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Ok all you eager Chicago ad creatives. You can pack up all your hottest, award-worthy work and start waiting for next year. Barring some sort of last-minute miracle, there will be no Chicago advertising awards show in 2010.

This news comes today from the collective mouths of the committee that has been charged for the past several months with reviewing all aspects of the often rather ugly past history of Chicago ad awards shows and figuring out a sustainable game plan for future shows. One thing seems clear: The Chicago Creative Club Awards entity that had been the awards show organizing group in recent years is kaput.

All of this new committee's efforts have taken longer than originally anticipated, naturally, so they have decided to scrap a show for this year, which means Chicago -- still the nation's second-largest advertising community -- will not have had any kind of awards show for two of the last four years.

What kind of awards show structure does this committee hope to put in place? Well, it's still too early to say for sure, but they have been talking to several outside event planning specialists and hope to select one of them to help set up a formal awards show structure. Of course, the big rub here is no one knows yet exactly what they want this Chicago awards show to be. So until that is figured out, it will be impossible to set up much of a structure.

We have long maintained that a simple awards show that includes a reception and a short and classy awards presentation may be the best way to go -- so long as the organizers can make all in attendance actually cease drinking long enough to focus on the awards themselves.

At a lunch today we heard awards show committee members bandying around words and phrases such as "innovative" and "respectful of our Chicago heritage." But whether such things will be evident in whatever comes of all this deliberation remains to be seen.

We just hate to see another year pass with no awards show, while the Chicago ad community hurries up and waits for whatever is to come next year.

Efforts are underway to figure out exactly what kind of creative awards show the Chicago advertising community can support. Whether we continue to have a Chicago Creative Club Awards show or something else remains to be seen.

A core committee of about five people, including Two by Four's David Stevenson, Element 79's Dennis Ryan, Cramer-Krasselt's Karen Seamen and DraftFCB's Tom O'Keefe, have commissioned a study to find out if a concept for a show they have in their minds is indeed workable. Results of that study are expected in about two weeks.

Meanwhile, Stevenson said that for any awards show with a sustainable structure to be mounted in this city on an annual basis, it's important for everyone involved in producing the show -- as well as the larger ad community -- to be brutally honest about the situation here in the local ad community and about where we rate in the global ad world. And, as Stevenson intimated, we're not at or near the top right now in terms of creativity -- or in terms of the general health of the local industry. That said, it's all fine and well to do studies and try -- once again-- to figure out what kind of awards show will work best in Chicago.

But the local creative community must remember that an awards show is always going to be about handing out awards first and foremost -- no matter how much you try and make it about something else. Some people will always frown on awards shows -- that is until they are the ones being handed the awards.

The organizers of the Chicago Creative Club Awards show promised us a "No Show." Well, the "No Show" they were striving for finally became, alas, very much a chaotic and somewhat out-of-control affair.

On the plus side, the awards presentation and the Of Montreal concert that followed attracted a large crowd of more than 1,200 Chicago advertising industry people. And we were heartened to see many agency creative leaders in attendance. But, sadly, as has proven the case in several past award shows, it appeared the vast majority of the assembled throng were there just to party. And the notion of respectfully honoring their peers for their outstanding work seemed to be the furthest thing from their collective minds Thursday night at the Riviera Theater in Uptown. Some we talked to were surprised by the blatant lack of respect for the awards and the award winners, but not us. We'd seen it in years past and had railed about it -- mostly to no avail.

The choice of the Riviera as the show venue, unfortunately, didn't help curb this tendency by many to ignore the awards ceremony and party instead. The toasty temperature inside the theater and the absence of any seating on the main floor basically created a mosh pit environment that encouraged everyone to party ever harder. That said, maybe the large turnout did help re-establish a bit of that old feeling of a real advertising community in Chicago. Whether it will last, of course, depends on how the ad business fares in this city over the next several months.

The "No Show" organizers -- Matt Brennock, Liz Ross and Katie Juras -- certainly worked hard to make the evening fun, without entirely losing sight of the fact this was intended to be a celebration of the best advertising work done in Chicago. The trio couldn't dictate how everyone was expected to behave. And they shouldn't have. Those working in the ad business in Chicago are going to have to learn for themselves that respect must be paid. Especially when we are gathered to hand out awards.
There was talk Thursday night about possibly taking the Chicago Creative Club Awards show private and turning it it in real business. Might not be such a bad idea. We'll report more on that possibility as information becomes available.

Meanwhile, we would be remiss if we didn't offer up a big thank you to all those involved in the shooting of the short video "Lewis Lazare: Ad Man" in which we played a role. It was shown at the end of the awards portion of the evening. Over the course of two days of location filming, we had a lot of fun doing it. But it was really the people and companies behind the scenes who deserve the lion's share of the credit for getting it produced in such a wonderfully professional fashion:

Executive in charge, Katie Juras
Writer, Matt Brennock
Director, Steve Juras
Production company, Optimus One
Content producer, Matt Abramson
DP, Joe Tipre
Audio, Matt Bregger
PAs, Amanda Speva, Abby Hamilton and Max Holste.
Editorial, Optimus One
Producer, Tracy Spera
Editor, Ruben Vela
Assistant editor, Jill Dibiase

Thanks to everyone. And now, on to next year.

The "No Show" countdown continues

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ofMontreal.jpgOne week and counting until what promises to be a dramatically different Chicago Creative Club awards presentation at the Riviera Theater on Sept. 10. As everyone in the local ad industy must know by now, this take on an awards event has been dubbed by its organizers the "No Show," the full meaning of which will no doubt become evident as the evening unfolds.

The show organizers -- Matt Brennock, Liz Ross and Katie Juras -- say some 1,000 tickets, priced at $50 apiece, have been sold so far. And that number is expected to grow, of course, in the final days leading to the event. Yes, there will be a concert by indie pop band Of Montreal after the one-hour awards presentation, as well as some other surprises along the way. "Surprises," in fact, may prove to be the operative word for the evening.

Brennock told us there will be a master of ceremonies, but he won't say who that will be. Just one more surprise, we suppose.

The show of shows -- the advertising event of Chicago's fall season -- is taking firmer shape.

On Tuesday, the Chicago Creative Club Awards show organizers -- Matt Brennock, Liz Ross and Katie Juras -- confirmed the headliner band that will perform at the Sept. 10 extravaganza at the Riviera Theater in Uptown. It is Of Montreal, a Georgia-based band with, interestingly enough, some Canadian influences. The band's Wikipedia entry characterizes Of Montreal as a baroque rock group, which sounds intriguing enough to us, who don't have a great familiarity with the vast number of rock bands out there performing.

But Brennock told us there's also a Cirque du Soleil air about Of Montreal and their performance style. Now Cirque we know something about, and that certainly sounds appealing to us. The band's performance at the Sept. 10 event will come about 30 minutes after the awards presentations are concluded, Brennock said. And he hopes having a band with some genuine cred in the music industry and a large following will be yet one more incentive for hundreds, if not thousands, of people who have avoided previous CCC events to check out this year's event.

Brennock said he is pleased about how well -- given all the obstacles they have had to confront -- things have gone so far with the show planning. Of course, they could always go better, he conceded. Toward that end, Brennock was set to meet with DraftFCB leader Howard Draft this morning to ensure Draft is on board and committed to making the Sept. 10 show as great as humanly possible.

Despite the willingness of so many people to lend a helping hand (especially Tom Duff of Optimus), Brennock said there still have been troubling pockets of resistance to what the show organizers are trying to achieve. Somehow we're not surprised. Too many people in the local ad community, we've sadly concluded, are fearful of change, which can be threatening. And given the upheaval the ad industry has faced -- especially in Chicago -- fear itself is another factor that makes it difficult for some to embrace the new and the unknown.

But we continue to applaud Brennock, Ross and Juras for trying to make a difference, shake things up a bit and do something for the entire, extended advertising community. If there is indeed an extended ad community worth saving and honoring in Chicago, all that are part of that community would do well to circle Sept. 10 on their calendars now, purchase their $50 tickets at, and be there at the Riviera. It may very well prove a night and a "No Show" to remember. In the nicest, most inclusive way.

More from the front lines of the Chicago Creative Club Awards show, which a trio of organizers -- Matt Brennock, Liz Ross and Katie Juras -- are hard at work producing. We hear there now will be not one, but two bands performing at the awards show at the Riviera Theater on Sept. 10. One band will play at 30-minute set at the top of the evening, and the other will perform at the end of the night, after the awards for advertising excellence have been given out, and everyone is getting into that major party mode. There also will be be a good-natured, laugh-out-loud video presentation featuring some familiar, beloved figures within the local ad industry and others who, well, may not be quite so beloved by all who toil at making advertising hereabouts. We'll leave it at that for now.

Liz Ross back in biz?

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We hear digital honcho Liz Ross, cut loose from Tribal DDB earlier this year, is thisclose to signing with a new firm, probably here in Chicago. A couple details regarding her new gig have yet to be finalized, but word has it that Ross will be back in business sooner rather than later. Ross disappeared suddenly from Tribal DDB, and not much was said at the time about the reasons for her departure. But Ross has subsequently been a presence on the talk circuit and was heard to make remarks that suggest she wasn't exactly cool about the way things were handled at Tribal DDB in regards to her tenure there and her abrupt exit. Since leaving Tribal DDB, Ross has been busy helping organize the upcoming Chicago Creative Awards show "No Show" set for Sept. 10.

The buzz is building. Email and phone messages have come in today advising us that a fairly sizable crowd is expected to show up tonight at Lizzie McNeil's Pub, 400 N. McClurg Ct., by the Chicago River, for the first happy hour aimed at generating interest in the upcoming Creative Club Awards "No Show" at the Riviera Theatre on Sept. 10.

Tonight's fun begins at 5:30 p.m. The "No Show" organizers -- Matt Brennock, Lizz Ross and Katie Juras -- have told us repeatedly that they want this upcoming CCC show to be just as much about reviving some sense of community within Chicago's ravaged ad industry as it is about handing out awards to deserving creative. To that goal, we say "here, here."

Stephen Leps and Zig/Chicago are sponsoring tonight's get-together -- their way of saying they support the goals of the evening and the CCC show organizers. Leps, as many may know, is new to Chicago. He's still learning his way around, and perhaps because he's relatively new to the scene, he believes we can be a great and close and creative community once again. He may have much still to learn about what history has done to the Chicago ad business. But for now Leps remains a dreamer. And that's good thing. So party on everyone.

Rejoice, ad folk. That sorely-missing sense of community within the Chicago ad biz appears to be in the early stages of finally making itself manifest. We stress, of course, that word "appears," because as we all know in the Chicago ad world, appearances can sometimes be deceiving.

In a previous blog posting we tried to calm concerns that the organizers of the upcoming Chicago Creative Club Awards show on Sept. 10 might do away with a judged ad competition. They have told us that is not what they intend to do.

But what they are intent on doing, in addition to organizing the September event, is helping to foster a real feeling of camaraderie that has been too-long absent in the local ad business, which has suffered mightily in recent years. Towards that end Matt Brennock, Liz Ross and Katie Juras -- the chief organizers of the upcoming CCC show --have also organized what they hope will be the first of quarterly happy hours to bring together all who toil in the local ad biz.

This first get-together is slated for June 25th at Lizzie McNeill's pub at 400 N. McClurg Court, beginning at 6 p.m. And we're happy to say that Stephen Leps and his crew at Zig/Chicago have stepped up to sponsor this first gathering for all who call themselves Chicago ad folk.

So mark your calendars. And let the camaraderie begin.

Rest easy, ad folk. There will in fact be a judged advertising competition at the upcoming Chicago Creative Club Awards show slated for Sept. 10, at the Riviera Theater in Uptown. In recent days, we've heard from some concerned creatives that the organizers of this year's show -- dubbed the "No Show" -- might try to cut out the ad competition altogether and focus on celebration and community-building.

But the event's organizers -- Matt Brennock, Liz Ross and Katie Juras -- told us over lunch Monday they have no intention of doing away with the awards. "We just don't want that to be the sole focus of the event," explained Ross. Celebration and community-building, the organizers hope, will be at least as important a goal as handing out awards. And Ross and Brennock emphasize that Chicago's ad industry has a lot of work to do in the community-building department. At last year's CCC show at Soldier Field, attendance was pegged at around 400 people. But we're told that the Minneapolis ad show typically pulls in a whopping 2,500 people. And even in Detroit, where the ad community has been especially hard hit by the economic downtown, the awards show attracts upwards of 900 or more attendees every year.

To help boost interest in the Chicago show, Ross wants to, as she puts it, "work from the bottom up," -- getting a lot of the youngest and newest members of the ad community excited about attending. And she's using Facebook and Twitter and other forms of social networking to help reach this constituency directly.
Meanwhile, look for a show in September where only the top awards are handed out on stage. But there will be more categories this year in which to win awards -- especially in areas that involve post-production, which has not been a focus of previous CCC competitions. Brennock also hopes to land a good music act or two that will light up the Riviera stage and entertain everyone.

The call for entries for this year's show is expected to go out on Friday. The organizers also have begun reaching out to local ad agencies for sponsorship cash to help fund the "No Show." They also hope to move a whole lot more tickets to this year's show at a significantly reduced price of $50 per ducat.



About the blogger

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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