of record after a review. The Ryan's brand is part of Buffets Inc., the nation's largest steak-buffet restaurant company, which currently operates 533 restaurants in 38 states. Ryan's is launching its first-ever national branding effort to help distinguish its unique personality and restaurant experience. The campaign will include television, radio, in-store and digital advertising and will launch in July, 2009. A proprietary song that defines the buffet experience will be a campaign focal point.

Ryan's marks the third new brand assignment for SCC in 2009. The agency also is doing branding work for Cobra Electronics and was named agency of record for Armour-Eckrich. These account additions follow SCC's acquisition and integration of Romani Bros./Chicago into its integrated network of marketing units.

The end is nigh. It's still almost incomprehensible to think it's over, but sources report that the remaining few sorry souls holding down the fort at JWT/Chicago will lock the doors of the agency's offices in the Merchandise Mart for the last time on June 1. Since the announcement from on high last month that the Chicago shop is shutting down for good, most of the weeping and handwringing about the storied agency's demise has been happening at a hastily-organized Web site, www.ripjwt. There also have been plenty of recollections, virtual hugs, humor and outpourings of compassion at that site among current and former staffers at JWT/Chicago. And that's about all that will be left of the shop come next month. We just wonder who's going to wind up with the very arty -- and no doubt expensive -- chairs gracing the agency's entrance foyer.

jamieoverkamp.jpgThe beleaguered DDB/Chicago's loss is Young & Rubicam/Chicago's gain. Jamie Overkamp, a refugee from DDB, has been named an associate creative director at Y & R. "Jamie is a perfect fit for Y & R," said Ken Erke, the agency's chief creative officer. "He's passionate, entrepreneurial and award winning."

Overkamp had been on the Budweiser team at DDB. But now that Anheuser-Busch InBev is cracking down on the hefty fees paid to its roster ad agencies and A-B's former creative honcho Bob Lachky is no longer with the company to help keep DDB's fee cushion properly plumped, there apparently wasn't enough money left in the payroll budget to keep Overkamp on board there.

Prior to DDB, Overkamp spent several years in New York, working at various blue chip shops, including Wieden + Kennedy, BBDO, Fallon, Cliff Freeman and Saatchi & Saatchi on accounts such as the British Broadcasting Corp., Snickers, Guinness, FedEx and Starbucks. Overkamp will work on Sears and other accounts at Y & R.

Overkamp has picked up various awards for his work along the way, including a prestigious Gold Cannes Lion for an interactive billboard for the BBC in New York's Times Square.

Turano.jpgAdvertising vets like Bernie DiMeo of DiMeo & Co./Chicago have seen a lot over time, and even DiMeo tells us things are pretty bad now in the ad business. But thankfully, DiMeo still has Turano Baking Co. as a client, and his agency has just completed a fun outdoor and radio campaign for the nearly 50-year-old local bread company.

The tagline is "Chicago's bread," and on new billboards now going up, we see loaves of bread that have cleverly been inserted into familiar iconic settings around the city. In one ad, a loaf of bread has taken the shape of the Bean sculpture in Millennium Park, while in another, loaves of bread have replaced the columns surrounding Soldier Field.
Radio spots stress how much a part of the Chicago landscape Turano has become while turning out fresh bread every day for almost half a century. Simple, fun, believable advertising.

Energy BBDO/Chicago became the latest Chicago ad agency to cut staff late last week. An agency spokesman confirmed the shop laid off a total of 19 employees across all departments last week -- approximately 10 percent of the agency's total employee count. At least two group creative directors -- Todd Hoffman and Al Wyatt -- were among those let go.

The Energy BBDO spokesman attributed the staff reduction to a drop in ad spending among its clients, which include the Illinois Lottery and the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co., long the agency's flagship account. Energy BBDO also is the agency of record for the Chicago White Sox.

Four of the five largest television stations in Chicago have signed on to participate in a risky joint news-gathering venture first announced last fall by NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5 and Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32. The two charter members of the venture reached out to other local stations to participate over the past several months, and Tribune Co.-owned WGN-Channel 9 and CBS-owned WBBM-Channel 2 have agreed to join the venture as well. Only ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7 will continue to operate as an independent news gathering operation.

Sources say the new venture will involve two camera crews from each of the four stations involved. They will be assigned to cover news each day by a managing editor in charge of all the pooled camera crews. Raw footage shot by the crews will be available for use by any of the participating stations. Managing editors will be rotated in and out of that position every 12 months, according to one source. The new venture is based on a model first tried out in Philadelphia last year.

Though she was approached to join in the new venture, WLS General Manager Emily Barr said her station opted out of the unusual arrangement because she felt it was important for WLS to remain an independent voice with the flexibility to cover the news as it see fits.

Smithes Zamboni front.JPGThey're back. Well they never really left. We're talking, of course, about the Smithe brothers -- Walter, Tim and Mark -- of furniture fame. They and their often off-the-wall television commercials are nearly always visible on some television station. Tim Smith, the middle brother, orchestrates the advertising for the Walter E. Smithe furniture empire, and he likes to play off of hot popular culture events of the moment. And we mean "popular culture" in the broadest possible sense. Right now, the Chicago Blackhawks are a hot commodity as they remain in the playoffs for the Stanley Cup. So Tim Smithe has seen to it that the latest Walter E. Smithe commercial breaking today is in part designed to cheer on the team, while paying tribute to several hockey Hall of Famers, including Dennis Savard, Tony Esposito and Stan Mikita.

These legendary figures appear on ice in their Blackhawks jerseys alongside the so-called "sofa hall of famers," while a debate ensues about who is going to play against whom. It's all handled with a very tongue-in-cheek touch that stops just short of collapsing into utter silliness, even though the spot does end with the Smithe boys being pulled around the rink by a Zamboni ice resurfacer.

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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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