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

January 2010 Archives

Just a another sign that the resurgent Chicago Blackhawks are proving a hit with television audiences this season. Thursday night's away game against the San Jose Sharks, which started at 9:30 p.m. Chicago time, scored a 3.60 overnight Nieslen rating on Comcast SportsNet Chicago. That wasn't a record rating for the Blackhawks this year, but it sure beat by a wide margin the rating for a similar Blackhawks vs. Sharks game televised on Jan. 31, 2009, that also began at 9:30 p.m. Chicago time.

The game a year ago managed a measly 0.78 rating. In other words, in a year's time, the TV ratings for a Blackhawks game -- televised at a very late hour for many Chicagoans -- have increased a whopping 361 percent. As we've said before, it helps, of course, that the Blackhawks are a dominant force in the NHL this season, and it also helps that the team the Blackhawks faced Thursday night was the Sharks, who could be a serious contender for the Stanley Cup this year along with the Blackhawks.

With a simple "Bye, America!" former hotshot Chicago-based creative Scott Wild emailed to tell us he was leaving this country to take a new job as an executive creative director at Advantage Marketing in Cairo, Egypt. And you thought someone like Wild would settle for something simple and obvious like a job with a New York or west coast shop? No way.

When the news from Wild reached us this morning, our mind flashed back eight years or so to a time when he arrived at Cramer-Krasselt/Chicago and immediately started shaking things up at what had been -- relatively speaking -- a fairly quiet agency. Wild was put on the the LaSalle Bank (now folded into Bank of America) account, and he wasted no time shaking up the advertising for that staid financial institution. A lot of it was wacky work, but, in a surprising way, a lot of it worked. But Wild inevitably turned into more than Cramer-Krasselt could handle, and after being demoted from group creative director to creative director, he finally parted ways with the shop.

For several years thereafter, Wild seemed unable to find his footing. He said he was doing some freelance work. And from time to time he would call to tell us about some crazy project he was working on, even though we sensed he was just marking time with that stuff. We'll never forget bumping into him on a street corner in the Lakeview neighborhood several years ago. He was loaded down with bags and bags of cereal -- a funny sight. We, of course, asked why he was carting around so much cereal. He said his kids loved the stuff.

So now Scott Wild is off to Egypt. On its Web site, Advantage Marketing says it aims to be the "strongest, strategically creative agency in the Middle East." It may very well be on the way to becoming that. But with Scott Wild now on board, we know for sure Advantage will become a wild place -- in very short order. We'll miss him around the Chicago ad industry, where we could use a lot more people with Wild's adventuresome spirit.

Starting Thursday morning, Clear Channel Radio Chicago's WGRB-AM (1390) is introducing a more contemporary gospel sound that will emphasize what Clear Channel Radio Chicago's director of urban programming Derrick Brown calls the "new, hotter gospel artists." They include performers such as Kirk Franklin, Donnie McClurkin and Yolanda Adams. WGRB has been a gospel-formatted station for the past 10 years.

WGRB also is introducing a new tag line -- "Music of Power and Praise" -- that acknowledges and underscores the shift in focus in the station's sound. Brown said that the old gospel format was about 50 percent classic gospel music and 50 percent contemporary. "The new sound will be 80 or 90 percent contemporary," said Brown. WGRB's on-air talent line-up will not change with the introduction of the new gospel mix, with "The John Hannah Morning Show" remaining in morning drive and "The Joy Ride Home" with Sonya Blakey in afternoon drive.

Brown also said the updated gospel music format should help the station pull in more listeners. In the most recent December Arbitron radio ratings book, WGRB was tied for 33rd place in the rankings overall among adults 25 to 54.

CBS Radio Chicago's country WUSN-FM (99.5) has inked a multi-year contract extension with its morning show personality Lisa Dent, who has been with the station for eight years. The "Lisa Dent & Ramblin' Ray Morning Show" debuted three years ago on WUSN, and is among the more popular morning drive efforts in the Chicago market. "Lisa is one of the premier talents in the country," said Bill Gamble, program director at WUSN, adding "not only is she a remarkable interviewer, she has incredible relationships within the Nashville community, especially with artists." "I grew up around here, and being on the radio in Chicago is like hanging out with my friends," said Dent. With an average 1.2 million weekly listeners, WUSN is the most-listened-to country radio station in America.

Coke_HardTimes_hires.jpgCoca-Cola unveiled its new Super Bowl work from Wieden + Kennedy in Portland, Ore., in an rather awkwardly-orchestrated Webcast today. Coke will have two new spots in this year's game. Sad to say, neither matches the brilliance of recent efforts such as "Heist" and "It's Mine," both of which featured compelling story lines, superb musical underscoring and an urgency in their pacing that is notably absent in "Hard Times" and "Sleepwalker."

"Sleepwalker" introduces us to a sleepwalker walking across the African landscape, seemingly in his sleep. His destination is a fridge in a thatched hut in which sit several bottles of Coca-Cola. The humor in the spot, such as it is, comes from all the various fearsome animals he interacts with and navigates around to get to the Coca-Cola. But the sleepwalking shtick just doesn't work, and the bits with the animals can't entirely compensate for the concept's inherent shortcomings.

"Hard Times" is sure to delight fans of "The Simpsons." In this one billionaire C. Montgomery Burns must lose all his material possessions before he learns what is really of value in life -- namely friends and Coca-Cola. There is plenty of busy-ness as the story moves along, but "Hard Times" never manages to quite become a captivating experience.

What's missing in both spots is a real sense of build in the story lines. Both commercials do an okay job of telling their respective stories, but neither has sufficient charm or emotional heft to make them great.

Dawn Hasbrouck has joined Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32 as anchor of "Fox Chicago News at Noon." She will also report for various newscasts. Hasbrouck most recently spent three years as a weekend anchor and reporter at WBZ-TV, the CBS outlet in Boston. Hasbrouck said of her appointment: "I'm thrilled that Fox Chicago has given me the opportunity to return to my hometown and cover news in the city in which I grew up." WFLD general manager Michael Renda added: "We're delighted to have Dawn join Fox News Chicago. Her strong journalism background, deep Chicago roots and engaging personality make her the ideal addition to our team."

Drew Hayes has been named operations director for news/talk WLS-AM (890). Most recently, Hayes served as operations director for all-news WBBM-AM (780) and sports talk WSCR-AM (670), both CBS Radio properties. Newly-named WLS-AM general manager Michael Damsky said Hayes has a sense of urgency, an ear for what people want to hear and a vision of what a radio station should sound like.

This marks Hayes' second stint at WLS-AM. He was previously at the station when it flipped from a music to a talk format back in 1989. But perhaps most tellingly, Hayes hired WLS-AM's current afternoon host Roe Conn during his first stint there. And Conn, needless to say, was quick to call Hayes "one of the great architects of modern talk radio" as his return to the station was announced late Tuesday. Conn's show, of late, has been a major trouble spot for WLS-AM. Conn apparently hopes Hayes will be able to solve whatever is hampering the afternoon drive show's success.

Light House.jpgMore on Anheuser-Busch's 2010 Super Bowl advertising strategy. A-B marketing honcho Keith Levy confirmed Tuesday that DDB/Chicago, the longtime lead Bud Light agency on the A-B roster, will have no Bud Light spots in the big game this year. All of the Bud Light work comes from Cannonball/St. Louis, as first revealed here on Monday.

A Michelob Ultra ad featuring Lance Armstrong comes from Palm Havas/Chicago and a spot for a new A-B brand Select 55 was done by Momentum in St. Louis. DDB/Chicago did just barely manage to stay in A-B's Super Bowl ad mix with two Budweiser spots out of the total of nine spots A-B will air during the game.

Levy said DDB lost out on Bud Light for the simple reason that the work it submitted did not test well in focus groups used to determine which commercials would fill the five minutes of air time A-B has reserved this year during the Super Bowl, up from four-and-a-half minutes a year ago. Levy emphasized that all decisions regarding which work would run during the 2010 Super Bowl were based on how well the work fared during the focus group research -- something A-B has traditionally relied on to ensure its commercials score well in USA Today's Super Bowl Ad Meter competition.

The research results also explain, per Levy, why Super Bowl viewers will see no iconic Clydesdale horses or dalmatian dogs in this year's A-B Super Bowl work. Levy said at least one spot with the Clydesdales was tested, but it did not do as well as other work that was more comedic and less iconic. Indeed, Levy said viewers will notice an emphasis on lighthearted work this year because he believes -- given the tough times the country has experienced recently -- that viewers want to laugh more while they are building an emotional connection with A-B brands.

A-B's first spot out of the gate after the kickoff to start the Super Bowl is expected to be "Light House," about a cool dude and his house made of Bud Light cans. Another Bud Light spot is about an asteroid that could cause catastrophic destruction. Yet another Bud Light spot will remind viewers of the popular TV show "Lost."

One of DDB's Budweiser brand spots shows how some industrious people help a stranded Budweiser truck make it into town. Levy said Lance Armstrong will be used extensively to promote Michelob Ultra in the months to come.

WKSC-FM's (103.5) popular "Drex in the Morning" morning drive show is now a channel on Clear Channel Radio's iHeartradio iPhone app. Clear Channel Radio said Tuesday that the new channel was added in response to strong demand from listeners who wanted the convenience of listening to the show on their iPhone and smart phone devices. To date, the iHeartradio app has more than 4.8 million unique downloads. Users of the app can stream broadcasts from 400 radio stations, as well as digital-only channels such as Pride, Christina Aguilera Radio and Eagles Radio. "Drex in the Morning" typically reaches nearly one million radio listeners per week.

On Monday, the general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board issued a complaint alleging that ESPN Radio's sports talk WMVP-AM (1000) improperly installed Web cameras without negotiating with the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, the union that represents on-air talent at the station.

The cameras were apparently installed in the studios as part of WMVP's strategy to develop a simultaneous Webcast of its radio programming. AFTRA subsequently charged that the move to install cameras represents a change in the conditions of employment and therefore must be subject to collective bargaining.

The NLRB complaint also alleges that WMVP unlawfully bypassed the union and bargained directly with on-air personalities regarding compensation and the assignment of new duties related to its renovated Web site. A hearing on the matter has been set for March 8, before an NLRB administrative law judge in Chicago.

A work contract covering WMVP employees expired in late 2007, and negotiations have so far not resulted in a new contract. A WMVP spokesman could not be immediately reached for comment.

Motorola SB Ad.pngIs it about the sexy legs or the smart phone? Inquiring minds are wondering as Motorola prepares to debut a new spot on the Super Bowl on Feb. 7.

Motorola worked with Anomaly/New York -- not its lead agency Ogilvy/New York -- on the Super Bowl spot, which will feature a well-known celebrity and showcase a new Motoblur smart phone. Those legs seen in the teaser could very well belong to this celebrity, suggesting the spot's star is most likely a female. Or else a male with incredible gams. Motorola said it intends to keep the celebrity's identity a secret until the commercial airs during the third quarter of the big game. We'll see how good Motorola is at keeping a secret.

Motorola's whole Super Bowl push apparently is designed to kick off a new brand positioning for a company that seems to have lost its way as a marketer in recent years. Motorola opted to pass over Ogilvy for this big Super Bowl assignment. Could that mean less work for Motorola's lead agency and more for the likes of Anomaly going forward? Time, inevitably, will tell.

Picture 1.jpgLate this afternoon, Anheuser-Busch released a tentative line-up of its 2010 Super Bowl advertising to the media, and there are a few surprises mixed in among the nine spots.

First, and perhaps most surprisingly, at least one source is reporting that DDB/Chicago, long linked at the hip with A-B's best-selling Bud Light brand, is not responsible for any of the five Bud Light spots tentatively slated to air during the Super Bowl on Feb. 7. On Monday, an A-B spokesman would not discuss which agency did which commercials, but Cannonball in St. Louis is believed to have done most if not all of the Bud Light work, which carries a new tag line "Here we go." The idea seems to be to connect Bud Light with fun times, not exactly a new theme for the brand. The "drinkability" theme, pushed hard in several recent Bud Light campaigns, is not being promoted in this 2010 Super Bowl line-up.

Also missing in action in the two Budweiser brand commercials, believed to be the handiwork of DDB, are the iconic Clydesdales and the dalmatian dog that have been featured in recent years -- often in heartwarming vignettes intended to provide an alternative to the frat house humor in the Bud Light work. There are dogs in the two Budweiser commercials, but not a dalmatian.

Certainly, the Bud Light work expected to appear on the Super Bowl still feels like it is aimed at the frat house, but the commercials have a different rhythm and a softer kind of humor overall than was apparent in the early and best Bud Light work from DDB/Chicago when the format was still fresh and before the material descended to the level of farting horses and crotch-biting dogs.

Will any of the work in this A-B line-up prove good enough to top the Ad Meter competition? The answer to that depends on how stiff the competition is this year. Some of the advertisers that previously have been contenders in the Ad Meter competition are sitting on the sidelines this year. And in recent years, a lot of the Super Bowl of Advertising work has been little better than that seen during an evening of typical prime time programming. Which is another way of saying "not very good."

MillerHighLife_TeaserAd_screengrab01.jpgChicago-based MillerCoors is back to poking fun at its archrival Anheuser-Busch in a new spot set to air in 37 markets during the Super Bowl on Feb. 7. The Super Bowl spot is being heralded in a new teaser ad that features the popular, down-to-earth Miller High Life delivery man, who is attacking the big muckety-muck companies that roll out those Super Bowl spots -- referred to as "30 seconds of nonsense."

The Miller High Life delivery man and a co-worker decide Miller High Life should run a spot during the Super Bowl that pays tribute to the little guy. So that is what viewers will see in select major markets during the upcoming Super Bowl. Among the little guys being honored in the Miller High Life spot is Chicago's Tim Herron, who opened Tim's Baseball Card Shop in 2004 in the Lincoln Square neighborhood.

Saatchi & Saatchi/New York created both the teaser and the Super Bowl spot. MillerCoors cannot air its little guy spot nationally because A-B has exclusive national rights in the beer category for the Super Bowl telecast.

Rick O'Dell back on air at WLFM-FM

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Veteran smooth jazz radio host Rick O'Dell quietly launched his new mid-day radio show last week on his new radio home, WLFM-FM (87.7). O'Dell's show now airs from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. "Our idea was to execute a soft launch to get Rick back in rhythm," said WLFM general manager Pat Kelly, adding "having Rick on the air at 87.7 FM is an important part of our plan to give Chicago what they are asking for in a well-programmed, tailor-made contemporary smooth jazz radio station." Not surprisingly, O'Dell welcomed the chance to re-connect with listeners. "I can't be anything but humbled by the welcome back I've gotten from listeners," said O'Dell.

Steve Harvey is going to be one busy man come next fall. In addition to hosting his syndicated radio talk show, which airs in morning drive on urban adult contemporary WVAZ-FM (102.7) in Chicago, Harvey has inked a deal to host the nationally-syndicated "Family Feud" game show when it begins its 12th season next fall. "With his talent, authenticity and innate ability to connect with audiences from all walks of life, Steve exemplifies the spirit and appeal of 'Family Feud'," said Cecile Frot-Coutaz, CEO of FremantleMedia North America, which produces "Family Feud."

Harvey began his successful stand-up comedy career in the mid-1980's, which led to a long stint as host of "It's Showtime at the Apollo," as well as multiple television sitcoms, including "Me and the Boys" on ABC and "The Steve Harvey Show on the WB. The "Steve Harvey Morning Show" is currently heard daily by over 7 million listeners in over 64 markets.

Davis Harrison Dion, a Chicago-based strategic communications firm, will be featured Sunday, Jan. 24, on "190 North," the weekly leisure and entertainment-focused show on ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7. Janet Davies is the longtime show host. In a segment highlighting unique offices in Chicago, DHD creative director Bob Dion will share how he transformed an old, salvaged ski boat into a desk and conference table now situated in the office to provide a great view of Michigan Avenue. Bamboo Worldwide, a creative agency with headquarters located in a refurbished lounge/bar on North Avenue, also will be featured. The show will air at 10:35 p.m.

AlthleticsLogo.jpgEvery institution of higher learning is fighting as hard as it can to pull in students in these tough times. Many colleges and universities are freshening up their brand identities as part of that effort to attract the best and the brightest. Chicago-based Roosevelt University on Monday will introduce a new school logo, seal and a redesigned Web site -- all part of its effort to woo new students and help current students better understand what the university stands for.

In December, Roosevelt unveiled a new sports logo that combined an "R" with waves -- an image intended to suggest the university's athletics programs are about movement and energy. Chicago-based Studio Blue, a graphics design firm that has worked with educational and cultural institutions around the country, developed the new sports program logo, as well as the updated university logo and seal coming on Monday. Chicago-based mStoner developed the university's new Web site.

As of today, ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7 reporter Ben Bradley has the distinction of being the only local TV reporter to travel to -- and report live from -- Haiti since the catastrophic earthquake struck the impoverished country last week. Bradley flew into Haiti Wednesday morning on a special United Airlines flight packed with 15,000 pounds of water, 300 tents and 60 relief workers. Bradley spent about an hour on the ground in Haiti -- just long enough to do a live phone report for the WLS mid-day news. He is expected also to be featured on the station's afternoon newscasts.

Bradley was set to return to Chicago later today on the same United aircraft, which will come back with some of the hundreds of people who have been cleared by the United States State Department to leave Haiti. That includes a number of orphans being adopted by families in the U.S.

If it seems a little quiet around the offices of Euro RSCG/Chicago this week, there's a reason. Senior staff and the agency's top PR executives have decamped for a regional leadership meeting in a sleepy little burg called Miami. Yes, that would be the Miami in Florida. Top Euro RSCG spokesman Eric Edge said that in deference to the difficult economic times in general-- and in the ad agency business in particular -- Euro RSCG opted to do regional executive get-togethers this year, rather than one large confab for the entire Euro RSCG global network. It's all about being economical and efficient, you see.

And lest anyone think that the sun and surf are beckoning those lucky Euro RSCG execs who have escaped gloomy Chicago for Miami, Edge assured us it's all business at this Florida retreat. "We go into a meeting room at 8 a.m. and get out at 6 p.m., when we have dinner and get ready for the next day," said Edge. Still, we can't help but think that such a grueling routine is just a little easier to stomach in Miami than it would be in, say, Grand Rapids, Mich.

Chicago lost another high-profile account to an out-of-town shop when Northwestern Mutual recently relocated its ad account from Downtown Partners to Olson/Minneapolis. But the Rustoleum ad account, now at Periscope/Minneapolis, has been quietly searching for a new agency too. And it looks as if Chicago has a fighting chance of getting back the Rustoleum business that as recently as 2006 was at the now-defunct local Greenhouse shop.

Sources say Periscope is pitching to defend the Rustoleum business, but two Chicago shops, McGarryBowen and Energy BBDO, also are part of the review.

The just-ended 2009 was a tough year for new business wins in Chicago, though McGarryBowen did pull in some nifty Kraft accounts. But just about all the city's ad shops could use some nice wins early in this new year to develop some momentum that we can only hope will continue to grow with each passing month.

DraftFCB/Chicago has added Rob Farber as executive producer (broadcast) for the agency's Miller Lite account. Farber will report to DraftFCB director of creative production Dan Zigulich. Farber has won Addys, Effies and an Emmy Award for his work on the "Knicks Fans Know" campaign directed by Spike Lee. In 2000, Farber wrote, directed and produced a 33-minute short film called "The Pirates of Central Park" that earned him best debut director and best children's film honors at the New York International Film & Video Festival. In 2004, Farber branched out on his own and founded Rogue Producer Inc. Farber has worked with numerous ad agencies, including JWT, Ogilvy, Grey and StrawberryFrog.

The Chicago-based Idea Web Design and Internet Marketing firm has been honored by the American Design Awards organization for the firm's design of a new Web site, www.tuscanychicago.com. The new Web site was developed for Tuscany Restaurants and Cafes, part of the Chicago-based Phil Stefani Signature Restaurants group. The Tuscany Web site design was one of 19 honored last month from among a pool of nearly 400 entrants from around the world. Darren Fox founded Web Design and Internet Marketing here in Chicago last year. The firm is focused on helping small businesses grow through well-planned Web sites.

The American Design Awards were established to recognize individual artists, design firms and companies worldwide who value the art of visual communication. Grading is based on creativity, effectiveness and practicality.

WLS Michael Damsky.jpgMike Fowler was abruptly removed from his post as general manager of news/talk WLS-AM (890) on Friday. WLS-AM and oldies WLS-FM (94.7) are both owned and operated by Citadel Broadcasting, which recently filed for bankruptcy protection. Fowler also had served as market manager for Citadel's two Chicago radio properties.

Fowler was immediately replaced at WLS-AM by Michael Damsky, who most recently was director of sales for Citadel's two Chicago radio stations. The move, announced to Citadel's Chicago staff Friday morning by Citadel CEO Farid Suleman, took Fowler by surprise. "I didn't see it coming; the stations were in better shape than they've ever been," said Fowler, who had been with Citadel in Chicago for the past two years. Fowler said Suleman told him his axing was a "downsizing" of the company. Fowler had recently moved his family to Chicago from Atlanta.

Fowler's exit comes as WLS-AM was making moves to boost the station's all-important afternoon drive show hosted by Roe Conn and Cisco Cotto. The show had been slumping badly in the ratings in recent months, and Cotto's arrival earlier this week as co-host was intended to give the show a lift. According to a WLS-AM spokesman, Damsky gave the staff no indication on Friday of any immediate changes he might make at WLS-AM.

Prior to joining Citadel Broadcasting two years ago, Damsky spent 24 years at classic rock WXRT-FM (93.1), where he ultimately rose to become general manager. Damsky also participated in the launch of sports talk WSCR-AM (670). Both WXRT and WSCR are CBS Radio properties.

Houli Headshot.jpgTwo true Chicago characters are teaming up to host a new evening radio show on Sovereign City Radio Services' WNTD-AM (950). Beginning Jan. 20, James "Skinny" Sheahan, former director of the Mayor's Office of Special Events, and Mike "Houli" Houlihan, a columnist for the Irish American News and a former features columnist (2003 to 2005) for the Sun-Times, will join forces for "The Skinny & Houli Show" each Wednesday from 6 to 8 p.m.

The duo reportedly will discuss what's happening in Chicago every week -- which would suggest the two hosts will have a lot of territory to cover. The topics of discussion will include politics, sports and entertainment. The show also hopes to feature guests who are making a positive impact on the lives of Chicagoans. In addition, a "Special Olympics Spotlight" segment will focus on an athlete, coach or volunteer and his or her particular outstanding achievement.

Is the sky the limit? Seriously, folks, that's seems to be the only conclusion to be drawn from the ever-soaring TV ratings for the resurgent Chicago Blackhawks. We received word this morning from Comcast SportsNet Chicago that the telecast of the Hawks game against the Columbus Blue Jackets last night delivered the highest Blackhawks regular season rating ever on CSNC-- a 4.15, per the Nielsen overnights. The 4.69 peak rating occurred during the 9:30 p.m. quarter hour.


The 4.15 single game regular season rating on CSNC shatters the previous record set just last week on January 7, in a televised game again the Boston Bruins, which had a 3.43 rating. The new ratings high for last night's Hawks telecast marks the fifth time this season the team has set a new all-time regular season single game ratings record on CSNC.

Pat Hughes, the Chicago Cubs play-by-play announcer on Tribune Co.-owned news/talk WGN-AM (720), has been named the 2009 Illinois Sportscaster of the Year by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association. This marks Hughes' eighth Sportscaster of the Year honor and his fifth in Illinois, having previously won the award in 1996, 1999, 2006 and 2007.

"Pat Hughes has a tremendous connection with Cubs fans through WGN's powerhouse signal," said Tom Langmyer, vice president and general manager of WGN radio. "He is a pure play-by-play artist who also brings out the magic in his partner Ron Santo," added Langmyer.

The 2010 season will mark Hughes' 15th season with WGN radio and the Cubs and his 28th season of broadcasting in Major League Baseball.

Two guys with sports broadcasting backgrounds have turned to movie reviewing as a fun sideline. Steven Leventhal, who does a weekend sports show on WKRS-AM (1220) in Waukegan, and David Schuster, a familiar sports beat reporter for CBS Radio-owned WSCR-AM (670) in Chicago, have launched a Web site, www.boothreviews.com, on which they have begun reviewing movies and DVD's and even books

The twist in their new movie review site is that they will come at reviewing flicks and books from a sports perspective -- an approach they believe will particularly appeal to male sports fans. Their rating system even reflects a sports theme -- with a "grand slam" equalling four stars, a "triple" equalling three stars and so on.

NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5 is adding more locally-focused programming to its Sunday morning line-up. Effective, Sunday Jan. 17, the station is introducing a new half-hour show called "Weekend Connection" at 8:30 a.m. The new program, hosted by Zoraida Sambolin and produced jointly by NBC News and WMAQ, will bring a local focus to top national stories of the week. Also, "The Talk," now hosted by Marion Brooks, will move to 8 a.m. from its current 7:30 a.m. time slot. "The Talk" focuses on the buzz of the week in politics, business, entertainment and sports. "Sunday Today" also will move back an hour to 7 a.m., while "Meet the Press" will move to 9:30 a.m. from 9 a.m. Also Chris Matthews' show moves up from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. as the lead-in to "Meet the Press," providing what WMAQ executives hope will be a lively 90-minute block of political discussion.

Shovel.jpgIt's been a very tough 12 months or so for restaurants in Chicago. And just about everywhere else for that matter. Nothing dampens the urge to eat out like an economic downturn -- especially a massive one. Add some ugly winter weather to the mix, and you have a recipe for a significant drop in restaurant dining. But smart restaurants are quick to respond to the challenge. Count Keefer's restaurant and its ad agency, the Ungar Group/Chicago, among those that aren't waiting patiently for customers to find their way back. Keefer's has launched a new TV campaign enticing groups of six or more to make a reservation and honor it -- after which Keefer's will honor the group with a $50 gift certificate. The offer is good through the end of February.

The simple Keefer's commercial itself is filled with snowy, icy imagery familiar to anyone who has passed a winter or two in Chicago. The spot's musical underscoring, "In the Good Old Summertime," reflects the irony and wit that have been a component of much of the advertising created by Tom Ungar and his crew at the Ungar Group over the years.

DraftFCB/Chicago is boosting its digital practice locally with the addition of Kevin Davis as group creative director, digital, and Emily Brennan, director of the search engine marketing practice. Davis most recently was at Publicis West/Seattle, where he was director of digital strategy and co-leader of the agency's digital creative department. "Kevin has been a key player creative in the digital space since day one," said Rob Sherlock DraftFCB/Chicago's chief creative officer. Brennan joins DraftFCB after five years at Performics, where she was a group account director working with 30 clients. As part of DraftFCB's media team, Brennan will lead search engine marketing initiatives, integrating the offering with clients' other digital efforts. Brennan will report to Bob Bernstein, DraftFCB/Chicago chief media officer.

Burrell Communications/Chicago is forming a new agency subsidiary called Threshold Nation, which will focus on multi-ethnic urban male consumers age 18 to 34. Per Burrell, there are approximately 35.5 million males in the agency's target demo, and they have a combined buying power totaling close to $31.5 billion. The agency will seek clients in the apparel, electronics, spirits and grooming categories. "The launch of Threshold Nation is groundbreaking because this is the first agency ever that focuses specifically on this elusive segment who are today's influencers," said McGhee Williams Osse, Burrell's co-CEO.

Julian Jones will head up the creative department for Threshold Nation. Craig E. Stroud II and Asha Dickens will lead account management, and Emanuel Basnight and Myia Driscoll will be in charge of account planning. "More than just marketers, this dynamic team lives the Threshold Nation lifestyle and understands the importance of approaching the target ina way that is not only authentic but also attractive for brands to support," said Fay Ferguson, Burrell's co-CEO.

US McNugget.JPGThe McDonald's Webcast Monday morning was painfully stiff and scripted. The event was designed to showcase McDonald's marketing efforts surrounding the Winter Olympics set to kick off next month in Vancouver, Canada.

It took McDonald's global chief marketing officer Mary Dillon and McDonald's Canada president John Betts and assorted guests about 20 minutes to walk us through the various components of the fast food behemoth's marketing initiatives tied to the 2010 Games. About three minutes of that time, roughly, was devoted to actual McDonald's Olympic TV advertising.

Sad to say, terribly old-fashioned TV commercials aren't top of mind anymore at McDonald's, which, along with scores of other companies, seems convinced that there are other, more efficient ways to reach their core audience now. Still, this is the Olympics. And a truly great TV commercial could have whetted the public's appetite for the upcoming Olympics and for McDonald's.

But the worked McDonald's unveiled Monday couldn't have been more underwhelming. For the United States market, McDonald's is going with just two instantly forgettable spots from DDB/Chicago, a longtime roster agency. One spot is all about a female hockey team and another showcases two snowboarders. Both are about pushing McNuggets, which apparently is what McDonald's is using this Olympics to market. Not the glory of the games. Or the excitement of athletic competition. Just McNuggets, which McDonald's said was its most requested menu item at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

McDonald's, of course, is entitled to push whatever it wants in its TV commercials. But clearly the company wasn't inclined to spend big on a commercial or two for the 2010 Olympics that weren't primarily product-focused. Such is the way most advertisers think about their marketing nowadays: don't spend on anything that won't boost the bottom line. It's a short-sighted, narrow-minded philosophy that almost inevitably leads to the hopelessly mediocre kind of work McDonald's introduced during Monday's Web cast.

There was a time when McDonald's would have delivered more -- much more -- than merely mediocre TV creative. Those times are gone. And we're definitely not lovin' it.

It's official. Now that Amy Cheronis has left her position as chief PR spokeswoman for DDB's United States operations, Cathy Carl will take over those responsibilities. In recent years, Carl said she has reported to -- and worked with -- Cheronis to orchestrate the agency's public relations efforts domestically. Carl is based out of DDB's Seattle office, where clients include Microsoft. But Carl said she will be traveling more as she takes on a more active role orchestrating DDB's public relations through the United States. She plans to be in Chicago next week to begin to develop her game plan here. Two staffers who had worked with Cheronis on public relations in the Chicago shop will carry on in their jobs for now, Carl said. Carl declined comment on how her approach would differ from that of Cheronis, who seemed to be trying to maintain a low profile for DDB's Chicago office. "I don't feel comfortable talking about that now," she said.

Call them the little -- or not so little really -- ad agency that can perform. Even in the toughest of times. We're talking about Tom, Dick & Harry/Chicago, which informed us it achieved 12 percent growth in 2009, with billings that now exceed $25 million. Now TD&H is now looking for a larger space to house the agency in the Gallery District in River North.

TD&H partners Bob Volkman, David Yang, Michael Herlehy, Greg Reifel and Don Brashears reported that the eight-year-old agency grew in 2009 from existing clients including the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and Mission Investment Fund, as well as new clients including Bally Total Fitness and new assignments from Peoples Gas, AirCell, Premier Dermatology and Discover Card. TD&H's digital unit also turned in a strong performance in 2009.

cheronis_amy.jpgIt's official. PR maven Amy Cheronis has severed her ties with DDB/Chicago and joined the public relations team at Leo Burnett, where, starting Jan. 11, she will have the title of senior vice-president, director, worldwide communications. Joining her on the PR team at Burnett will be Patti Temple Rocks, who will have the title of executive vice-president and global director of corporate communications. Temple Rocks will be responsible for strategic leadership of internal and external communications for Burnett, and Cheronis will report to her. Temple Rocks first day on the job is Jan. 19.

Temple Rocks, 50, formerly served as vice-president, global public affairs and reputation at the Dow Chemical Co., where she led a global communications team of over 300 employees in 28 countries. Previous to Dow Chemical, Temple Rocks was a longtime senior leader at the Golin-Harris PR firm in Chicago, where she oversaw McDonald's, Levi Strauss and other clients. Burnett President Rich Stoddart said Temple Rocks has led "communications efforts for some of the world's most iconic brands with vision and creative flair."

But Temple Rocks skills notwithstanding, the more interesting part of the new Burnett PR equation may be Cheronis, 39, who previously worked at Burnett in PR before moving to beleaguered DDB/Chicago to run the public relations effort there. After so much tumult in the executive offices and down in the ranks at DDB in recent years, many suspect survivor Cheronis's influence within the shop stretched well beyond her public relations department.

But it's worth noting that she is abandoning DDB at a very critical moment for the shop -- the lead-up to the Super Bowl and Anheuser-Busch's presumed big splash on the big game telecast. But now that A-B has a new owner, many in the ad biz are wondering whether the splash will indeed be as big as it has been in the past. And there's also the lingering question of what relationship Anheuser-Busch InBev will have with DDB going forward.
Perhaps, looking at all the variables clouding DDB's future, Cheronis decided it would be best to cast her net with Burnett. In any event, lots to watch and wonder about as Cheronis sets sail for Burnett and DDB/Chicago churns toward the Super Bowl.

Brant Miller, the engaging meteorologist on NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5, has lost his second gig as a morning drive host on Citadel Broadcasting's oldies station WLS-FM (94.7), where he had been on air for two years. Until June of 2008, WLS-FM had operated under the call letters WZZN-FM. The move to cut Miller from the roster at WLS-FM comes soon after parent Citadel Broadcasting's bankruptcy filing.

The WLS morning show gig had provided Miller a presence on radio, a medium in which he seemed to be just as comfortable as he is on television. Before he turned to weather forecasting on television as his principal job in the late 1980's, Miller was a radio DJ on several stations in Denver and Chicago, including WLS-AM (890)

But like other some Chicago radio outlets in recent months that have opted to play down personality and focus more on music, WLS-FM is apparently going in that direction too.
"We are going to replace him (Brant) with another personality and make the show more music-focused," said WLS-FM program director Michael La Crosse. Emmis Communications' classic rock station WLUP-FM (97.9) dropped high profile morning drive talent Jonathon Brandmeier late last year and said it too wanted to focus more on music instead of personality.

Minus his WLS-FM job, Miller still will be plenty busy as lead weatherman at WMAQ, where he does forecasts for both the station's early newscasts and the flagship 10 p.m. news. He joined WMAQ in 1991, after a brief stint at Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32.

Sources say the deal is signed, sealed and all but delivered. As we posted earlier this week, Leo Burnett/Chicago has been looking for a new PR chief, and we hear the shop has found one: Amy Cheronis. Those who know the Chicago advertising scene know Cheronis has for some time been the chief press representative for DDB/Chicago and -- more recently -- the entire American DDB network. She is one of the few remaining survivors from the Bob Scarpelli era at DDB/Chicago, which pretty much represented the shop's last gasp as a major creative force in Chicago.

Perhaps that sad turn in DDB's fortunes in recent years explains, in large part, why Cheronis has apparently decided to abandon what looks to have become a steadily sinking DDB ship, especially since the suicide of chief creative officer Paul Tilley nearly two years ago. More money, no doubt, was another incentive. New Burnett Chief Creative Officer Susan Credle had a major hand, we're told, in selecting Burnett's new PR chief. If indeed Burnett decides to go with Cheronis, it will have gotten a strong-headed PR chieftain who, from our vantage point, always seems happiest and most accessible when journalists see things her way. And considerably less so on both counts, if scribes happen to have a different perspective.

Should Cheronis wind up at Burnett, which in recent years has suffered from some of the same problems that have brought down DDB/Chicago, it will be interesting to watch what PR strategy she adopts going forward.

jenshot.jpgJen Patterson has joined the sports news department at Comcast SportsNet Chicago. She will coordinate guest booking for a variety of Comcast SportsNet locally-produced programs, along with feature segment producing and on-air appearances. Patterson most recently was the associate producer and weather/traffic/sports update anchor for Comcast SportsNet's "Monsters in the Morning" program, which ended its run on CSNC last month. Previously, Patterson was the executive producer for "The Mike North Morning Show" on sports talk WSCR-AM (670). "Jen has proven herself to be a rising on-air and off-air talent in our city, and we're thrilled she'll be with us to lend her expertise to our newsroom," said Charlie Schumacher, senior news director for Comcast SportsNet Chicago.

Steve Dolinsky headshot.jpegAs it said it would, Chicago public radio station WBEZ-FM (91.5) is finally getting around to expanding the blog presence at its vocalo.org Web address. Joining former Sun-Times radio and TV columnist Robert Feder at the site starting next Monday, Jan. 11, will be architecture critic and former Sun-Times columnist Lee Bey, food reporter and critic Steve Dolinsky and creativity guru and author Amy Krouse Rosenthal.

"We are striving to become the destination where Chicago goes to talk by conscientiously adding voices to the mix who offer a unique and informed perspective and invite dialogue," said Justin Kaufmann, Chicago Public Radio senior content director. Kaufman described Bey as an active participant in the city's architecture and urban planning scene for years, and he called Dolinsky the go-to guy for Chicago restaurant news. Kaufmann also said Rosenthal will invite visitors to her blog to create and connect.

Chris Duffy has joined Tribune Co.-owned WGN-AM (720) as creative services manager. His responsibilities will include creating imaging content and optimizing the listener experience, which sounds like a daunting task in and of itself. A native of Traverse City, Mich., Duffy previously worked at several radio stations around the country, including more recently WFTL-AM (850) in the Miami/Ft. Lauderdale area. "I haven't shivered uncontrollably in wind chills for nearly a decade," said Duffy of his new job. His appointment is effective immediately.

Initially, it was to have been handled by mid-June of last year. Or so we were told from on high at Leo Burnett's flagship Chicago office. We're talking, of course, about what has turned into a terribly protracted search for a new public relations representative to handle media relations at perhaps the most iconic of Chicago ad agencies -- a job that has not been permanently filled for a year now. But we hear from the very pleasant Steve Peckham -- the agency's interim PR chief who has been on loan to Burnett from the global PR shop Edelman since last spring -- that Burnett does indeed expect to have a permanent PR person selected sometime in January.

Why has it taken such a ridiculously long time to find someone? Well, the Burnett powers-that-be apparently decided to put the search on hold last summer while they focused on finding a new chief creative officer. When Susan Credle was hired in September, that job was filled. And with Credle's input, the search supposedly resumed for the new PR chief. So it goes in the up and down, on again and off and on again world of advertising these days.

The advertising business is not without its major challenges, and whoever finally winds up in the PR seat at Burnett hopefully will have some understanding of what those challenges are and how best to present Burnett to the world in light of them. For truth be told, Burnett has been hard hit by those challenges in recent years. And the agency needs all the help it can get in re-burnishing its once glowing image within the Chicago ad world and beyond.

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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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