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

August 2009 Archives

Comcast SportsNet Chicago is planning a two-day celebration of Michael Jordan's induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame with complete game telecasts of five of his great games in a Chicago Bulls uniform. The celebration also will include two original, 30-minute specials chronicling his basketball career. The comprehensive, two-day programming event, called "23 Hours of MJ: A Hall of Fame Celebration," begins Thursday, Sept.10 and concludes on Sept. 11, with Mark Schanowski reporting live from the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies in Springfield, Ma.

Jennifer.jpgThe protracted audition process for a new on-air announcer for the weekly "Chicago Huddle" football show on ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7 is down to two finalists -- Shae Peppler and Jennifer Wicks. Both will appear on the season-opening edition of the "Huddle," which will be taped Sept. 11, at the ESPN Zone in River North at 4 p.m. At the end of the taping, "Huddle" host Ryan Chiaverini and the show's producing staff will name the winner, who will have a place on the show for at least this season. In the meantime, video clips of the two finalists can be viewed at www.chicagohuddle.com

The first "Huddle" show will air Sept. 13. at 10:30 a.m. The "Huddle" producers haven't yet decided if they will repeat the audition process to select a different announcer for the show's 2010 season.

DSRL_all2_cc.jpgWherever there exists a self-promotion opportunity on a national scale, it's a safe bet that self-promoter par excellence Donald Trump is lurking nearby. And so it is with the newest installment of the Oreo Double Stuf Racing League saga/ad campaign from DraftFCB.The campaign launched in early 2008.

In this latest twist in the story, which comes as the Golden Double Stuf Oreo is being rolled out nationally, the very golden-haired Trump fearlessly challenges pro football stars and lick-off champs Peyton and Eli Manning to a lick-off race. Trump hopes a victory will net him the Double Stuf Racing League. Actor and comedian Darrell Hammond, who does a fair impersonation of Trump, has been recruited to serve as Trump's team partner.

In a new TV spot breaking today, Trump is all egocentric bluff and bluster. The Manning brothers stand up reasonably well to what Trump is dishing out. But this debut spot appears to be merely a set-up for the lick-off to come between the two teams, slated for January of 2010. Anything, we suppose, to extend the drama, such as it is.

For all who may have forgotten, in an official lick-off, each person must twist open an Oreo, lick off the creme, show the cookie to the opponent, dunk the cookie in a glass of milk and eat it and then finish the glass of milk. The first person or team to complete all the tasks wins.

Leo Burnett's already extraordinarily thinly-staffed public relations department has taken another hit. Chicago-based Abby Lovett, who was in charge of Burnett's global public relations effort, is leaving the agency to take a PR job in the Chicago office of Weber Shandwick, where she will work on cherries (trade association stuff, most likely) and Campbell's soup, she told us. That leaves Burnett with exactly one PR representative in Chicago, the pleasant Steve Peckham. But he isn't a Burnetter. Peckham is technically a consultant from PR firm Edelman who has been working at Burnett since May, while the ad agency takes its sweet time finding a full-time PR staffer to replace the less-than-stellar one that was fired last January.

We were told a while ago a new PR person was supposed to take over for Peckham in mid-June, but obviously that didn't happen. And there appears to be no definitive date now for when Burnett will manage to find a new PR leader for its Chicago flagship shop. "They want to get the right fit," Lovett said. Lovett also told us the agency intends to fill her job.

After nearly a five-year tour of duty, Lovett leaves Burnett at a particularly difficult moment in the agency's history. New business has been slow in coming, and the agency's image was battered recently by an alleged billing scandal on the United States Army account, which left the agency a while ago. Even the win of the Choice Hotels International creative account this week has become another reason for anonymous comment posters on blogs to suggest how the once-mighty Burnett has fallen. Many observers seem to doubt that any Burnetter would, of their own volition, ever spend a night in a Choice Hotels budget property.

The August local late news Nielsen ratings numbers are in for Chicago television stations. And guess what? ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7 is right where it's been for some time now -- solidly in first place. The station scored a 7.9 rating for its late news product Monday through Sunday, putting it comfortably in front of second-place NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5, which pulled a 5 rating, a sharp drop from the 6.6 rating the station's late news had a year ago. WMAQ was in fact just a hair ahead of Tribune Co.'s WGN-Channel 9's hour-long news at 9 p.m., which managed a 4.8 rating, exactly what it scored a year ago. Meanwhile CBS-owned WBBM-Channel 2 still is looking for that sure sign a ratings turnaround has begun. In August, the station could do no better than a 3.1, up slighthly from its 2.8 a year ago. And bringing up the rear in the August ratings was Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32 and its 9 p.m. news program, which scored a 2.7, up slightly from a 2.4 a year a go.

Leveraging its bench strength in marketing sustainable (green) products and processes, Hoffman York has established HY-brid, a new division dedicated to helping clients navigate their way through today's greenscape. Hy-brid intends to help clients understand and explore opportunities that exist in the green marketplace. According to a survey of more than 100 companies by Greenbiz.com, nearly 47 percent said they were increasing their investments in green product development in 2009; less than six percent said they'd be investing less than they did a year ago. To support its new division, Hoffman York is launching a new Web site, www.HY-bridGreen.com as an interactive tool where visitors can find out how green they are. Hoffman York has offices in Chicago and Milwaukee. Clients include Advocate Health Care, Arlington Park Race Track and Wausau Paper.

Cash is something everyone's looking for more of nowadays. So it makes smart business sense for Riverwoods, IL.-based Discover Card to push the point that it offers cash back on every purchase. And that's exactly what Discover and ad agency the Martin Group in Richmond, Va., are doing in new TV and print executions debuting his week. The commercials aren't, however, telling consumers to stash the cash they get back for a really rainy day. Rather the commercials suggest those getting cash back should opt for some little indulgences, like a new pair of shoes, a ride on carnival bumper cars or an enjoyable meal out at restaurant.

While it might not be prudent for anyone to spend lavishly at this moment in time, we all know it's imperative to get the economy going again -- something that won't happen very quickly unless people permit themselves to enjoy at least a few of life's little pleasures. So while pointing up a virtue of owning the card, Discover is doing something with this campaign that might help the economy get back on track.

EE.jpgChicago-based Eric Edge has considerably expanded his public relations responsibilities at Euro RSCG. In addition to overseeing the agency's communications functions for all of North America, Edge now is Euro's global director of communications. The Euro RSCG network is comprised of 233 offices located in 75 countries throughout Europe, North America, Latin America and the Asia-Pacific region. Edge plans to remain based in Chicago.

There's just about nothing -- and we mean NOTHING -- that has gone unshuffled in the Chicago radio business over the course of the past seven or eight months. And though the frequency of the shuffling has markedly decreased in recent weeks, it isn't gone altogether.

The latest rounds occurred Tuesday in the sales departments of four CBS Radio outlets in Chicago under the direction of Market Manager Rod Zimmerman. In essence, Zimmerman decided to merge what had been four discrete sales units repping four, differently-formatted radio stations into just two units, with each sales unit responsible for selling two radio outlets. Zimmerman has merged the sales forces of all-news WBBM-AM (780) and adult hits WJMK-FM (104.3) and made Mark Day the general sales manager in charge.

The previously separate sales teams repping country WUSN-FM (99.5) and adult contemporary WCFS-FM (105.9) were also combined, with Gabe Tartaglia the general sales manager in charge.

While the synergies of joining sales forces for WBBM and WJMK are less obvious, Zimmerman said that because of the strong core female demo for both WUSN and WCFS, the sales force merger made a lot of sense. Zimmerman believes the overall restructuring will offer greater efficiency and make for quicker responses to client needs. But for the local CBS Radio staffers involved, the best aspect of this latest restructuring is that it meant no reduction in forces -- a minor miracle, everything considered.

Valentine.jpgChicago radio listeners are getting a Valentine early. Starting Sept. 2, radio personality Sean Valentine, 40, returns to Chicago radio via Clear Channel Radio's adult contemporary WLIT-FM (93.9) as the star of a newly-formatted morning drive show called "Valentine in the Morning" from 5 a.m to 9 a.m. weekdays. He replaces Melissa Forman, whose contract with the station was not renewed earlier this month.

Thanks to the marvels of modern radio technology, Valentine will originate his WLIT morning drive show from Los Angeles, though he will need to be in the studio there and ready to go at the early hour of 3 a.m. west coast time. Clear Channel Radio Chicago Operations Manager Tony Coles doesn't doubt Valentine is up to the challenge. "The man has a great work ethic," said Coles.

Joining Valentine on his new morning drive show will be Chicago-based Karen Williams. For more than 12 years Williams was Ramsey Lewis's co-host on "The Ramsey Lewis Morning Show" on the former WNUA-FM (95.5), which in the spring switched to a hot Spanish hits format and became Mega 95.5. Williams now will handle news, traffic and weather reports on Valentine's morning show. Valentine's sidekick will be Los Angeles-based Irma Blanco, who from 1994 to 1998 worked with Mancow Muller on "Mancow's Morning Madhouse" on the former WRCX-FM (103.5).

Coles said WLIT's new morning drive format is squarely aimed at females, especially working women and mothers aged 25 to 54. "I listened to a lot of tapes, and Sean was one of those dark horse candidates we stumbled upon," explained Coles, who likes that Valentine frequently refers to his wife and child while doing his show and does a lot of topical material.

Though now based in Los Angeles at KBIG-FM (104.3), Valentine is no stranger to Chicago. From 2001 to 2003, he was the morning drive host at Clear Channel Radio Chicago's top 40 WKSC-FM (103.5). Valentine has been doing morning drive at KBIG since 2007.

wolves1.jpgCall it a message for our economically-strapped times. The Chicago Wolves are launching this week a new print and outdoor fall ad campaign from ESW/Chicago that plays up the affordable thrill of attending a Wolves hockey game, especially compared to some of the more expensive professional sports options on offer in this city. The campaign does none of the things some sports team-themed campaigns are known for doing, including promising a winning season or highlighting the team's so-called star players. Instead the focus is on relieving boredom among kids and the cheap Wolves ticket prices, which start at $9, according to the outdoor executions. Dave Hamel, a managing partner at ESW, maintains most kids wouldn't know the difference between attending a Chicago Blackhawks game or watching the Wolves play. We're not so sure all sports-oriented kids would be incapable of making such a distinction, but that's not to say kids can't have fun, regardless of which of the teams is on the ice.

Well, it's a win. Believe it or not. It may not be a whopper of one. But this is Chicago, and Leo Burnett that has won. So the agency is celebrating, needless to say. Choice Hotels International, the parent of the budget hotel brands Comfort Inn, Comfort Suites and Quality Hotels, has selected Burnett as its creative agency of record. Doner Advertising in Southfield, Mich., will handle promotional campaigns. Billings were not disclosed on the account, but Burnett succeeds Arnold Advertising in Boston as creative agency of record.

Choice apparently has decided it would be better served as a hotel conglomerate if its various hotel chains were supported via distinct ad campaigns for each brand. The new, differentiated campaigns will debut in 2010. The economic downturn has hit the hotel industry hard, forcing hotel chains to reduce room rates significantly to attract guests. "The current state of the hospitality industry has made it more important than ever for us to further evolve our advertising strategy to keep pace with the rapidly changing business environment," said Chris Malone, Choice chief marketing officer.

Starbuck's Tshirt 7.09.jpgIt's been said competition makes one better. Stronger. Or maybe just more alert. So perhaps Starbucks, which has been struggling to regain its once-vaunted mojo, should thank Dunkin' Donuts for helping the Seattle-based java chain realize just how far it had strayed from its core brand mission in recent years. For Dunkin' has been relentlessly pushing the message that it has a better coffee product than Starbucks.

Dunkin' even created a dedicated Web site, www.dunkinbeatstarbucks.com, to pound home the point that its coffee beat out Starbucks in a national blind taste test. The pounding continues this week via a new t-shirt campaign -- visitors to Dunkin' Donuts outlets will find staff wearing tees that remind customers what good friends are for, namely keeping Starbucks brew far from the lips of cherished buddies. We doubt the t-shirts will influence, in any major way, whether customers frequent Dunkin' or Starbucks, but it is another reminder that Starbucks is now vulnerable in a way no one might have imagined five or 10 years ago.

And based on what we've personally experienced of the Starbucks turnaround effort here in Chicago, we can say things aren't entirely turned around yet. We've been to three or four different Starbucks outlets in recent days late in the day and found that all were out of the bananas needed for the Vivanno product. Not the end of the world, to be sure, but an annoying discovery for a customer who came to a Starbucks specifically for a Vivanno.

Wow knock us over with a feather, why don't you. We were more than a bit taken aback to discover an article in Ad Age online today that actually addresses the state of the advertising industry and at least one of the ad agencies that -- last time we checked -- were the heart and soul of this business. Such coverage -- beyond the basic account wins and losses and exec comings and goings -- is a rarity nowadays in advertising trade publications. But that issue aside, we couldn't figure out why reporter Rupal Parekh opted to focus only on McCann-Erickson and its alleged domestic woes.

An unnamed agency consultant is quoted saying McCann's woes are perhaps worse than most others. Baloney. Such a remark leads us to believe this consultant -- and when has there ever been one worth a bent nickel? -- hasn't bothered to scratch very far beneath the surface of an industry clearly in crisis far and wide. Parekh's article goes on to enumerate all the obvious reasons why any agency would be suffering -- account losses, lack of leadership and an absence of vision.

If McCann is indeed believed to be suffering more than most domestic agencies on these fronts, might we suggest Parekh turn her attention to Chicago, and two of what were once this city's leading ad shops. We talk, of course, of DDB/Chicago and Leo Burnett. If ever two agencies were in danger of going down the drain because of the aforementioned problems, these two are.

Both Chicago shops have been stagnating creatively for years now. Which is a tragedy, because each used to have a distinctive creative style and output that kept the Chicago ad industry on the radar screen. But no longer. In the wake of Paul Tilley's suicide, DDB/Chicago appears to have decided simply to withdraw into itself -- a catastrophic public relations blunder that has left the shop with next to no public profile, except perhaps as the agency famous for producing increasingly mediocre Bud Light advertising.

As for Leo Burnett, the agency seems in no hurry to name a new creative honcho to replace John Condon, who did little to raise the shop's creative image in his several years on the job. And if Burnett leader Rich Stoddart has a vision he's implementing, it's certainly not drawing the attention of new clients. Because there hasn't been a major one since the agency got its GM win. And we don't want to talk about what has become of that, do we?

So Rupal Parekh, congrats for finally writing the kind of story Ad Age should be producing four or five times a week. You're right. There is trouble in Ad Land all right. But trust us, McCann is by no means the only major trouble spot.

34002721_ingrid_300dpi_copy.jpg"Got Milk?" is still going strong. And why not? There are plenty of famous -- and not so famous -- faces still left out there to wear the iconic milk moustache. The latest celeb to don said milk moustache is chef and author Ingrid Hoffmann. Her debut is being timed to coincide with Hispanic Heritage Month, which annually runs from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. The ad copy accompanying the Hoffmann execution tries for some Latin flair, but doesn't particularly impress. "Here's an easy recipe for a spicier life: drink milk," reads the copy in part. Hoffman's ad debuts on Aug. 25 in Cooking Light magazine.

CDW to Ogilvy/Chicago?

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Is Ogilvy/Chicago about to get CDW, the Vernon Hills-based computer parts reseller? Though it seemingly has taken forever to name a winner in the account review that is believed to have been narrowed to Ogilvy and the Martin Agency in Richmond, Va., sources say it now may be just a matter of ironing out the last details of a contract between client and new agency of record. Word is that the CDW business will involve a lot of below-the-line work, which means the account may actually be a good fit with the Ogilvy operation here in Chicago, which is pretty well staffed in that department. And though it's merely circumstantial evidence at best, we've been told Ogilvy/Chicago Chief Creative Officer Joe Sciarrotta has seemed pretty chipper in recent days. We doubt it's the water that's causing the upbeat mood. Maybe it's something called CDW?

SwimwithSea-Monkeys.jpgGertrude Inc./Chicago has developed a new print and online ad campaign to re-introduce "The Amazing Live Sea-Monkeys" to a new generation of children. The popular kids toy debuted in 1957. Gertrude Inc.'s new integrated campaign includes four print ads and an interactive microsite that brings the vintage kids toy to the Web and allows users to customize their own Sea-Monkeys tank and share it with friends. The campaign plays to a strength of the Gertrude shop, namely creating rich interactive experiences that compliment broader integrated ad campaigns.

To leverage its beer portfolio, including Corona Extra and Modelo Especial, Chicago-based Crown Imports has hired Upshot/Chicago to develop consumer and retail promotional campaigns. "Our portfolio has enjoyed great brand advertising, and we want to maximize our efforts at retail to fully engage and connect with all beer consumers," said Jim Sabia, executive vice president of marketing for Crown. Upshot will begin working with Crown this year, and their first work will appear at retail in the summer of 2010.

Karen1.jpgGlamorama, the annual Macy's fashion extravaganza on Friday that traditionally kicks off (early) the fall social season, is going in a different direction this year in the choice of an institution the evening will benefit. For the first time in a decade, the principal beneficiary won't be the Art Institute of Chicago, but Ronald McDonald House Charity, which has on the planning board a new house scheduled to open just off Michigan Avenue in Streeterville in 2012. When completed, it will be the world's largest Ronald McDonald House.

Glamorama attendees at the Chicago Theater will see a moving four-minute tribute to the Ronald McDonald House effort and its mission. The film was produced by west coast-based Rebar Partners in conjunction with Chicago's Altar Films. The film is a touching montage of comments from parents of sick children who have stayed at a Ronald McDonald House facility coupled with observations from RMHC executives. Perhaps the most telling comment of the lot, which is also the film's title, comes from one parent who says of a Ronald McDonald House: "The best place I never want to come back to."

stephen para photo.jpgTom, Dick & Harry Advertising/Chicago has added Stephen Para as its first digital director. Para was most recently a a partner and chief creative officer at The Conspiracy Project, a digitally-focused agency with offices in San Francisco, Calif. and Lille, France. "We had been searching for the right person to fill this slot for nearly two years," said Greg Reifel, co-managing partner at TD&H, adding Para "has the right combination of intelligence, creativity and client skills to take TD&H to the next level in the digital world." Para has worked for clients such as Hewlett-Packard, the Walt Disney Co., Wells Fargo, Taco Bell, Allstate and Visa.

Cavalia-LowRes.jpgWill you miss the stately white horse? No doubt many horse lovers in Chicago will. That attention-commanding horse has been front and center in all the advertising for "Cavalia," the equine spectacle that has been playing to tens of thousands of people in a large white tent on a cramped plot of land in Chicago's west loop for more than a month now.

If nothing else, "Cavalia" and its glorious horses have brought out plenty of horse lovers in the Chicago metro area. "Cavalia" spokesman Bradley Grill said about 40 percent of tickets sold to the show during its engagement here (which ends Sunday) went to customers who apparently have a passion for horses. These horse lovers were able to buy a ticket at a higher price point that allows them to tour the expansive stables where the horses are kept and coddled while on tour.

Grill said there was never any doubt from the moment "Cavalia" came into being more than six years ago that a horse would be the predominant image used in all advertising and marketing for the show. "The horse is the essence of our show and conveys an elegance and touch of mystery that are also part of what 'Cavalia" is all about," said Grill. A five-person marketing department based in Montreal carefully tends to "Cavalia's" image while the show is touring. And like Cirque du Soleil, where "Cavalia" leader Normand Latourelle worked before putting together his horse-themed show, "Cavalia" is always conscious of how the public perceives the production.

Lest the public think "Cavalia" is only about horses, however, consumers will notice some silhouettes of acrobats in some of the advertising imagery as well -- a reminder that much of "Cavalia" is about how humans and horses interact in a number of intriguing and exciting ways.

The show of shows -- the advertising event of Chicago's fall season -- is taking firmer shape.

On Tuesday, the Chicago Creative Club Awards show organizers -- Matt Brennock, Liz Ross and Katie Juras -- confirmed the headliner band that will perform at the Sept. 10 extravaganza at the Riviera Theater in Uptown. It is Of Montreal, a Georgia-based band with, interestingly enough, some Canadian influences. The band's Wikipedia entry characterizes Of Montreal as a baroque rock group, which sounds intriguing enough to us, who don't have a great familiarity with the vast number of rock bands out there performing.

But Brennock told us there's also a Cirque du Soleil air about Of Montreal and their performance style. Now Cirque we know something about, and that certainly sounds appealing to us. The band's performance at the Sept. 10 event will come about 30 minutes after the awards presentations are concluded, Brennock said. And he hopes having a band with some genuine cred in the music industry and a large following will be yet one more incentive for hundreds, if not thousands, of people who have avoided previous CCC events to check out this year's event.

Brennock said he is pleased about how well -- given all the obstacles they have had to confront -- things have gone so far with the show planning. Of course, they could always go better, he conceded. Toward that end, Brennock was set to meet with DraftFCB leader Howard Draft this morning to ensure Draft is on board and committed to making the Sept. 10 show as great as humanly possible.

Despite the willingness of so many people to lend a helping hand (especially Tom Duff of Optimus), Brennock said there still have been troubling pockets of resistance to what the show organizers are trying to achieve. Somehow we're not surprised. Too many people in the local ad community, we've sadly concluded, are fearful of change, which can be threatening. And given the upheaval the ad industry has faced -- especially in Chicago -- fear itself is another factor that makes it difficult for some to embrace the new and the unknown.

But we continue to applaud Brennock, Ross and Juras for trying to make a difference, shake things up a bit and do something for the entire, extended advertising community. If there is indeed an extended ad community worth saving and honoring in Chicago, all that are part of that community would do well to circle Sept. 10 on their calendars now, purchase their $50 tickets at www.chicagoadfed.org/CCCAwards/ccc.html, and be there at the Riviera. It may very well prove a night and a "No Show" to remember. In the nicest, most inclusive way.

So thank you, Doremus/New York for helping us to understand why social media are complicating life for the traditional news media, including, of course, newspapers and magazines. Throughout the month of July, Doremus ran a poll on its Web site that asked visitors if they believe social media are indeed accelerating the struggle for traditional media. Overwhelmingly, 80 percent of respondents said "yes," while respondents also indicated social media sites help them to discover content they would not otherwise see. Just five percent (!!!) of respondents said they still get news from traditional sources.

In other words, if the "news" isn't coming to them via tweets or another social media outlet, a large percentage of the population is likely to be uninformed about it. Or put another way, increasingly social-media-fixated young people today are only interested in what interests their peers. Which suggests to us a population increasingly populated with people lacking in much curiosity or independent information/news-gathering abilities. Or put yet another way: "We live in a society where the news is no longer a directive but a dialog," opines Doremus CEO Carl Anderson. It's a scary thought, really. The news may involve a dialog, but that dialog, whatever it amounts to, certainly isn't the sum total of the news that shapes our world every day. We no doubt will be a dumber, more narrow-minded culture if this trend reaches its fullest fruition.

Huddle40.jpgThey came in droves on Tuesday -- 175 hopeful females and one male -- to audition for an announcer role on ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7's "Chicago Huddle" Sunday morning football program, hosted by WLS weekend sports anchor Ryan Chiaverini. Naming a winner, however, is turning into a protracted (but fun we hope) process. WLS will post 10 quarterfinalists on its Web site, www.abc7chicago.com, next Monday for viewers to vote for their favorite. With that vote taken into consideration, the field will be narrowed to five semi-finalists to compete in a second audition on Aug. 25, at which judges will select two finalists. The final two contestants will appear on the first "Huddle" show that airs on Sept. 13. The winner will be announced at the end of that show.

Dorothy Tucker.jpgVeteran CBS-owned WBBM-Channel 2 reporter Dorothy Tucker is taking her consumer advocacy beat on the road. Earlier this week, Tucker launched a half-hour segment called "Customer Service" on "The Santita Jackson Show" on WVON-AM (1690), where the new segment will air every Wednesday from 10 to 10:30 a.m. WVON and Tucker aim to help cash-strapped consumers become smarter, more efficient shoppers. Tucker plans to interview consumer experts and offer numerous "how-to" and "do-it-yourself" tips on her new radio show. Consumer reporting has been a mainstay of Tucker's work for WBBM, where she has been on air since 1984.

Bernie_TopGolf.jpgWe have been waiting for a sign we could believe in that would indicate an economic rebound may be in the works. And we think we got one on Thursday. Yep. Chicago's very own Bernie DiMeo and his DiMeo & Co./Chicago got a new piece of business called TopGolf USA -- the second win in recent months. DiMeo's agency will handle advertising, media and public relations for the United States component of the company, which has TopGolf operations in Wood Dale, Ill.; Dallas, Tex., and Alexandria, Va.

Founded in England in 1997, TopGolf opened its first U.S. location in Virginia in 2005, and added suburban Chicago and Dallas in 2007. TopGolf is an entertainment facility that uses computer microchips embedded in regulation golf balls to create an interactive game designed to appeal to both golfers and non-golfers. DiMeo said his campaign for the company will target younger players who already enjoy bowling, darts and arcade games. "TopGolf is all about competition and fun, along with food and drink," added DiMeo, who, it strikes us, is something of an expert in all the aforementioned areas.

Morning drive host Melissa Forman is out at adult contemporary WLIT-FM (93.9). As first tipped here two weeks ago, Clear Channel Radio Chicago President and Market Manager Earl Jones has decided to go in a different direction with the station's morning drive show, which in recent months has been on a ratings roller coaster. A new morning drive format is expected to be revealed early next week. Forman's morning show sunk to a 1.5 rating in the June book and 26th place in the rankings before rebounding a bit in the just-released July book to a 2.2 rating, good enough for 20th place among morning drive contenders. Forman's contract was set to expire Oct. 1.

sean girardin photo.JPGSean Girardin has joined McGarryBowen/Chicago as group planning director. In this new position, Girardin will be responsible for bringing strategic focus and insights to McGarryBowen's clients, primarily the newest Kraft Foods brands that have joined the Chicago roster. That would include Kraft singles. "Chicago is a critical market for our agency," said John McGarry, the agency CEO, adding "Sean's creative approach to both identifying and presenting insights will be an asset to our clients." Previously, Girardin was a planning director at Leo Burnett's flagship Chicago office, where he managed a cross-agency strategic team for Buick. Girardin also has worked at Element 79/Chicago and Euro RSCG/Chicago. It's not altogether surprising that Girardin hails from Burnett. MB/Chicago's top creatives, Ned Crowley and John Moore, both were previously employed at Burnett.

At the just-concluded American Federation of Television and Radio Artists national convention in Chicago, there were a couple of developments of local interest. First, congrats to all-news WBBM-AM (780) Political Editor Craig Dellimore, who was elected AFTRA's national vice president. And AFTRA's highest honor, the George Heller Memorial Gold Card, was presented to local AFTRA Executive Director Eileen Willenborg, who is retiring from her job this year after more than 14 years of service. In the award citation, Willenborg was applauded for her efforts in getting passed a state visual media tax incentive and legislation that abolished the non-compete clause in Illinois broadcaster contracts. The George Heller award is bestowed on those who have made a significant contribution to AFTRA and its members.

fosters_longdistance.pngIf you can't beat it, go back to it. That's apparently what Digitas/Chicago has decided to do. The agency next week will launch a new ad campaign for Foster's Australian lager that is, essentially, an update on the famous and familiar "How To Speak Australian" effort that the beer brand used for more than a decade before the campaign was dropped (bad move) in 2002. The Digitas effort is, at least initially, comprised of three 15-second commercials that give us slice-of-life moments that are meant to be uniquely Australian. Only one of three vignettes, however, seemed distinctively Australian to us, and that would be one where an Aussie guy is functioning as a human GPS device. The others involve a man who doesn't have the money to pay for his lager and another features a guy trying to make the moves on a woman at a bar from a distance. All of the spots could be funnier, but perhaps fans of the original campaign will at least be happy to know the Foster's folks now realize what a good thing they had going back then.

Downtown Partners/Chicago has exited the Comcast SportsNet Chicago review now underway to find a new agency to work on an ad campaign promoting the cable sports channel's on-air talent. CSNC reportedly is asking participating agencies to sign an agreement prior to even doing a final presentation for the business. That agreement, among other things, would require the shops to be responsible for any lawsuits that could surface in connection with work or ideas from the pitches or any new campaign eventually used by the cable sports channel. Downtown Partners balked at that demand. But at least one of the agencies involved in the pitch, believed to be the Chicago office of Jacobson Rost, has apparently signed on the dotted line anyway. Times are tough in the ad biz, after all. CSNC marketing honcho Jaclene Tetzlaff could not be immediately reached for comment. She previously indicated she hoped to select an agency for the project by mid-August.

More from the front lines of the Chicago Creative Club Awards show, which a trio of organizers -- Matt Brennock, Liz Ross and Katie Juras -- are hard at work producing. We hear there now will be not one, but two bands performing at the awards show at the Riviera Theater on Sept. 10. One band will play at 30-minute set at the top of the evening, and the other will perform at the end of the night, after the awards for advertising excellence have been given out, and everyone is getting into that major party mode. There also will be be a good-natured, laugh-out-loud video presentation featuring some familiar, beloved figures within the local ad industry and others who, well, may not be quite so beloved by all who toil at making advertising hereabouts. We'll leave it at that for now.

They're trying to avoid calling it a wake, but the folks planning what is being billed as a "reunion" of former JWT/Chicago employees are hoping for a big turnout and a joyous celebration of a large agency that once was part of a vibrant, thriving Chicago advertising community. But, as we all know, that community is hardly thriving any longer, and JWT/Chicago, for all intents and purposes, is dead -- having shrunk to a mere gaggle of people servicing a single, smallish Illinois tourism account.

Ralph Rydholm, a former JWT/Chicago executive who was at the helm of the shop's creative department in the far more robust 1980's, is helping organize the reunion set for Aug. 28, at the Envent Studios, 344 N. Ogden in Chicago. Rydholm tells us more than 225 people have already paid for tickets to the event (oh how people love to recall the good ol' days), but he would like to see even more once-familiar faces at the party. For more info, visit the www.ripjwt.com Web site.

For many of the attendees who no doubt have moved on, the Aug. 28 celebration will just be an opportunity to party and socialize. For those of a more reflective bent, the occasion also will be an opportunity to consider just how much the advertising business has changed in the past couple of decades -- change that has brought about a situation that is grim and getting grimmer. Even Rydholm told us today he is shocked by the startling downturn in the business here in Chicago that he's watched happen in recent years.

But he still wants the Aug. 28 reunion to be a predominantly upbeat affair. And we have no doubt plenty of former JWT/Chicago party animals will materialize to make sure Rydholm's wishes are realized.

HP photo.jpegHarry Porterfield is back. After leaving ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7 last Thursday, Porterfield, 81,is returning to CBS-owned WBBM-Channel 2 to co-anchor the station's 30-minute 11 a.m. newscast alongside Roseanne Tellez five days a week and will work as a reporter for station broadcasts. Porterfield starts his new job Aug. 10.

The move to WBBM marks a return to the station where Porterfield first launched his 45-year-long television career. WBBM News Director Jeff Kiernan said Porterfield also will continue his familiar "Someone You Should Know" profiles at Channel 2. The indefatigable Porterfield said: "Telling stories and reporting the news is what I do, and I'm not done yet, even at age 81."

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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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