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

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Sources report that Bob Garfield, long-time ad critic for Advertising Age, is preparing to exit the trade publication in early April. Garfield's departure will leave critic Barbara Lippert of competing trade pub Adweek as the only writer regularly critiquing advertising for the industry's trade publications. Garfield reportedly will still be an occasional contributor to Ad Age.

Garfield has been writing advertising critiques for decades, though his work for Ad Age seemed to have taken on a somewhat lower profile in recent months -- perhaps a prelude to his departure. Like some others who have covered the ad industry for a lengthy period of time, Garfield, in his reviews in recent years, seemed to reveal a growing disdain for the increasingly subpar creative efforts of many ad agencies -- that is when he wasn't being overly and smugly self-referential, a characteristic of his writing for which he was well-known.

On Monday trade publication Adweek unveiled its annual report cards that give a letter grade to most major American ad agencies for their overall performance during 2008. And the news was not at all good for at least three shops with major presences in Chicago.

The DDB network, which includes its flagship Chicago office, could do no better than a C+, while Leo Burnett, whose flagship office also is in Chicago, managed only a C. And with a C-, DraftFCB, which last week won the Miller Lite account, scored the lowest grade of the three major shops in Chicago. Cramer-Krasselt had the best -- though hardly stellar -- showing of any of the Chicago-centric agencies with a B-.

Still, the report cards (which included no "A" grade for any agency) are further evidence -- if any more were needed -- that all is not well in the ad industry. The grades they handed out should also indicate to Adweek editors that they might be well advised to focus more of their reporting efforts on what is going on inside ad agencies that has led to this decidedly lackluster set of marks.

Too much of the online editorial in both Adweek and its principal competitor Advertising Age nowadays is devoted to issues peripheral to the real business of advertising, which presumably is what both magazines were created to cover.

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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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