A lot of folks have been wondering for some time about the future of Element 79/Chicago. Now that its chief creative officer Dennis Ryan is exiting to become chief creative officer at Olson/Minneapolis, the wondering is sure to reach an even more fevered pitch.
The truth of the matter is Element 79/Chicago has been a shadow of its former self since PepsiCo pulled out vast chunks of business over a very short of period of time several years ago. Ryan and CEO Brian Williams never could find the new business needed to patch up the gaping hole the major account losses left in the agency's client roster.
Ryan is now jumping to a Minneapolis shop that bills itself as one of the top 10 independent full-service agencies in North America. That may very well be the case, but what Olson doesn't have is a high profile creative reputation. Is Ryan the creative person to give them that? Some astute observers in the local ad community seriously doubt that Ryan could, given his inability to help pull Element 79 out of the deep hole it fell into after the PepsiCo pullout.
If nothing else, however, Ryan has proved savvy at keeping one or two steps ahead of any troubles that might be threatening to befall him. He could see the walls closing in around him at JWT/Chicago, when he jumped to Element 79. And some speculate that could have been the case as well with his decision to jump to Olson.
But the question remains: whither Element 79? Will the shop finally merge with DDB/Chicago, as many have suggested could be a relatively painless way to deal with Element 79's uncertain future?
Or will Williams try to go out and find some hotshot creative whippersnapper who could transform the shop overnight and make it the hot spot it hasn't been in quite some time. Some might say it's never been a particularly hot shop, but we'll leave that discussion for a later date.
For now, we will watch and see what success Ryan has in Minneapolis, where he will eventually relocate. Ryan starts his new job Mar. 7.
The deal apparently calls for Ryan to live in Chicago for the next year and commute four days a week to Minneapolis and work one day a week at Olson's Chicago office, which is currently the outpost for Dig Communications, a public relations firm Olson recently acquired.
That one-year window should give both Olson and Ryan ample time to decide if the marriage is going to work. An Olson spokeswoman said Olson expects to expand its Dig operations in Chicago into a full-service advertising agency at some point in the future.
Ryan had this to say about the new gig: "I can't think of a more exciting creative job right now than mashing upon really smart marketing specialities into new brand ideas at Olson." There you go.
Olson clients include Lipton tea, Amtrak, Target, General Mills and Fifth Third Bank.