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

June 2010 Archives

Have you noticed how ratings-challenged CNN is letting some of its most high-profile on-air talent do the heavy lifting for management as the cable channel commences a near total -- and desperately needed -- overhaul of its prime time line-up? Everything we said needed to happen at the once high-flying cable news channel in a column last year is now coming to pass.

First, smarmy Anderson Cooper sidekick Erica Hill departed Cooper's show and the cable channel. Then the barely competent Campbell Brown said she would voluntarily step down from her mishmash of a show so CNN execs could replace her with former New York governor Eliot Spitzer and Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker.

Now comes word that Larry King has suddenly decided he actually wants to retire, which strains credulity. But nonetheless King is doing just that, whether or not he was quietly pushed to do so by CNN management.

That leaves Cooper as the only CNN prime time host left standing. And who knows for how long. Cooper has eagerly taken on the role of vigilante crusading for truth and justice in the Gulf region as he covers the BP oil disaster. But his show hasn't exactly been a ratings winner either, which may leave him vulnerable.

Of course, we won't know for a while whether the new cast of characters that will arrive at CNN over the next several months will help boost the ratings. Or just make the situation worse.

Some more bad news for Euro RSCG/Chicago. The agency is losing its domestic Barilla pasta ad account to Young & Rubicam, which has for some time handled the Italian pasta company's ad business internationally. The client wants to consolidate the business with one ad agency, and Y & R looks to be the victor in this particular consolidation. A Euro RSCG spokesman said the agency was "disappointed by this mandate from Italy."

The departure of Barilla from Euro RSCG leaves the consumer advertising arm of Euro RSCG/Chicago with one less high-profile account. The Chicago agency also recently lost Valspar paint to DraftFCB/Chicago. Still on the agency roster are Effen vodka, Sauza and Hornitos tequilas and a few other pieces of business.

For a while it looked as if Euro RSCG might be picking up some steam in its efforts to pull itself out of a corpse-like state, at least as far its general consumer advertising efforts were concerned. But lately, whatever momentum the agency had been generating seems to have mostly vanished, even though the shop now has no fewer than two creative leaders in Steffan Postaer and Blake Ebel.

Whatever oomph Euro RSCG/Chicago retains is in its below-the-line efforts, which, of course, do not typically give an agency the chance to demonstrate its creativity to the fullest extent.

Sarah Montague has returned to DraftFCB/Chicago as a group management director helping to lead the agency's Volkswagen account. Montague previously worked at Foote, Cone & Belding in the late 1990's and early 2000's as a senor account director. She will now report to Dasher Lowe, a group management director at DraftFCB. DraftFBC was awarded Volkswagen's CRM business in the United States in February following a review.

Most recently, Montague was with TargetCom LLC, par the MDC Partners network, where she was director of client services working with clients such as U.S. Cellular, Best Buy/Geek Squad and HumanaOne. "Sarah understands the importance of using consumer-driven data and analytics to develop campaigns that matter to the consumer," said Mark Modesto, president of DraftFCB North America.

Bernie's got a blog. Yes, up-to-the-minute Bernie DiMeo, who shut down his Chicago ad agency several months ago and recently started up a new public relations firm, has fully embraced 21st century forms of new media. But ironically enough, Bernie used the debut item on his new blog to mourn the passing of what he nostalgically refers to as the "good ole days."

For Bernie, those days invariably included long, alcohol-heavy lunches with reporters. For, you see, Bernie actually moved from public relations into advertising. And now he's back practicing what he got his start with in the communications biz. We can certainly sympathize with Bernie as he fondly recalls in his blog the days when lunch was where business got done.

PR practitioners back then would quickly deal go over the details of whatever they were trying to interest a reporter in writing about, promise it as an exclusive, and then get on with the serious business of enjoying lunch and cocktails. Another kind of world. Another time. And mostly likely, one we'll never see the likes of again. Yes, Bernie, those were indeed the good ole days.

Host Steve Cochran has left Tribune Co.-owned news/talk WGN-AM (720), the station announced late Friday. And mid-morning host John Williams is staying. Cochran's contract expires next week. Cochran will be permanently replaced by former Cincinnati news/talk radio talent Mike McConnell, who is scheduled to arrive at WGN in early August. Until McConnell's debut, a series of guest hosts will fill the 1 p.m to 3 p.m. time slot on WGN that had been occupied by Cochran. Chicago Cubs baseball games also will air on some days.

For now, mid-morning host John Williams is staying on at WGN. But left unclear on Friday was exactly how the station will finally divvy up the 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. time period between Williams and McConnell. "Mike McConnell and John Williams . . .make a great team to take our listeners through the events of the day," said WGN general manager Tom Langmyer in a statement. Langmyer could not be immediately reached for further clarification.

When news of WGN's hiring of McConnell first broke earlier this month, McConnell himself had suggested he would be doing the show on WGN now hosted by John Williams, at least according to one Cincinnati media writer. But WGN management subsequently indicated McConnell couldn't know yet what he would be doing at WGN, because no decision had been made about where McConnell would go in the WGN line-up.

The departure of Cochran is certain to be another jarring adjustment for some longtime WGN listeners who have been upset by the seemingly unending series of talent and programming changes that have hit the station during the past 18 months. Tribune Co. CEO Randy Michaels and WGN program director Kevin Metheny have made numerous changes to give the station an edgier sound and attract a younger, 25 to 54-year-old demographic.

In recent years, Peter Arnell has survived some very public and very high-profile failures as a branding guru, most recently a Tropicana orange juice packaging redesign that quickly bombed in the marketplace. Still, the man always seems to have something new going on to distract attention from past mistakes.

His latest venture, a book called "Shift: How to reinvent your business, your career and your personal brand" makes us wonder if he's now turning into an Oprah Winfrey-type figure right in front of our eyes. We haven't read his short book yet, but a line in the book jacket copy caught our attention and raised the red flags: "With 'Shift,' you'll discover the steps you need to take in order to become the best you." It was that "best you" bit that made us think of Winfrey. After all, her whole astounding career has mostly been about helping women become the best possible iteration of themselves.

In any event, the best possible Arnell was apparently only realized after the book's author shed more than 250 pounds. For what it's worth, Martha Stewart, not Winfrey, penned the book's foreward. And the back cover of the "Shift" book jacket includes quotes from an odd collection of people ranging from architect Frank Gehry to fashion designer Donna Karan and actress Gwyneth Paltrow.

Now, if all Arnell's buddies in the ad biz buy a copy of the book, maybe, just maybe, it will find its way on to the best seller lists.

Radio looks to be one medium in which Chicago ad agencies are able to distinguish themselves on the international advertising awards stage. Word has come from the International Advertising Festival in Cannes that Lapiz/Chicago, the Hispanic advertising arm of Leo Burnett, has nabbed two gold lions for a radio campaign in both English and Spanish for Bounty paper towels. The campaign has the tagline "For the cleaning battle in the kitchen, choose Bounty."

The winning Bounty commercial features a number of carefully-selected words cleverly spoken and strung together to create a sound that approximates gunfire or artillery shells exploding. The Lapiz wins for its Bounty radio work come after many Cannes fests in which DDB/Chicago's "Real Men of Genius" radio campaign seemed to be the most beloved of all radio executions entered into the global competition. The "Real Men of Genius" campaign continues as part of the Bud Light ad mix.

Rumors can surface quickly and be shot down just as fast. That's what happened today when Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32 general manager Michael Renda was suddenly rumored to be leaving the station, a mere 10 months into his tenure there. But a WFLD spokeswoman quickly refuted the rumor. "It's absolutely not true that Renda is leaving," she said.

Renda and WFLD news director Carol Fowler have been busy in recent months totally revamping the station's news department and its 9 p.m. hour-long late newscast. On-air talent has been jettisoned, and new talent has been brought in, including contributing anchor Anna Davlantes and Mike Flannery, who will start his new job as political reporter next Monday.

Renda had success improving the newscast ratings for the Fox station in Philadelphia, where he was prior to being posted to WFLD. But so far the ongoing overhaul of the WFLD news product has not resulted in any improvement in the ratings for the late newscast.

John Callaway lobby portrait.jpgChicago public television station WTTW-Channel 11 is creating the John Callaway Excellence in Online Journalism Fellowship to pay tribute to "Chicago Tonight's" founding host, John Callaway, who died of a heart attack a year ago.

The fellowship will be funded through the donations of family, friends and WTTW viewers. The fellowship will be open to graduate students at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Each school quarter, the program will give a fellow the opportunity to work with television producers and Web staff to create original and supplemental content for the "Chicago Tonight" Web site. The fellows will get hands-on experience with online journalism and learn how to work under deadline pressure. The fellowship also will give participants a chance to hone editorial judgment and sharpen fact-checking and research skills. Each online fellow will receive a $3,000 stipend.

"My sister Liz and I are thrilled that WTTW is honoring our father's legacy by creating this fellowship," said Ann Hampton Callaway, a noted singer, songwriter and actress. "He was a passionate mentor to budding journalists, and this would have pleased him immensely," added Hampton Callaway.

"John Callaway remains an iconic figure in the history of WTTW," said the station's CEO Dan Schmidt. "I can't think of a better way to honor his memory than by making this opportunity available to talented young journalists," added Schmidt.

Joe Bohannon and Eddie Volkman, two of Chicago radio's ex-million-dollar-mouths, are returning to the airwaves on Citadel Broadcasting's conservative news/talk WLS-AM (890). Starting this Saturday, Bohannon and Volkman will be on air from 7 to 9 p.m. once a week. Not exactly prime time in the radio world, but WLS management believes the two radio talents who spent 20 years at WBBM-FM (96.3) deserve to be heard again. "They are true voices of Chicago, and we think there is an interest in hearing them," said WLS general manager Michael Damsky.

For two on-air radio talents who were used to talking to a youngish Top 40 audience at WBBM-FM for decades, the new gig at WLS will involve a big learning curve, at least according to Bohannon, who says he's not sure what kind of audience he and Volkman will have now that they are on a primarily conservative talk station. "We're going to spend the whole of our first show taking phone calls, just so we can find out who is listening," explained Bohannon. Neither he nor Volkman have ever done talk radio, so it will take some time for them to figure out exactly how they will fill the two hours allotted them each week. Bohannon said he expects they will talk more about pop culture than politics in the early going. "I always believe you should go with your gut, and I think pop culture has always been our strong suit," said Bohannon.

It's also safe to say Bohannon and Volkman will no longer be working as million-dollar mouths at WLS. Both on-air talents were making well in excess of a million dollars a year in their last seven-year contract at WBBM. But both were abruptly dropped from the station in November, 2008, with several months still left on their contracts. At the time of their exit from WBBM, Bohannon and Volkman were caught up in a sharp cost-cutting binge that swept through the entire radio industry as ad revenue began to plummet.

In an interview with this newspaper late last year, Bohannon said he would love to work again in Chicago radio, and that money wasn't a key issue for him. It certainly isn't what made him and Volkman commit to the new show at WLS. "We're working for minimum wage," said Bohannon, only half jokingly. But if they find their new legs -- and an audience -- at WLS, it could lead to bigger things at the station. Damsky declined to say what other jobs might be in the offing for the two hosts at the station, except to note that Bohannon and Volkman could become regular fill-ins on the "Roe Conn Show with Richard Roeper" in afternoon drive.

But for now, Bohannon is focused on getting the new Saturday night show done right and trying to give the WLS sales department some ratings that will make their job easier. "If we are able to make some noise, I believe good things will happen," said Bohannon.

Alex Yates has been named marketing director of the Chicago Sinfonietta. Yates, 37, is owner and head of communications consulting firm Mad Man Marketing and also volunteers his time as vice-president of communications for the Chicago chapter of the American Marketing Association.

Previous communications roles include membership and marketing communications director at the Inland Press Association in Des Plaines, and business development director Webster University's San Diego campus.

"The Sinfonietta is on the verge of naming a new music director to succeed Maestro Paul Freeman when he retires at the end of the coming season, which will be the beginning of a new era for us," noted Sinfonietta executive director Jim Hirsch. "I am delighted and excited to welcome Alex to our team as we begin this important transition," added Hirsch. The Chicago Sinfonietta will enter its 24th season in the fall of 2010.

News/talk WGN-AM (720), much in the news in recent months for the many changes in its talent line-up, took top honors at the 2010 Illinois Broadcasters Association Silver Dome Awards ceremony on Wednesday in downstate Normal. WGN was recognized as Station of the Year.

WGN also earned first place honors in eight categories -- the most of any station. First place finishes included best local radio newscast for news anchor Andrea Darlas; best live coverage of an event for the station's coverage of the Gold Coast high-rise fire; best radio news reporter for Rob Hart; best radio sportscaster for Dave Eanet; best sports play-by-play for Chicago Blackhawks broadcasters John Wiedeman and Troy Murray; best local radio show for "Blackhawks Confidential;" best local public affairs program for Dean Richards' "Breast Cancer 2009," and best locally-produced public service announcement for the WGN Radio Neediest Kids Fund.

For the first time since the agency's founding 32 years ago, a new leader is at the helm of Rhea + Kaiser in Naperville. Diane Martin, a 24-year veteran of R + K, has been named president and chief executive officer. She succeeds agency co-founder Steve Rhea, who will remain as chairman of the board. Rhea and agency co-founder Van Kaiser retain full ownership of the agency.

Additionally, Wes Meador has been named director of digital experience at the agency, and Cheryl Muzinic has been named director of client services. Stephanie Soesbe will become the agency's first chief operating officer.

Of her new role at the agency, Martin said: "I am fortunate to inherit a rich history in R + K, but I understand that the client service business is about continually looking forward and anticipating the new. My top priority is anticipating and managing change, while also painting a vision of the agency's future and empowering employees to get there."

MM_Cubbies_Bottle[3].jpgMuscle Milk, a ready-to-drink, protein-enhanced beverage, is distributing a limited edition bottle with the Chicago Cubs logo and baseball stitching incorporated into the bottle design.

The limited edition bottle will be sold at Chicago-area Walgreens through the end of July, and the bottle will be available at Jewel-Osco stores during July and August. The Cubs Muscle Milk bottle follows on the heels of another limited edition bottle that debuted in Cleveland in January of this year. That bottle featured an image of Cleveland Cavaliers player Shaquille O'Neal.

The Muscle Milk tie-in is the latest marketing move at the Cubs under Wally Hayward, the recently-appointed chief sales and marketing officer for the team. Cubs fans can now visit www.musclemilk.com/chicago for a chance to win the opportunity to throw out the first pitch at a Cubs home game.

CGG Bill Kurtis.jpgLegendary newsman and former AT&T advertising icon Bill Kurtis has signed on as spokesman for Chicago Gateway Green, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to greening and beautifying the city by planting trees and gardens along its expressways, gateways and neighborhoods. The organization marks its 25th anniversary in 2011 and is working towards a goal of planting 15,000 trees throughout Chicago by 2015.

In addition to ensuring the legacy of trees and gardens throughout Chicago by participating in various fundraising initiatives and special events, Kurtis will support tree plantings with volunteers and key partners ranging from United Airlines to the Chicago Blackhawks. "We are thrilled to welcome Bill on board," said Gerald Roper, chairman of Chicago Gateway Green.

CHIP HOYT.jpgChip Hoyt has joined DraftFCB/Chicago as executive vice-president, group management director of retail. In this new role, Hoyt will be responsible for leading, integrating and strategically building the agency's total retail marketing offering. He will be a member of the agency's leadership team and report to Chicago managing director Karen Sauder.

Hoyt brings more than 28 years of expertise to DraftFCB in consumer goods marketing, shopper marketing and sales from client and marketing services organizations. Hoyt joins DraftFCB from Crossmark, where he served as vice-president of marketing, responsible for all marketing, shopper marketing and go-to-market strategies for the agency and its clients. Hoyt also worked previously with Young & Rubicam Brands and the Ogilvy Group.

DraftFCB/New York's loss is definitely McGarryBowen/New York's gain. Northfield-based Kraft Foods has moved the Chips Ahoy!, Nabisco 100-calorie pack and Fig Newtons accounts to McGarry from DraftFCB. A fourth account, Wheat Thins, is also leaving DraftFCB, but a Kraft spokesman said the new agency for that piece of business has not yet been determined.

The Kraft spokesman declined to elaborate on why these account moves were made, except to say that changes are always made to ensure that every account is getting the work it needs. A new campaign from DraftFCB for Chips Ahoy! was recently unveiled, and the spokesman said that will continue to run for a while. It's unclear at this point when new work from McGarryBowen will debut for the various accounts it has just been awarded.

Certainly, in recent years, Kraft has become more aggressive about shifting accounts among agencies even as it has boosted the dollars spent on advertising and marketing across a large number of its brands. DraftFCB and McGarryBowen have been key players in the Kraft advertising business. Increasingly, however, McGarryBowen seems to have gotten responsibilities for a growing list of high-profile Kraft accounts.

Anita.jpgManagement at Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32 has axed several of the station's on-air talent over the past eight months, but WFLD is actually re-signing some people too. A spokeswoman for the station said Tuesday that WFLD has re-signed morning show "Good Day Chicago" anchor/reporter Kori Chambers and "Good Day Chicago" general assignment reporter Anita Padilla to multi-year contracts. Padilla has been with the station since May, 2007, and Chambers came on board at WFLD in June, 2008.

WFLD general manager Michael Renda and news director Carol Fowler have focused most of their attention in recent months on revamping the station's hour-long 9 p.m. late newscast, but "Good Day Chicago" isn't being ignored. WFLD's five-hour-long morning show has shown some small ratings erosion in recent months, but not enough to cause major panic yet.

Meanwhile, political reporter Mike Flannery is now expected to make his debut on the WFLD late news on June 28. To the surprise of many observers, Flannery recently opted to jump to low-rated WFLD from CBS-owned WBBM-Channel 2, where he was a well-liked mainstay in the station's talent roster. Flannery reportedly was attracted to WFLD, at least in part, by the promise of more air time to cover politics.

Final CX Blackhawks_For PR.jpgWhen you're a winner, everyone wants to get in on the action. Corona, another popular Mexican brew that is big in Chicago and throughout the United States, is sending its congrats to the Chicago Blackhawks who just won the Stanley Cup.

The salute comes via a new print ad that -- in Corona's familiar, understated way -- simply congratulates the Hawks on their hard-earned victory. The ad execution -- featuring the Corona bottle and lime slice on an inviting beach landscape that is so much a part of Corona's iconic advertising imagery -- is the handiwork of Cramer-Krasselt/Chicago. The ad will appear in select print publications.

Victoria General Market Poster.jpgChicago-based Crown Imports will debut Victoria beer in Chicago next week -- the launch city for the Mexican brew's United States rollout. Described as "one of Mexico's best-kept secrets," Victoria will target both Hispanic and general market beer drinkers. Victoria, a Vienna-style lager with a copper color, has been produced in Mexico since 1865, making it the country's oldest and most traditional beer brand. Until its rollout next week in Chicago, Victoria was only available in Mexico.

Chicago was a natural choice for Victoria's U.S. introduction, according to Crown Imports prez Bill Hackett, because the city has strong ties to Mexico and a well-established beer culture. Chicago also has one of the country's largest Hispanic populations, many of whom would be familiar with the brand from their home country. The Chicago launch will be supported via a major advertising push with work from Upshot/Chicago and La Comunidad/Miami in both English and Spanish. Facebook users who become a fan of Victoria will find information about tasting events and where to buy the beer via a "Find Victoria" mobile App.

Billy and Blackhawks 6.9.10 002.jpgMajor Broadway shows -- at least the ones that manage to run for years -- typically establish their legs because they know a thing or two about marketing. Count "Billy Elliot, the Musical" as one of those that is using every marketing weapon at its disposal to ensure the show based on the popular movie about a young English boy who becomes a ballet dancer enjoys a long run on Broadway, and now in Chicago at the Ford Center for the Performing Arts/Oriental Theatre, where it opened an extended run in April.

Just as the Chicago Blackhawks were clinching victory in the Stanley Cup finals Wednesday night, the "Billy Elliot" cast was about to gather on stage for their curtain calls at the end of the show. Aware that it was an historic night for the Hawks, the show's young star Tommy Batchelor, who was playing the central part of Billy that evening, quickly donned a Blackhawks cap for his final curtain call. We weren't in attendance, but we suspect the show of support for the Hawks by the "Billy Elliot" star was well-received.

And the musical's PR team made sure the musical was ready to applaud the Hawks and further demonstrate their support for the team via some publicity photos that were ready to go out bright and early Thursday morning.

Yes, this is how you market a big Broadway show nowadays and endear it to whatever market it is playing.

Mike-McConnell-preferred-head-shot.jpgIs it a done deal that Mike McConnell will take over the 9 am time slot now occupied by John Williams at WGN-AM (720)?

At least a couple of Chicago media pundits apparently have concluded that is indeed the slot McConnell will fill at WGN-AM, at least based on remarks the Chicago-bound radio host made to Cincinnati Enquirer media writer John Kiesewetter in a column that ran Tuesday. "McConnell debuts 9 a.m. August 9 on WGN-AM he said" is the line in Kiesewetter's column that seemed to answer the question about what role the new host will play at WGN. But McConnell's assertion wasn't in actual quotes in Kiesewetter's column, though it suggests that is what McConnell said to the writer.

In any event, McConnell's remark to the Cincinnati writer was apparently news to WGN-AM general manager Tom Langmyer who, in an e-mail to us Wednesday, had this to say about McConnell's comment and his future role at WGN-AM: "That would be odd coming from him (McConnell), because HE doesn't know what specific slot he'll be working in, because it has yet to be determined." Of course, that said, it's still entirely possible McConnell could show up in the 9 am time slot on WGN in August, which could signal the end of the road for Williams at WGN. But a WGN spokeswoman said again Wednesday that the station "will be making an announcement within the next 2 months" about what McConnell will do at the station.

If anyone ever doubted the upcoming Cannes International Advertising Festival was rapidly becoming little more than an excuse for ad professionals to party and ignore their regular responsibilities while frolicking on the Riviera for a week or more, Leo Burnett is giving us one more reason to assume the worst about the annual ad fest.

In what can only be described as a stroke of unbridled tastelessness, the agency is sending one David Perez, its creative recruiter no less, to the Cannes confab to execute what is being called "David on Demand."

As he informs us in a brief intro to the project at www.davidondemand.com, Perez will be at Cannes wearing a special pair of eyeglasses equipped with a Web cam, so we who aren't there can watch him do whatever people command him to do via tweets. Perez said in the video that if someone asks him to jump in a fountain at Cannes, he will do it. "I'm your b**ch, I'm your slave," says Perez in the video, sounding as if he truly relishes the prospect of what awaits him.

Burnett has plenty of problems to deal with at the moment, not least of which is a dearth of new business. Does it really need its name attached to this type of trashy exercise in attracting attention? Absolutely not. Nonetheless, David on Demand is set to go live June 21.

Detroit Public Schools I'm In.jpgLeo Burnett/Detroit took home the Grand Effie top award at the 42nd annual North American Effie Awards ceremony Tuesday night in New York. The agency won for its "I'm In" campaign for the Detroit Public Schools. The campaign was designed to help bolster support for the city's school system.

Several Chicago agencies took home Gold Effie Awards, including Young & Rubicam/Chicago, which was honored for its "Don't Just Go Back. Arrive" campaign for Sears Holdings. Digital Kitchen and Campfire were recognized with a Gold Effie for HBO's "True Blood" campaign, and Energy BBDO/Chicago got a gold for its "Wrigley Orbit Big Pak" campaign for Orbit gum. And Lapiz/Chicago won gold for its "Camping" campaign for Charmin bathroom tissue. Finally, Dig Communications scooped up three Gold Effies for its "One Second Ad" campaign for MIller/Coors.

The Effies annually honor advertising ideas that produce significant results.

News/talk WGN-AM (720) is about to add another out-of-towner to its talent roster. Mike McConnell, a well-regarded and top-rated fixture at Cincinnati's news/talk WLW-AM (700) for a quarter century, will join the WGN-AM line-up effective Aug. 9. But the announcement of McConnell's pending arrival at WGN did not include any indication of where he will fit into the station's current program line-up. That part of the equation, the station said, "will be announced in the coming months."

It's possible McDonnell could be headed to the mid-afternoon slot now occupied by Steve Cochran, who was bumped there after Garry Meier was recently moved to the pivotal afternoon drive time slot. Cochran's contract, perhaps not so coincidentally, expires at the end of June. Another possibility for McConnell is the mid-morning slot now fronted by John Williams, who has been doing double duty hosting an afternoon show at Minneapolis station WCC0-AM (830) from Chicago for the past couple months in addition to his WGN gig.

News of McConnell's possible move to WGN first surfaced last week in Cincinnati, where there was speculation by longtime Cincinnati Enquirer media writer John Kiesewetter that WLW was about to lose to WGN-AM not only McConnell, but also Bill Cunningham, another longstanding talk host at the station. A WGN-AM spokeswoman said the station has no plans to announce any other talent additions at this time.

McConnell's move to WGN looks to have been masterminded in part by controversial Tribune Co. CEO Randy Michaels, who was at WLW-AM in the mid-1980's. Michaels is credited with discovering McConnell and bringing him to WLW. Apparently other WGN-AM executives have now drunk the McConnell kool-aid. "Mike McConnell is arguably the most gifted of all American broadcasters at leveraging the news and events of the day into compelling radio shows," said WGN program director Kevin Metheny. "He's (McConnell) straightforward, and his common sense approach to topics will be a great fit for WGN listeners," added WGN-AM general manager Tom Langmyer.

As for McConnell himself, the new WGN job, whatever it turns out to be, is apparently the realization of a longstanding dream to work in a major market. "I've always enjoyed Chicago and never met anyone who's lived, worked or visited there who has a bad word to say about the people or the city of Chicago," said McConnell.

The addition of McConnell to the WGN talent roster is but the latest development in an 18-month-long upheaval at WGN that has seen a near total re-think of the talent and programming line-up at the station. It's all part of Metheny's and Michaels' grand plan to shake up the station and try to attract a younger, 25-to-54-year-old demo. The moves by station management have angered many long-time listeners, but the outcries have apparently not dampened management's resolve to carry out its plan.

Hans&Eric_Final_2x3.jpgVSA Partners, the 28-year-old branding firm, took steps Monday to expand its foray into the consumer advertising business. VSA said it has brought on board two new executive creative directors -- Hans Hansen and Eric Sorensen -- in its Minneapolis office. VSA also has major outposts in Chicago and New York.

Both Hansen and Sorensen will work in tandem with VSA's new Minneapolis-based chief operating officer John Colasanti to expand the firm's consumer advertising efforts. Hansen and Sorensen were most recently group creative directors at Fallon/Minneapolis, where for the past four years they handled creative work for clients such as Citibank, Holiday Inn, Chrysler and Traveler's Insurance. Each also previously worked with Colasanti at Carmichael Lynch/Minneapolis for clients such as Porsche, Northwest Airlines and Harley-Davidson. "There are very few creative teams out there that can match what Hans and Eric have accomplished for the brands they've worked on across the vast media landscape," said VSA partner and CEO Dana Arnett.

The Chicago Blackhawks TV ratings steamroller continues.

Sunday night's game five of the Stanley Cup finals pitting the Hawks against the Philadelphia Flyers scored a whopping 26 overnight rating (910,000 households) on WMAQ-Channel 5 in the Chicago market, besting the 25.1 rating (878,000 households) for game two of the finals on May 31, which also aired on WMAQ. The Hawks game on Sunday also easily beat all other prime time programming in the Chicago market, including game two of the NBA finals that has the Los Angeles Lakers playing the Boston Celtics for the world champion title. With so many Chicagoans now apparently fixated on the Hawks' effort to win the Stanley Cup, the NBA finals game could do no better than a 7.3 rating (255,000 households) on WLS-Channel 7 in Chicago.

Nationally, however, it was a different story. The Hawks-Flyers game five of the Stanley Cup finals garnered a 3.6 overnight rating (4.32 million households) on NBC, while the NBA finals game two did a significantly-better 10.9 (13 million households) on ABC on Sunday. It's possible more national viewers migrated from hockey to basketball Sunday after sensing the Hawks seemed to be solidly in control of game five.


Effective at 1 p.m. today (Monday), Bonneville International adult contemporary WILV-FM (100.3) will get a new moniker -- Rewind 100.3.

The new tag will join those used for Bonneville's other two top-performing radio stations in the Chicago market: hot adult-contemporary WTMX-FM (101.9), known as "The Mix;" and classic hits WDRV-FM (97.1), known as "The Drive." Until three years ago, WILV had been known as "Love FM," but with the advent of Arbitron's portable people meter ratings technology, Bonneville opted to drop that moniker and simply focus on the 100.3 radio dial position to help identify the station in the public's mind.

But three years later, Bonneville management has decided it is time to re-introduce a moniker for WILV, and "Rewind 100.3" is a name that station execs believe will help listeners recognize the station as one with a heavily 1980's-focused playlist, including music from Prince, Madonna, Michael Jackson and the Bee Gees.

Bonneville sources said the station is still weighing how much of a marketing push it will put behind the new WILV moniker, but no one expects WILV billboards to supplant any of those currently promoting the Mix's Eric Ferguson and Kathy Hart morning drive show, which has been No. 1 in the market for some time. WILV-FM was ranked 14th in the market in the key 25 to 54 adult demo in the most recent April Arbitron book.

As we wait and wonder whether Zig/Chicago will survive the staff exodus and a dearth of new business, another possible option for the shop going forward has come to our attention.

That would involve bringing together the various other Chicago entities that are part of the Toronto-based MDC Partners ad agency holding company (which Zig is part of) in the large office space on North Michigan Avenue now occupied by the small Zig operation. This would put all the Chicago-based MDC shops and their services under one roof and presumably make it easier for future clients to pick and choose what they need from the lot of them. Also it would help mask the fact Zig is, at present, a very small operation indeed. Whether this option ultimately proves more attractive than other possibilities remains to be seen.

In the meantime, it appears ex-Zig/Chicago chief creative officer Stephen Leps is still dealing with immigration issues that must be sorted out before he can commence his new job at Leo Burnett/Chicago. Sources say he will have a very top level post in the agency's creative department with a direct report to chief creative officer Susan Credle.

I Imagine Studio/Evanston and Rotary International have teamed to give people around the world a chance to help kick polio out of Africa. To support Rotary's campaign to eradicate the disease, I Imagine has created an interactive, strategic, viral communications initiative that will allow anyone to sign a symbolic virtual soccer ball online. At www.kickpoliooutofafrica.org, visitors can learn more about Rotary's polio eradication efforts in Africa, make a donation, autograph the digital ball and then see their signatures and comments alongside those of world leaders.

Rotary's "Kick Polio Out of Africa" program was launched earlier this year in Cape Town, South Africa, one of the host cities for the 2010 World Cup. The effort began with the kicking of a real soccer ball that was signed by Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, a polio survivor. That ball, which has since travelled to 22 polio-affected countries in Africa, has been signed by numerous African heads of state. The ball's tour ends of Alexandria, Egypt, and will eventually return to South Africa where it will be the centerpiece of a special World Cup event. I Imagine's online campaign was designed to mirror the tour the special soccer ball is making through Africa.

The news was grim for public television station WTTW-Channel 11 as it prepares for a new fiscal year starting July 1. WTTW president and CEO Dan Schmidt said on Friday that the station will eliminate 12 percent of its current work force -- or between 25 and 30 positions -- in anticipation of reduced income from various sources in the coming fiscal year.

To reduce the staff head count, the station intends first to offer early retirement packages. The number of actual layoffs will be determined by how many employees accept the retirement packages. Those not eligible for early retirement will get up to six months severance and access to company-provided outplacement services.

Schmidt also said executive compensation at the station would be reduced an additional 5 percent, bringing a two-year reduction in top management salaries to 10 percent. A company-wide salary freeze initiated in 2009 will remain in effect through 2011. WTTW also will close its employee cafeteria and seek production efficiencies by maximizing use of new technology.

And even though contributions have exceeded goals in recent pledge drives at sibling fine arts radio station WFMT-FM (98.7), WTTW's Schmidt said $200,000 in expense reductions are also slated for the radio station because ad sales have been soft there over the past year.

Schmidt cited a softness in corporate underwriting and a $1.25 million cutback in state funding as two key reasons for the urgent need to reduce costs at the city's public television station. Altogether, the station expects to cut operating costs by $3 million in the upcoming fiscal year. The station still expects to generate $52 million in revenue in the next fiscal year. "As difficult as it is in the near term to take these steps, we must have a sound financial base to sustain ourselves as a vital community resource," said Schmidt.

Is news/talk WGN-AM (720) about to hire some more on-air talent from out of town? On Thursday, Cincinnati Enquirer media writer John Kiesewetter sounded pretty convinced two talk radio stalwarts in that Ohio River city -- Mike McConnell and Bill Cunningham -- were about to leave their longtime radio home, WLW-AM (700), and sign with WGN.

Both McConnell and Cunningham have been at WLW for some 25 years, and they both have ties to Randy Michaels, CEO of WGN-AM parent Tribune Co. Michaels worked at WLW in the 1980's, and brought McConnell and Cunningham to the Cincinnati talk station, where they have become established stars in the market.

Michaels and WGN program director Kevin Metheny have shown over the past year and a half that they aren't afraid to introduce new talent to WGN and the Chicago market -- a tactic that has upset some longtime fans of WGN. Greg Jarrett and Simon Badinter are two of the notable out-of-towners who have joined the WGN-AM talent roster in the past year. Metheny is trying to attract a younger demo to WGN.

Euro RSCG 4D Discovery, the data and analytics arm of Euro RSCG Worldwide, has added Clive Maclean as chief executive officer. Maclean replaces Zain Raj. Once a ringleader in the Euro RSCG management team, Raj is leaving to take what is described by Euro RSCG as "a leadership role" in an independent company of Lake Capital, a private equity firm in Chicago.

Most recently, Maclean was the head of his own consultancy, Clive Maclean Consulting. Prior to that, he served as North American president of The Marketing Store, where he worked with clients such as McDonald's, Coca-Cola and Allstate. Maclean also has previously been president of FCB Direct in Chicago and Leo Burnett Interactive in South Africa, where he's originally from.

"We're very excited to be able to bring in somebody who has a track record of driving growth for some of the nation's leading marketers," said Ron Bess, president and COO of Euro RSCG North America.

Another key player in the dwindling cast at Zig/Chicago is leaving. Director of communications Katrina Limbaugh exits the shop next week to take a new communications job at an undisclosed Chicago agency.

Limbaugh expects to start her new job in July, after she returns from a trip to Kenya, where she and her husband will go on safari. Limbaugh said she wasn't necessarily looking for a new post. "This opportunity just sort of dropped in my lap," she explained.

Limbaugh's departure comes just a couple of months after that of chief creative officer Stephen Leps, who accepted a post at Leo Burnett/Chicago. Leps had been dispatched from Zig's head office in Toronto a year and a half ago with instructions to grow the shop and solidly establish it within the Chicago ad industry. But Leps had little success in that regard, which may have been part of his reason for looking to jump to Burnett.

Meanwhile, Limbaugh said seven people will remain on staff at Zig/Chicago after she is gone. She also said several options are being considered regarding Zig's future here. One, Limbaugh said, obviously involves finding a new chief creative officer. Limbaugh was more vague about what the other options might be, but they are believed to include merging with another local shop or, worst-case scenario, shutting down altogether. The agency has a very short client roster at the moment.

It's hardly a new tactic. But it is cheap. And cheap is apparently what Cheaptickets.com, a unit of Chicago-based Orbitz Worldwide, wants. Cheaptickets.com has launched a "we're too cheap to advertise" contest.

The Web-based seller of discounted leisure travel products will award $50,000 in free travel to the person who creates the best 30-second commercial demonstrating how it feels to save with Cheaptickets.com.

The idea here, of course, is to circumvent the costs of dealing with a traditional ad agency and let a layman do the hard work of coming up with an advertising concept for Cheaptickets.com. It's certainly worked for other brands that have even managed to win over discerning Super Bowl viewers with ads created by consumers rather than ad professionals.

The winning spot in the Cheaptickets.com contest will air on the Travel Channel, which reaches more than 95 million United States households. For more information go to www.cheaptickets.com/commercials.

DSC00798.JPGAmy Jacobson, the ex-WMAQ-Channel 5 reporter now turned conservative talk show co-host on WIND-AM (560), will make her first appearance on Channel 5 in nearly three years when she shows up on June 12th at the rather early hour of 12:30 a.m. in a segment for the local TV show "24/7 Chicago."

In the segment Jacobson and three other women, including "24/7" host Catie Keogh, Kathleen Henson and Mary Smithe, pay tribute to the characters from the popular "Sex and the City" TV series and subsequent feature films -- the latest of which has been near universally trashed by movie critics. For the tribute, the four Chicago women dressed to resemble the "Sex and the City" characters.

Jacobson was abruptly dropped from WMAQ in 2007, after she showed up in a bikini with her kids in tow at the home of Craig Stebic, whose wife Lisa had gone missing. WBBM-Channel 2 caught the Jacobson visit to the Stebic home on tape and subsequently aired it.

*Portfolio8-129.jpg*The eighth annual Chicago Portfolio Night attracted more than 225 people to the Cobra Lounge for the event. For the second year running, the evening was hosted by Gertrude Inc./Chicago. Sponsors included Euro RSCG/Chicago, Leo Burnett, DDB, Chicago Recording Company, Resolution Digital Studios and Captivate Network. Portfolio Night was designed to allow young creatives looking to get a start in the ad business to present their best creative to some of the city's established creative directors, chief creative officers and agency founders.

The portfolio reviewers on hand for the recent Chicago event included Otis D. Gibson, Becky Kozlen, Isabella Ferreira, Steffan Postaer, Kevin Lynch, Ann Brown, John Condon, Susie Steinberg and Jonathan Hoffman. Captivate Network has promised to display some of the best creative presented during Portfolio Night on some 368 Captivate elevator screens in 22 agency buildings throughout Chicago.

Count NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5 leader Larry Wert among those who would love to see the Stanley Cup finals go on forever. The first two games of the finals pitting the Chicago Blackhawks against the Philadelphia Flyers pulled nothing short of phenomenal ratings in the Chicago market on WMAQ. Especially considering this was hockey. Not football or basketball.

The first game Saturday night drew a 16. 8 overnight Nielsen rating locally. In other words, TV sets in 588,000 households in Chicago were tuned to the first Stanley Cup finals game. But Monday night's second finals game easily trumped the impressive Saturday night results with a 25.1 overnight rating. That means the hockey game was on in 878,000 Chicago area households. Huge. After hockey, the next highest-rated show in the Chicago market Monday night was ABC's "Bacherlorette," which could do no better than 4.8 rating.

"I think this is more remarkable than an Olympic number or a Chicago Bears number, because it is history in the making," said Wert. "A hockey game(s) never saw this kind of embrace by its home city; the fan base just grew exponentially," added Wert.

The "Tom Joyner Morning Show" is expanding its reach in the Chicago market. Effective Wednesday (June 2), the Joyner Show now heard on WSRB-FM (106.3) will be simulcast on WPWX-FM (92.3) from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m.

The simulcast is expected to allow the Joyner program to be heard in more households than it could reach just on WSRB, where the popular show moved after it was dropped from the line-up at urban adult contemporary WVAZ-FM (102.7) more than a year ago. The "Steve Harvey Show" replaced Joyner on WVAZ, where Joyner had been a fixture for 13 years. The move by Clear Channel Radio Chicago outraged many of Joyner's loyal listeners.

Joyner is optimistic the simulcast will make it easier for fans of his show to access the program. "Finally listeners don't have to drive with their computers to hear us when they leave the south side," said Joyner. "Tom Joyner is Chicago radio," added WPWX program director Jay Alan. "He is a huge voice for our community . . .and that is why the 'Tom Joyner Morning Show' is being expanded to Power 92," added Alan.

Chicago was the first market in which the "Tom Joyner Morning Show" was broadcast. The program is now heard in more than 100 markets nationwide, reaching one in four African-Americans.

The addition of the Joyner show to the WPWX line-up means the station's current morning drive host Trey Da Choklit Jok will move to the 9 a.m. to noon slot. Shawn Knight will host noon to 3 p.m., and Sam Sylk 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

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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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