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

January 2011 Archives

The Chicago Bears were a hot commodity in the final weeks of the pro football season -- as the possibility loomed that the team could wind up competing in the Super Bowl. Though the team was a hot topic of discussion throughout December on the city's two sports talk radio outlets -- WSCR-AM (670) and WMVP-AM (1000) -- all the talk wasn't enough to propel either station to the very top of the Arbitron rankings among males 25 to 54 in the holiday Arbitron book released this week.

WSCR did hold on to fourth place in the adult male demo in the holiday book, while WMVP was tied for ninth place overall. But in case you're wondering what station ranked first among males 25 to 54 in the holiday book, that would be WLIT-FM (93.9) and its round-the-clock holiday music format. We're told that males who may have a chance to pick what station the radio is tuned to at other times of the year, relinquish that right to the women in the house during the holidays. Apparently even when the Bears are closing in on a Super Bowl berth.

Thursday is the day WTMX-FM morning drive co-host Eric Ferguson will be fill-in co-host for a day on "Live! with Regis and Kelly," while Regis Philbin is on vacation. Among other things, Ferguson and co-host Kelly Ripa will interview Kelsey Grammer and Mark Feuerstein, star of the USA series "Royal Pains." Thursday also is Ferguson's birthday.

French American talk show host Simon Badinter offered Chicago radio listeners a touch of the exotic. But they never fully embraced what he was offering for the nearly two years he hosted "Simon Rendezvous" on WGN-AM (720).

So Badinter has amicably parted ways with WGN and moved his show to WTKK-FM in Boston. He has only done a couple of Sunday shows there and has yet to sign any long-term contract with the station.

While low ratings is the official reason for Badinter's show being cancelled on WGN-AM, there were other contributing factors.

For a station that prides itself on having a Chicago focus, Badineter brought an unabashedly worldly viewpoint to his Sunday evening "Simon Rendezvous." Though his day job as an advertising executive with the Paris-based Publicis Groupe kept him in Chicago often, he was also a jet-setter, and proudly so. WGN management did not think his show was as Chicago-centric as it needed to be to appeal to WGN listeners.

Then there was the matter of Badinter's style on air. "I was probably too direct, too abrasive, too confrontational, when the station aims for a tone that is more friendly and agreeable," said Badinter, who was born and raised in France, but became an American citizen on Jan. 7.

"I think the people of Chicago don't want to be disturbed, but I gave it my best shot and the topics I talked about were the right ones, insisted Badinter, who nonetheless said -- more than once -- that he was grateful for the opportunity to work at WGN.

In addition, Badinter was stuck in a difficult time slot at WGN where he could get little traction because his show was often preempted by Chicago Blackhawks games.

Badinter's replacement on Sunday evenings won't be decided until the new WGN-AM program director Bill White arrives in mid-February. But sources at the station said it most likely will be a talent that knows Chicago. WGN-AM wants to use weekends to test and develop hosts that could eventually move to more high-profile time slots.

Jimmy & Ricky sm.jpgWe heard from ex-Chicago creative Blake Ebel today. Needless to say, he's loving his new job as chief creative officer of Factory Design Labs in Denver, Co., where even in the dead of winter he can wear a light jacket to work and enjoy Rocky Mountain vistas from his office complex.

Last summer, you may recall, Ebel departed Euro RSCG/Chicago, where he shared the chief creative officer post with Steffan Postaer, who exited the job just days ago. Postaer is searching for his next opportunity. Ebel said he has only had a couple of brief email exchanges with Postaer, but also said he has no doubt the ex-Euro RSCG creative will land on his feet. "The guy (Postaer) has a lot of connections," said Ebel, who oversees a creative staff of more than 35 people. The total body count at Factory Design Labs is around 125.

But the big news Ebel had for us is that he has hired two Chicago creatives at Factory Design Labs. They are Chicago freelance creative Jimmy Olson and former Cramer-Krasselt/Chicago creative Rick Hamann. Ebel worked with Olson on various projects at Euro. And Ebel said he has admired the work Hamann did at C-K, where he worked on several major accounts, including Porsche, Corona and Hyatt.

The outcome of the NFC championship game was a heartbreaker for the Chicago Bears and the team's huge fan base. But the game was a stunning success in the Nielsen overnight television ratings in the Chicago market.

The telecast of the game on Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32 pulled a humongous 50.6 rating and an 81 share. That means 1,771,000 households in Chicago were tuned in to the game on Sunday. That huge 81 share also means more than four out of every five televisions turned on in Chicago while the game was in progress were tuned in to watch the Green Bay Packers defeat the Bears.

The giant ratings number for the Bears left the city's other major TV outlets with barely any audience for their counter-programming. Top-rated ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7 managed just a 0.5 rating (17,500 households) while the Bears game was in progress. Both CBS-owned WBBM-Channel 2 and NBC-owned WMAQ could do no better than a 0.4 rating each (14,000 households each).

Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32 will air a Chicago mayoral debate on Feb. 10, at Kennedy King College. WFLD lead anchors Bob Sirott and Robin Robinson will moderate the debate

The one-hour forum will feature the city's leading mayoral candidates -- chosen based on their standing in polls of the electorate. WFLD is hosting the debate in conjunction with the Chicago Urban League and Harriet's Daughters, an organization founded last year to foster greater economic empowerment among African-Americans.

The debate is expected to be simulcast live on WVON-AM (1690) and WVAZ-FM (102.7). WFLD viewers will be able to engage in the debate before and during the event via Fox Chicago's Facebook and Twitter pages. Chicagoans will vote for a new mayor on Feb. 22.

It hasn't happened a lot recently, but Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32 has actually renewed the contract of an on-air talent. The station said weatherman Mark Strehl's contract has been renewed. He will continue to do weather reports Monday through Friday for the station's morning show "Good Day, Chicago."

The suspense is over. The 2010 Gunn Report has been released and revealed. And guess what. The four most-awarded agency networks in the world in 2010 were exactly the same top four in 2009, according to the Gunn Report. In the top spot is BBDO, followed by DDB in second, Ogilvy & Mather third and Leo Burnett fourth.

The ad business has fallen into a rut. We can't quibble with the fact that BBDO wound up the most awarded network, yet again. It still does try harder -- a lot harder -- than most. But let's be honest. Awards are nice when they genuinely recognize greatness. But too many winners are chosen in suspect fashion. So we take it all with a grain of salt. Still it would be nice to see the industry generate more excitement. And surprise.

2010 Gunn Report due out Friday

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The Gunn Report will release its annual report on Friday, and the results are strictly embargoed until then. But we've looked at the results, and let's just say they are not likely to surprise anyone. Network size and reach always is a factor in how many awards an agency can collect internationally, so that of course plays into the final results.

The Gunn Report calls itself "an important industry bellwether." If that is indeed the case, it would appear that the ad industry is turning into a very static industry indeed. But there have been signs of that for a long time. The conglomerates that now dominate the ad business do not allow for a very malleable, dynamic industry.

The Gunn Report also said it is here to identify the best new work in the world each year, to identify who is doing it and to celebrate both. We do wish there was more that is fresh and exciting to celebrate than there now is in the business. Especially here in Chicago.

Bonneville International on Wednesday said it has entered into an agreement to sell its three Chicago radio stations -- WTMX-FM (101.9), WDRV-FM (97.1) and WILV-FM (100.3) -- to Minneapolis-based Hubbard Broadcasting Co. Hubbard also is buying Bonneville stations in Washington, D.C., St. Louis and Cincinnati. Altogether Hubbard is acquiring 17 Bonneville stations for $505 million in cash. The deal is expected to close in May.

As part of the deal, Salt Lake City-based Bonneville's two top radio executives, CEO Bruce Reese and chief operating officer Drew Horowitz will join the radio management team at Hubbard, which currently operates just four radio stations in Minneapolis,in addition to 12 television stations in Minnesota, New York and New Mexico. Chicago-based Greg Solk, who had overseen programming for Bonneville's chain of radio stations, also will become the senior vice-president of programming for Hubbard's expanded roster of radio outlets.

Hubbard said it does not plan to make any changes in personnel or programming at any of the stations it is acquiring after the deal closes.

The deal gives Hubbard in one fell swoop three of Chicago's top performing radio stations. All three are regularly among the Chicago market's top 10 outlets in the key 25 to 54-year-old demo in the monthly Arbitron rating books. Hubbard also is getting the city's consistently top-ranked morning drive show with Eric Ferguson and Kathy Hart on WTMX.

Sources say the price tag Hubbard is paying seems surprisingly low, given the quality of several of the Chicago stations Hubbard is acquiring. Bonneville, however, apparently liked the offer. One source called it a deal Bonneville couldn't refuse. Bonneville is a unit of Deseret Management Corp., a for-profit arm of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Bill White has been named new program director at Tribune Co-owned WGN-AM (720). He starts Feb. 14. White replaces Kevin Metheny, who abruptly departed the station in November. White most recently was operations director at WBT-AM/FM and WLNK-FM in Charlotte, N.C. WGN general manager Tom Langmyer said of White: "He understands the personal bond that listeners have with WGN and will use his creativity, passion and experience to help make that connection stronger than ever." White was born in Oak Park and graduated with a BA in communications/journalism from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh.

He's gone. Steffan Postaer, we're told, quietly exited the offices of Euro RSCG/Chicago late last week. No big farewell party. No email to the staff. Postaer just left.

But he did post a message -- with a bit of a "Sound of Music" theme -- on his blog, the Gods of Advertising. Referencing the song "So Long, Farewell" from the show, he said he would be working on various writing projects short term, and seeking a new chief creative officer post or other creative leadership position long term.

Postaer said his parting was amicable, but sad. And yes, he couldn't resist mentioning that we had, for quite a long while, referenced the shop as a "corpse." There was a time when we thought Euro RSCG might leave that corpse-like state behind for good. Lately, we've been a little less certain of that. But with new creative leadership, Euro RSCG is forging ahead toward whatever future await its.

As for Postaer, well, it will certainly be interesting to see what the future holds for him. Is there another Altoids out there waiting to happen? Maybe. Maybe not.

EDDIE1.jpgThe next Chicago Blackhawks fan convention is still six months away. But for the Hawks, it's never too early to get out the word about a big event that allows the team's growing fan base to interact with players and establish closer bonds with all of them. To help spread the word about the convention, which runs July 15 through 17 at the Chicago Hilton & Towers, the Hawks will debut on Saturday a new TV spot developed in-house that stars Hawks television analyst Eddie Olczyk.

The spot opens with what appears at first to be a routine bit of business: Olczyk checking in at the Hilton for the fan convention. Only it's quickly apparent something isn't quite right. Olczyk is checking in with a fish in a fishbowl. But there's more. The reception staffer can't find a reservation for Olczyk, who is the master of ceremonies for the event, and the hotel is completely sold out.

An increasingly perturbed Olczyk asks the clerk: "What about Foley?" She assumes, incorrectly as we soon find out, that he's referring to Pat Foley, the Hawks play-by-play TV announcer who has already checked in. But Olczyk quickly corrects her and says he's referring to his fish, which happens to be named Foley. The resourceful Olczyk thinks he's found a solution to his dilemma when he and his Foley settle down in the hotel lobby. But he's foiled again by that ever-so-polite hotel clerk.

The new commercial, in its one-minute form, isn't a masterpiece, but it is worth watching to see how valiantly Olczyk fights on behalf of his beloved fish Foley.

Mike Scalise has been named executive creative director of the Norton Agency in Oakbrook Terrace. He will have responsibility for development and oversight of print, broadcast and digital projects.

Scalise most recently was creative director of BVK in Chicago and Milwaukee. He has held senior creative positions at several other agencies, most notably DDB in Dallas, Tex. He has worked with a wide range of clients, including Sears, Whirlpool, Coca-Cola, Papa John's Pizza and others. He resides in Itasca.

Shoe manufacturer Allen Edmonds has selected SCC/Grossman as its public relations agency of record. SCC/Grossman is a wholly-owned division of marketing shop Schafer/Condon/Carter in Chicago.

SCC/Grossman will be responsible for developing an integrated public relations program to re-introduce the Allen Edmonds brand. The agency's initial efforts will focus on launching the 2011 fall line of men's shoes as well as its product sampling. "In SCC/Grossman we found the perfect partner to work with us as we continue to build our reputation as 'the great American shoe company'," said Colin Hall, Allen Edmonds' chief marketing officer.

Founded in 1922, Allen Edmonds continues to manufacture all of its shoes at its plant in Port Washington, Wis.

Hot adult contemporary WTMX-FM (101.9) morning drive co-host Eric Ferguson is one of 10 radio hosts who are finalists to serve as co-host for a day of the popular TV talk show "Live! with Regis and Kelly." The five temps will fill in for Regis Philbin while he is on vacation from January 24 to 28.

Viewers of "Live" were asked to nominate their favorite local radio host for the one-day job. After tens of thousands of nominations were received, "Live's" producers narrowed the field to the Top 100, which was then whittled to the 10 finalists. Beginning today at LiveRegisandKelly.com, viewers can vote for the five broadcasters they would like to see as co-hosts with Kelly Ripa. Voting will remain open until January 16, and the five winners will be announced on Jan. 17.

It's a new year, everyone, and it still ain't over. Yes, the curious, disturbing and always surprising, process to name a private management firm to run the Illinois Lottery goes on. And on. And on.

The latest development, and first of the new year, concerns Melissa M. Riahei, who was, until very recently, general counsel for the Illinois Lottery. But no more. Riahei has abruptly left the Lottery to take a job as executive vice-president and general counsel of U.S. Digital Gaming. As recently as today, Riahei's abrupt exit apparently was news to some in the Illinois Department of Revenue, under whose purview the Lottery falls. Riahei had been the Lottery's general counsel since 2007.

Riahei was a key player, of course, in this entire, protracted process to name a private manager for the Illinois Lottery. Gov. Pat Quinn selected Northstar Lottery Group to get the contract on Sept. 15, but no contract has been signed. Northstar is comprised of Gtech, Scientific Games and Energy BBDO/Chicago. Losing contenders Intralot and Camelot Group have filed protests about the bid process and its outcome that are still in process.

Riahei is of interest because, sources say, she was involved in efforts to get Intralot to drop its protest and avoid the release of unflattering details about Sokratis Kokkalis, the head of Intralot's parent company in Greece, Intralot SA. Intralot did not withdraw its protest, and the Lottery and Department of Revenue subsequently made good on its threat (some have called it blackmail) to release an unflattering report about Kokkalis.

Homeless sensation Ted Williams is finding out fast what fame can bring you. The latest good fortune in Williams' brush with superstardom may come from none other than talk diva Oprah Winfrey, who told "Inside Edition's" Deborah Norville that she would like to give Williams a job, possibly serving as the voiceover announcer for Winfrey's new cable channel. "It would be fantastic to hear him say 'The Oprah Winfrey Network'," Winfrey said.

Like millions of others, Winfrey apparently was intrigued by panhandler Williams' quick emergence into the national spotlight, thanks in large measure to a YouTube video of him talking about his tough battle with drugs and alcohol and showing off his rich, resonant radio announcer's voice. As for Williams, the magnitude of the attention he is getting is only just beginning to sink in. "A whirlwind -- a tornado" is how he described the effect of all the publicity to Norville.

Sources say Dan Schwab has exited Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32 as executive producer of special projects. He had been at the station since 2006. It is unclear whether Schwab will be replaced.

But Schwab's departure leaves a big hole in the station's investigations unit. Schwab's departure follows close on the heels of the exit of Mark Saxenmeyer who had been a WFLD special projects reporter working on investigative segments. Saxenmeyer had been at the station since 1994.

Marsha Bartel, WFLD's former top investigative producer, also left WFLD in August for Tribune Co.-owned WGN-Channel 9, where she is now working with anchor Mark Suppelsa on investigative projects.

Chicago-based critic and essayist Ignatiy Vishnevetsky has been named co-host of "Roger Ebert Presents At the Movies." He replaces Elvis Mitchell, who left the show several weeks ago. Vishnevetsy will join Associated Press movie critic Christy Lemire on the new movie review show slated to debut on WTTW-Channel 11 in Chicago and public television stations nationwide on Jan. 21.

Vishnevetsky, 24, is a critic and essayist for Mubi.com, a new multinational streaming site that bills itself as an online cinematheque. Vishnevetsky also is a co-founder of Cine-File.info, which tracks alternative cinema in the Chicago area, and he helps program the Cine-File Selects series at the University of Chicago's Doc Films, the nation's oldest film society. In addition, he contributes to the Chicago Reader.

Prior to becoming a film critic, Vishnevetsky, who is multi-lingual, worked as a translator for Novoe Literaturnoe Obozrenie, a literary journal in Russia.

Born in the Soviet Union, Vishnevetsky moved to the United States when he was eight. He went to high school in Milwaukee, but moved to Chicago after graduating,

Karen Rariden has been named assistant news director at CBS-owned WBBM-Channel 2. She succeeds Don DuPree who left in the fall to become the director of Sun-Times movie critic Roger Ebert's new television movie review show "Roger Ebert Presents At the Movies," which debuts Jan. 21.

Rariden comes to WBBM from CBS-owned KYW-Channel 3 in Philadelphia, where she was an executive producer in the news department. Her resume also includes a stint at Tribune Co.-owned WGN-Channel 9 from 1999 t0 2001. At WGN, Rariden was an executive producer of the station's morning show. WBBM news director Jeff Kiernan called Rariden a "highly-experienced newsroom leader with proven success in managing the producing and production of daily newscasts."

Rariden received an undergraduate degree and master's degree in telecommunications from Indiana University.

Sudberry_Howard_2.jpegThere are second acts, folks. Longtime local TV sports anchor and reporter Howard Sudberry has joined Arlington Park as senior director of marketing and communications. Sudberry begins his new job this week.

Sudberry, a lifelong racing fan and son of a trainer, joins Arlington after spending a quarter century as a three-time Emmy Award-winning sports anchor and reporter at CBS-owned WBBM-Channel 2. During his tenure at Channel 2, Sudberry hosted frequent telecasts of major races from Arlington Park. Since leaving the station in 2008, Sudberry started his own sports-media consulting firm, Sudberry Media Group. He also produced and co-hosted the 2010 telecast of the Arlington Million that aired on Comcast SportsNet.

In his new role, Sudberry will plan an instrumental part in increasing Arlington Park's visibility by contributing to the track's marketing, advertising, sales and communications efforts. Said Sudberry of his new job: "I went to Arlington as a young kid as a fan, hosted television shows from Arlington for years, so it's only natural that I wind up working with the team there trying to revitalize the excitement of the sport of thoroughbred racing and the beauty of the racetrack."

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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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This page is an archive of entries from January 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

December 2010 is the previous archive.

February 2011 is the next archive.

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