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

December 2010 Archives

R/GA sets up shop in Chicago

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Digital ad shop R/GA, viewed in New York ad circles as one of the hotter agencies working in the rapidly-expanding online arena, has been quietly setting up a Chicago operation for the past 12 months.

Still, it's way too early to say what kind of success R/GA will enjoy in Chicago, where so many agencies, big and small, are struggling. Sean McCarthy is R/GA's managing director in Chicago. Ken Erke, formerly the chief creative officer at Young & Rubicam/Chicago, and Matt Marcus, most recently an independent marketing consultant, have been brought on board to oversee creative. The Chicago shop's only two accounts so are S.C. Johnson and Dow, and one of those could be in jeopardy. S.C. Johnson said last week it is launching a global agency review, and all its roster agencies, including R/GA, will have to pitch if they wish to hold on to their part of the business, or possibly win more.

McCarthy's background includes a stint at DDB/Chicago, where he worked on the AT&T business. Before that McCarthy had a long tenure at DraftFCB/Chicago, where he would have become familiar with that agency's large chunk of S.C. Johnson business, which also could be in jeopardy.

Earlier this month, R/GA moved into 10,000 square feet of loft space at 217 N. Jefferson in Chicago's west loop district. The staff currently numbers 20. The agency's ability to grow will depend in part on the quality of the creative, and, even more, on how adept McCarthy, Erke and Marcus are at new business development. McCarthy had not run an agency before getting the nod at R/GA, so his role there will test his managerial capabilities.

Pulitzer Prize-winning Sun-Times movie critic Roger Ebert will appear on a segment of "CBS News Sunday Morning" on Jan. 2. The show airs at 8 a.m. on CBS-owned WBBM-Channel 2.

Ebert's appearance comes prior to the debut of Ebert's new movie review show "Ebert Presents at the Movies," which will debut on public television stations nationwide beginning Jan. 21. "Ebert Presents at the Movies" debuts on that date at 8:30 p.m. on WTTW-Channel 11, the show's regular time slot. It will repeat on WTTW on Saturday mornings at 11 a.m.

It's certainly not the Christmas present DraftFCB/Chicago would have wanted. But S.C. Johnson, one of the agency's longest-standing and biggest clients, said Wednesday it is putting its entire portfolio of brands into review.

A S.C. Johnson spokeswoman said Thursday that DraftFCB will defend the business. If the agency emerges victorious from the review -- a big if in the eyes of some observers -- a major bloodbath at the agency could be averted.

One source familiar with agency staffing estimated that a loss of all the S.C. Johnson business could result in as many as 200 to 300 layoffs at DraftFCB. This would be catastrophic for DraftFCB and for the Chicago advertising industry, which has been reeling for several years now from agency downsizing and wave after wave of client defections.

Speculation immediately turned to which local shops might be able to win the business and keep it here. But the list of viable prospects doesn't look to be very long. Leo Burnett might be reluctant to participate because of its close ties to Procter & Gamble, but sources said there don't appear to be any major direct conflicts on the agency's client roster.

Some mentioned Energy BBDO, but it might be too small unless it managed to partner with other Omnicom agencies to create a global network. Element 79 has been mentioned as well. Agency leader Brian Williams headed up Foote Cone & Belding prior to its merger with Draft. He is very familiar with S.C. Johnson. But Element 79 also would have to partner with other Omnicom shops to create any global heft -- an arrangement that might be awkward at best.

But there's another intriguing scenario that has been mentioned. DDB/Chicago could appoint Mark Modesto as its new president and CEO, thereby paving the way for him to help the agency land the S.C. Johnson business.

Modesto had been in charge of the S.C. Johnson North American business at DraftFCB until he was abruptly ousted in August. But it's unclear how favorably he is now viewed within S.C. Johnson because of the fallout from his departure from DraftFCB. The addition of the huge S.C. Johnson account would be a major boost to the beleaguered DDB.

The ineffectual Rick Carpenter resigned as DDB/Chicago president and CEO in early December.

S.C. Johnson has dropped a huge bomb. The Racine, Wis.-based global giant in home care is putting the advertising accounts for its entire global portfolio of brands into review -- business potentially worth hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars to the agency or agencies that wind up winning the business. Chicago-based R3:JLB will assist S.C. Johnson in selecting the agencies to compete in the review.

A S.C. Johnson spokeswoman said the agency review is all about improving the company's marketing services capabilities and will encompass all aspects of the company's global marketing needs, including advertising, digital/Internet, shopper marketing, promotions, direct marketing and media buying and planning.

S.C. Johnson's decision to put its entire portfolio of brands into review could spell disaster for DraftFCB/Chicago, which, dating back as far as 1953, has handled advertising for a large number of S.C. Johnson brands. Other agencies S.C. Johnson works with include RG/A, Ogilvy and Mullen. The S.C. Johnson spokeswoman indicated incumbents will be invited to participate in the review.

DraftFCB/Chicago of course is no stranger to bombshell developments. The Walmart debacle of several years ago saw DraftFCB/Chicago win the retailing behemoth's $600 million advertising account -- only to lose it just weeks later when Walmart executives began to question the manner in which the agency won the business. A loss of all or a large chunk of the S.C. Johnson business would be far more crippling to the agency because it is so much a part of the fabric of the shop.

The S.C. Johnson spokeswoman said there was no timetable established as yet for how quickly the review would be completed. But she said the review will focus on agencies that have a global knowledge and network and that align with the company's values and have a track record of building successful global brands.

Walmart_WakeUpCall_Still7.L2WR6.jpgYes Virginia, there still is perfection in the beleaguered advertising industry. And what more welcome time for perfection to rear its head in the realm of TV advertising than at Christmas. The spot that has unleashed such unbridled joy within us is "Wake Up Call," an unforgettable tsunami of holiday-tinged emotion brought to us courtesy of Walmart and the Martin Agency in Richmond, Va.

Together they have delivered a truly beautiful reminder of why the TV commercial -- when it is done to perfection with great taste and great vision and a great universal message -- will never, ever be trumped by all the lousy stuff called advertising that is foisted on us in the digital universe or any of the other hot media platforms of the moment.

What most impressed us about "Wake Up Call," was its energetic punch. Perhaps because so many creators of TV advertising nowadays don't really have their hearts in it, we rarely see commercials like "Wake Up Call" that pop so forcefully -- commercials that reach out, grab viewers and compel them to respond.

This "Wake Up Call" couldn't have happened without the Martin Agency's resident musical genius, David Muhlenfeld, a 38-year-old copywriter turned composer. He wrote the spine-tinglingly catchy jingle that so brilliantly evokes that sense of magical wonder and excitement that is at the heart of what unfolds on Christmas morning in countless homes around the world.

We did a little research on the making of "Wake Up Call" and discovered it all came together, miraculously one might say, in a matter of a couple or so weeks. Which only re-affirms what we have long believed -- great work springs directly from great minds without all the endless tweaking and rethinking that is the norm at so many agencies.

Every little detail has been done right in "Wake Up Call," from the lush orchestrations to the rich cinematography, especially that captivating final image of the young girl and her expression of sheer happiness. We haven't seen an image that vivid, that evocative in advertising in a long, long time.

As we type these words, we're aren't so foolish as to think "Wake Up Call" could start a tsunami of equally great TV advertising. No way. There are too many cynics out there in the ad business who have moved on to what they think is the next big thing. Well to them, we say "wake up." The old forms are not dead. They merely need to be revived with great artistry and craft. Then Virginia, they WILL live on. And gloriously so.

Top-rated ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7 will air a Chicago mayoral candidate debate on Thursday, Feb. 17, at 7 p.m. It is unclear at this point how many of the candidates will participate in the event. The hour-long, commercial-free debate, hosted by Channel 7 anchor and reporter Ron Magers, will be broadcast live from the Ford Center for the Performing Arts/Oriental Theatre in the loop. It also will be streamed live on abc7chicago.com and broadcast at a time-to-be-announced on Univision Chicago.

To present the debate, Channel 7 is partnering with several organizations, including the Chicago Foundation for Women, Chicago Loop Alliance, Chicago Urban League, League of Chicago Theatres, League of Women Voters, Mikva Challenge, National Council of La Raza and Univision Chicago.

"We are proud of ABC 7's long-standing tradition of broadcasting candidate debates, and with the intense focus on Chicago's next mayor, we knew a timely mayoral debate was essential," said Emily Barr, president and general manager of WLS-Channel 7.

PatHughes.jpgVeteran Chicago Cubs play-by-play announcer Pat Hughes has inked a new five-year contract extension with Tribune Co.-owned WGN-AM (720), the radio home for Cubs broadcasts. The new deal makes WGN the broadcast home for Hughes through the 2015 Cubs season. WGN-AM is conducting a search for a Cubs color commentator to replace Ron Santo, who died earlier this month. Hughes had shared the broadcast booth with Santo for the past 15 years.

The upcoming 2011 Cubs season will be Hughes' 16th season with WGN radio and the Cubs and his 29th season of broadcasting in Major League Baseball. "Pat's voice on WGN has spoken to the legion of Cubs fans across the Midwest and beyond for many years -- and we're very fortunate to have such a great broadcaster behind the microphone for a long time to come," said Tom Langmyer, WGN-AM president and general manager.

"Chicago is one of the world's great sports cities, Wrigley Field one of the most famous venues, and I'm just happy to be a part of it all," said Hughes. Prior to his career with WGN radio and the Cubs, Hughes was the radio play-by-play announcer for the Milwaukee Brewers for 12 years. He has been named Illinois Sportscaster of the Year five times and Wisconsin Sportscaster of the Year three times by the National Sportscasters Association. He is a finalist for the Illinois Sportscaster of the Year again in 2010.

After 15 years, Slack Barshinger & Partners/Chicago has changed its name to Slack and Co. " 'Slack' is what most of our clients and friends have called us all along," explained Gary Slack, agency chairman, chief experience officer and founding partner. Slack said that no one was pushing for a name time, but it was time, he said, to reflect Don Barshinger's departure a few years ago. The company has introduced a new logo along with the name change. Slack said the 23-year-old shop looks forward to bringing clarity, simplicity and measurable results to business-to-business marketers for many more years.

Happy holidays! The surprises in the protracted process to name a private manager for the Illinois Lottery just keep on coming. Not the kind of surprises, however, one likes to hear about around the holidays.

The latest bombshell has to do with the probity checks the Illinois Department of Revenue and the Lottery supposedly hired the Kroll firm to conduct. As we all know by now, Kroll went overboard (some might say way overboard) doing an exhaustive probity check on Intralot, the contender that was dumped within days after the cutoff for submitting a bid for the Illinois Lottery private management contract.

Intralot has been in the middle of an aggressive protest of that entire bid process and the outcome for the past three months -- ever since Gov. Pat Quinn named the Northstar Lottery Group the putative winner of the private management contract on Sept. 15. Northstar is comprised of Gtech, Scientific Games and Energy BBDO/Chicago. Camelot Group, the other losing contender for the private management contract, has protested the outcome as well.

But back to the latest bombshell. It came to light late last week that the Illinois Lottery and Kroll apparently never conducted a full-blown probity check of either Northstar or Camelot while the Lottery was going through the protracted process of selecting the winning bidder.

And even though a probity check of the winner was supposed to be conducted before any contract is signed, no such check appears to have been conducted. Not yet at least. And here we are three months after the announcement of Northstar as the presumptive winning bidder.

Needless to say, sources tell us Intralot executives were aghast when this bombshell news got to them via John McCaffrey, the acting freedom of information officer at the Illinois Department of Revenue. It's revelations such as this one, of course, that have skeptics continuing to believe the entire private management bid process was rigged from the get go.

Titan, the largest transit advertising sales company in North America, has inked a five-year extension of its contract with Pace buses and bus shelters. Pace is the transit network that covers suburban Chicago. Titan's renewal of its contract with Pace comes on the heels of Titan's renewal with the Dallas Area Rapid Transit.

Titan will be the only company selling advertising on the Pace network. Ad placements within the Pace network are estimated to reach upwards of 8.4 million area residents per month.

Titan took over the Pace contract in October, 2008, shortly after winning a competitive bid for the rights to sell advertising across the Chicago Transit Authority network. Together Pace and CTA media cover the entire Chicago market.

Brotha' Fred.jpgLess than 72 hours after the abrupt exit of DreX as morning drive host, Clear Channel Radio Chicago's Top 40 WKSC-FM (103.5) said it will launch a new morning drive show Jan. 17 featuring two new hosts -- Brotha Fred (given name Christopher Frederick) and comedian David L. (given name David Livingston), along with Angi Taylor, who had been DreX's sidekick.

For the past five years, Brotha Fred and David L. fronted a morning drive show called "Brotha Fred's AM Mayhem" at Clear Channel's WIBT-FM (96.1) in Charlotte, N.C. "Brotha Fred had been on our radar for a long time," said WKSC program director Rick Vaughn. "Brotha Fred has a unique way of using his personal experience to relate to his core listeners," explained Vaughn. WKSC's core audience is the 18 to 34-year-old demo.

Both Brotha Fred and David L. will relocate to Chicago for the new show, but also will continue to prepare a morning show for WBIT. "They will not be on air in Charlotte while they are doing their show in Chicago," added Vaughn, who said he was not aware of the mechanics of how Brotha Fred and David L. would continue to provide content for a morning show in Charlotte while based in Chicago.

In announcing the new morning drive line-up, WKSC executives continued to offer no explanation for their decision to part ways with DreX in the middle of a new five-year contract that reportedly paid him between $300,000 and $450,000 a year.

But sources in the local radio industry said Clear Channel may have become increasingly concerned about competitor CBS Radio Chicago's WBBM-FM (96.3). WBBM's morning team -- J.Niice and Julian -- had been soundly beating DreX in recent months. In the November Arbitron book DreX's morning show was ranked ninth in the 18 to 34 demo, while WBBM-FM's morning show ranked second. DreX was ranked third when he signed his new contract. "We've got our work to do," said Vaughn.

Carol Marin will host a NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5 special "Like Father, Like Son," described as a tale of the two Mayor Daleys -- Richard J. and Richard M. -- who both served 21 years in office. The special program makes use of extensive archival footage dating back to 1955 -- when Richard J. Daley was first elected Mayor of Chicago -- to examine the similarities and differences between father and son. The special also includes interviews with Bill Daley, brother of Richard M. Daley; Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Lois Wille; Rev. Jesse Jackson, and former 34th Ward alderman Wilson Frost.

The special will air on Sunday, Dec. 26, at 9 a.m. and repeat on New Year's Day at 5 p..m. Carol Marin is Channel 5's political editor and a Sun-Times columnist.

Sports broadcaster David Kaplan has signed a new long-term contract with Comcast SportsNet Chicago that will make the cable sports outlet the exclusive TV home for Kaplan beginning in January, 2011.

Kaplan will continue to host the roundtable sports discussion program "Chicago Tribune Live" on CSNC, and beginning in the spring of 2011, he will host CSNC's "Cubs Pre/Post Game Live" shows surrounding the network's Chicago Cubs telecast. Kaplan also will contribute to the "SportsNet Central" sports news program. In addition he will have a dedicated spot on Comcast SportsNet's website, www.csnchicago.com.

Kaplan also will continue as a contributing talent on Tribune Co.'s news/talk WGN-AM (720).

DreX is out at Clear Channel Radio Chicago's Top 40 WKSC-FM (103.5). Drex's exit comes during the second year of a five-year contract that he signed with the station in early 2009. Also gone with him are his two sidekicks Mel Tovar and Angi Taylor. Sources said DreX (whose given name is Kevin Buchar) was making between $300,000 and $450,000 under terms of the five-year deal -- a generous arrangement in an industry where three-year contracts for on-air talent are the norm.

The reasons for DreX's abrupt exit Tuesday are unclear. "This is radio," said one source, suggesting that on-air talent can be dispensed with at any time for any number of reasons. A Clear Channel spokeswoman said it is the company's policy not to comment on personnel issues. She said other WKSC talent would rotate in the morning drive time slot until a new morning show host is announced. WKSC's evening host Special K hosted the morning show on Wednesday.

DreX's ratings were certainly acceptable, although he was not the top-ranked morning talent in the 18 to 34-year-old demo that was the show's target demographic. In the most recent November Arbitron ratings book, "DreX in the Morning" ranked ninth among morning drive shows in the 18 to 34-year-old demo. His numbers have slipped however. DreX ranked third in the 18 to 34-year-old demo when his current contract was signed in early 2009.

When Clear Channel brought DreX to Chicago in 2003 from San Antonio, he was a hit in that Texas market. And Clear Channel Chicago management believed he could replicate that success in Chicago on its Top 40 outlet. In fact, Clear Channel Chicago had enough confidence in his abilities to allow him to do a talk-focused morning drive show on a station that otherwise is devoted to playing Top 40 hits around the clock.

On another front Energy BBDO and it partners Gtech and Scientific Games (that together comprise the Northstar Lottery Group) find themselves with no signed contract to manage the Illinois Lottery a full three months after Gov. Pat Quinn declared Northstar the winning bidder for that contract. And there are signs Northstar could be waiting longer to find out if they ever will have a signed contract to manage the Lottery.

Sources tell us that Lottery acting superintendent Jodie Winnett is not going to carry on as head of the Lottery as Gov. Pat Quinn prepares to be sworn in for his first full term in office. In her capacity as acting superintendent, Winnett had overseen the bid process that has been called into question by some of those who participated in the bidding, including losing contenders Intralot and Camelot Group. A spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Revenue said Tuesday that she had no knowledge of what Winnett's status at the Lottery would be going forward.

But if Quinn appoints a new Lottery superintendent, as sources have indicated he will do, it could lead to more developments that might significantly affect the whole protracted private management bid process. It might even lead to a decision to start the bid process all over again.

All we can say with absolutely certainty at this point is that the private management bid process ain't over.

Creative salons aren't new in Chicago advertising circles. But Energy BBDO/Chicago has picked up on the concept and has been inviting occasional creative guests to visit the agency and inspire the staff. The next guest on tap is Andrew Bird, described as a one-man musical innovation machine. He will visit the shop Monday for a lunchtime performance and discussion.

A Northwestern alumnus, Bird has performed at a wide range of locales, including Carnegie Hall, Lollapalooza, Coachella and, most recently, TED. Bird plays folk rock using various instruments, including violin, guitar, mandolin and glockenspiel. In a recent profile, the New York Times described Bird's music as "swelling and orchestral" with "emotional complexity." Bird lives on a farm in rural Illinois and has a studio in a converted barn.

Bob Spoerl.jpgThe first winner of the John Callaway Excellence in Online Journalism Fellowship is Medill School of Journalism graduate student Bob Spoerl. The fellowship was created to pay tribute to "Chicago Tonight's" founding host, the late John Callaway. The fellowship is funded through contributions from family and friends of Callaway and Chicago public television station WTTW-Channel 11 viewers. Each online fellow receives a $3,000 stipend.

During his internship, which beings Jan. 3, 2011, Spoerl will work with WTTW producers and interactive staff to create original and supplemental content for the website that supports Channel 11's "Chicago Tonight." The internship is designed to give Spoerl hands-on experience with online journalism, as well as time to sharpen fact-checking and research skills and hone editorial judgment.

Spoerl is an alumnus of Loyola University, where he studied English and philosophy, and the University of Wisconsin, where he majored in journalism. He is currently a candidate for a master of science degree in journalism at Medill.

DDB/Chicago president and CEO Rick Carpenter is gone. Carpenter's departure comes just days after Mark O'Brien was tapped to replace Dick Rogers as head of DDB's North American operations. O'Brien will now run DDB's Chicago office on an interim basis until a new CEO is found.

As we said just days ago, Rogers should have vacated his job overseeing DDB's North American operations years ago. Likewise Carpenter's exit should have happened long ago -- when it became apparent he was incapable of leading DDB/Chicago out of the dark hole it fell into after the suicide of DDB creative leader Paul Tilley in early 2008.

Now, with the agency looking as if it could be in a possibly irreversible free fall, O'Brien and DDB/Chicago chief creative officer Ewan Paterson, who has been in his post for less than six month, are left to try and right so much that has gone wrong at DDB's flagship North American shop over the past several years.

Within minutes of the announcement of Carpenter's departure to pursue other opportunities, some sources were wondering why DDB didn't have someone ready to step in to Carpenter's job right away. It took DDB more than two years to name Paterson to replace the late Paul Tilley.

And during those two years with only Carpenter at the helm, DDB/Chicago drifted further into disarray. Now there are concerns the agency could sink into even worse shape unless a new leader -- the right leader -- is quickly found to work alongside Paterson. If that new leader turns out to be someone outside of DDB, then what will that say about all the staff now sitting at DDB/Chicago. Do none of them have the right stuff to lead the shop?

Certainly, the series of bad management personnel choices that have seriously wounded DDB are a sign of a larger problem that extends well beyond a single agency. As we've said often, leaders with true leadership ability and vision are in dangerously short supply in the advertising industry today. DDB is certainly the most painful example of what this crisis is causing to happen to agencies that were once shining beacons of creative greatness -- beacons that made the entire industry an exciting and fascinating business to watch and write about.

Our lasting image of Carpenter will be of his posing for a photo to run with a profile we wrote of him shortly after he arrived at DDB/Chicago in the fall of 2007. We will never forget how he didn't just stand and let the Sun-Times photographer shoot him. But rather he changed his pose almost as quickly as each of many shots was snapped -- something professional models learn how to do very quickly. At the time, we couldn't help but wonder whether he might have fallen into the wrong line of work. We're still wondering.

Leo Burnett/Chicago chief creative officer Susan Credle is getting her close-up in the January, 2011, issue of Chicago magazine, set to hit newsstands in a matter of days. The Credle profile was written by Marcia Froelke Coburn, one of the city's finest long-form reporters. We got an advance look at the story today, and we can report that it is a balanced assessment of Credle and her first year on the job at Leo Burnett, where she arrived in October, 2009, as chief creative officer, after having spent her entire career at BBDO/New York.

Froelke Coburn writes at length about some of the Burnett work Credle has said she is most proud of, namely the "Mayhem" campaign for Allstate and the charming Happy Meals animated spots for McDonald's. There is the requisite recounting of how Credle handled -- and came to love -- the M&M's business, a primary focus during much of her time at BBDO. Credle also talks with Froelke Coburn about wanting to foster an environment at Burnett where clients are encouraged to "go for long-term investment over short-term splash."

On the personal front, Credle discussed how she had tried -- but was unable -- to have children with husband and architect Joe Credle: "If I had had children, I don't think I could have done this job -- not as well as I have," said the Burnett creative boss.

Credle has only been at Burnett for a year. It's much too early to say what kind of lasting impact she will have at the iconic Chicago agency, and Froelke Coburn wisely stops short of suggesting Credle will be the one who burnishes Burnett's slightly tattered image and restores at least some of the agency's former greatness.

It's been too long since we last referenced the protracted effort to seal a deal with a private manager to run the Illinois Lottery. We've said for months it ain't over. And it still ain't. Far from it.

While we were away dealing with other matters, a potentially interesting new wrench has been thrown into the proceedings -- namely the matter of whether Jodie Winnett will remain with the Lottery as we move into Pat Quinn's first full term as governor next month.

Even as Winnett was serving as acting superintendent of the Illinois Lottery and overseeing the protracted process to name a private manager for the Lottery, she was holding down a second job as associate director of the Illinois Department of Revenue, under whose purview the Lottery falls.

As it was explained to us by a spokeswoman for the Department of Revenue, Winnett could be asked by Quinn to become the permanent superintendent of the Lottery. Or Quinn could name someone new to head the Lottery when he begins his first full term as governor, in which case Winnett might simply return to doing her second full-time job in the Department of Revenue.

Or yet another scenario might ensue. If, for some reason Quinn decides to put in someone new to replace Brian Hamer as director of the Department of Revenue, that could prompt a number of new faces to appear up and down the chain of command in the Department of Revenue.

While we wait to see how all of that plays out, a separate drama continues to unfold regarding the protests from the losing contenders for the Lottery private management contract. Both Camelot and Intralot, we're told, haven't backed off their protests. Both are said to be responding aggressively to the responses to their protests that both received from the Department of Revenue a couple of weeks ago. The Intralot Group is believed to be zeroing in on Kroll Associates and the crucial role it played in dishing up dirt on Intralot's Greece-based parent operation Intralot S.A. and its leader Sokratis Kokkalis.

Among other things, Intralot is said to be raising questions about the Department of Revenue's choice of Kroll to handle probity checks for the private manager finalists. Intralot has combed through numerous documents to pinpoint what it contends are "improper ties" between Kroll and the Northstar Lottery Group, the winning bidder for the Lottery private management contract that Quinn announced way back on Sept. 15. Northstar is comprised of Gtech, Scientific Games and Energy BBDO/Chicago.

Intralot also has taken major issue with what it claims are "inflammatory allegations" that Kroll included in its probity check of Intralot -- most of which Intralot maintains was done after it was dropped from contention for the private management contract early in the process.

Of course, when all of this is boiled down, there appear to be serious and deepening concerns within both the Camelot and Intralot camps that this entire private management bid process may have been rigged from the get-go, and both organizations look to be intent on proving their concerns are justified. In the meantime, no contract has been signed.

It very well may be that all of this will finally be resolved with a new leader in place at the Illinois Lottery, and possibly at the Department of Revenue. If fresh sets of eyes take a look at all that has unfolded, could that prompt a decision to rebid the private management contract? Time will tell.

Dig Communications, a Chicago-based public relations firm, has been acquired by Olson/Minneapolis, a firm that includes both advertising and public relations units. The acquisition is part of Olson's larger game plan to offer a completely integrated range of services to its clients. Olson's existing public relations practice includes 12 people in its Minneapolis headquarters.

The Dig firm has 40 people in its flagship Chicago office, which will now become the epicenter for Olson's entire public relations unit. Among Dig's clients are MillerCoors and Southwest Airlines.

Dig founder Pete Marino will oversee Olson's public relations efforts going forward and report to Olson CEO Kevin DiLorenzo. With the addition of Dig, Olson can now claim to be one of the top 10 independent marketing companies in the United States. The Dig name will be retired, and Dig's Chicago outpost will become the Olson/Chicago office.

Groupon, the rapidly-growing, Chicago-based shopping website, has retained Euro RSCG/Chicago as a strategic counsel. The agency will support Groupon with customer relationship marketing strategies, among other services. A Euro spokesman said the shop's relationship with Groupon is not that of an agency of record. Groupon has been much in the news of late, having been a rumored takeover target by Google. But that deal appears to have been rejected by Groupon, at least for now. Groupon currently has 35 million subscribers in 31 countries.

The addition of Groupon to its client roster is a bit of good news for Euro RSCG, which has been rocked in recent months by a couple of key client defections on its consumer advertising side, as well as a shakeup in its creative department. Chief creative officer Steffan Postaer was moved upstairs to the post of chairman, and Jason Peterson arrived last week as new chief creative officer. But Peterson is not expected to have much contact with the Groupon business, which will be more of a below-the-line effort.

"We are pleased to work with Euro RSCG on our customer marketing efforts," said John Becvar, director of marketing at Groupon. "We know their experience in this space will prove beneficial to us as we test different programs with our growing base of Groupon subscribers, Becvar added.

DDB waited way too long to remove Dick Rogers as president of its North American operations. Years after it should have made a move, DDB now is installing Mark O'Brien as president of North America (who knows for how long) and kicking Rogers upstairs to become chairman.

Based in Chicago, Rogers presided over the some of the darkest days in the history of DDB/Chicago, where tragedy, rampant mismanagement and a full-throttle creative breakdown have left the shop gasping for life. When he should have taken action immediately and helped a battered agency regain its composure, Rogers seemed at loss about what to do with DDB/Chicago following the very public suicide of chief creative officer Paul Tilley nearly three years ago.

That horrific event seemingly paralyzed the agency, and there was little if any public relations effort to help resuscitate the agency's image in the wake of Tilley's suicide. Since then, the agency has, for all intents and purposes, ceased to be one of the most important and respected cornerstones of the Chicago ad industry. Now DDB is just another shop trying to hang on. It's all been almost unbearably painful to watch.

OTSC-0807.jpegThe Chicago advertising and public relations industry's annual Off the Street Club holiday luncheon almost didn't happen this year.

Jack Rooney of Ogilvy & Mather/Chicago delivered that shocking and grim bit of news at the top of what turned out to be a very festive affair Thursday at the Fairmont Hotel Chicago. Rooney said he was told early in the summer that no ad agency or public relations firm had stepped forward to sponsor the 2010 luncheon. Usually by that point, planning would be well under way for an event typically held early in December each year.

Tradition has it that one ad agency or public relations firm is the luncheon's lead sponsor. But times being what they are (hard, in case you hadn't guessed) in the Chicago ad world, no agency apparently raised its hand to follow in the steps of Euro RSCG/Chicago, lead sponsor of last year's slickly-executed luncheon.

Rooney made it clear Ogilvy wasn't prepared to shoulder the responsibility of doing this year's luncheon all alone. But before panic set in, a decision was made to pull together a consortium of agencies that are part of the Chicago chapter of the American Association of Advertising Agencies and let the bunch of them share the responsibility of doing the planning and execution of this year's event.

The luncheon's near collapse notwithstanding, we are pleased to report it went off without a hitch, with upwards of 700 in attendance. As always, the highlight was the naming of the Off the Street Club Boy and Girl of the Year. This year they are Jovan Bradley and Latarsia Jackson.

We never cease to be amazed at what poise and polish these hugely promising youngsters demonstrate when they stand all alone before a large crowd of strangers to give a speech and share a little bit of what makes them special. Jackson wants to grow up to be a poetess, and she read a lovely poem about peace and giving thanks. Bradley proudly channels Justin Bieber, and he gave a performance that demonstrated Bieber has nothing on him.

Altogether, the luncheon is expected to raise in excess of $400,000 to help the Off the Street Club continue its decades of work with children from the city's west side, where drugs and gang violence are constant concerns.

For the record, the ad agencies that helped make the 2010 luncheon happen are (in alphabetical order): Cramer-Krasselt; Digitas; Energy BBDO; Euro RSCG; Leo Burnett and Ogilvy & Mather. Edelman/Ruth did the video presentation. "Hope" was the theme for the luncheon.

Longtime WLS-Channel 7 news producer Vicki Giammona will retire from the station on December 17, after a 32-year run. She started at the station in 1978 as a part-time writer in the public relations department and went on to become a researcher for "7 On Your Side," before turning to producing. Among the highlights of her long and varied career with WLS are a trip to Israel with Cardinal Bernardin, the inaugurations of Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Giammona also traveled to at least four national political conventions.

Said WLS news director Jennifer Graves of Giammona's decision to retire: "She's covered popes, a prince and princess, world leaders and the Wildcats. She's even interviewed Fabio. I think it's safe to say that it'll be impossible to fill Vicki's shoes."

CCA Handrail Image.jpgIt's a fact of life: Marketers now think they can slap an ad anywhere. It's all about making the advertising as intrusive as possible so it won't go unnoticed. Whether the public will like the ads, of course, is another matter.

One of the latest twists in all of this is now on view at O'Hare Airport, where advertising now adorns escalator handrails in all three of the airport's domestic terminals. International terminal passengers aren't getting this treat -- at least not yet. Hampton Hotels has the distinction of being the inaugural advertiser on the O'Hare escalator handrails.

Clear Channel Airports, a marketer of airport advertising, has teamed with AdRail USA, to introduce this new approach to advertising in airports. "Through our handrail displays at O'Hare Airport, we are able to drive valuable awareness for our clients with this highly visible platform," said Pam Horn, national sales manager for Clear Channel Airports. Make of it what you will.

In general we've not been a fan of the way Chicago and the state of Illinois have been marketed as tourist destinations. But they must be doing something right when it comes to attracting gay and lesbian travelers. In San Francisco-based Community Marketing Inc.'s annual ranking of the most popular gay and lesbian vacation destinations released today, Chicago tied with Los Angeles and Las Vegas for third place, right behind No. 1-ranked New York City and second-place San Francisco. Washington, D.C. ranked sixth.

Chicago appears to be especially popular with younger gay men. The Windy City was the fourth-highest-ranked city among gay travelers 18 to 35, and fifth-ranked among gay men 36 to 54. It did not make the top five among gay travelers 55-plus. The survey was based on data from 4,800 respondents who were asked the question: Where did you travel in the past twelve months and spend at least one night in a hotel.

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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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