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ESW Partners/Chicago believes it can do casino advertising better. And the agency's principals are starting to make some noise to that effect. They're getting noisy apparently not just because they want to grow ESW, but because they think there's a problem with most of the casino advertising on view today. "Most of it follows a recipe: take one part 'you could be a winner' headline, mix with happy hard bodies playing slots, serve with logo," explained Jim Signorelli, founder and CEO of ESW Partners. "That's like advertising that an automobile can get you from Point A to Point B," added Signorelli, who points out that ESW has an "abundance" of casino experience.

ESW just picked up Boyd Gaming's Blue Chip Casino and has previously done work for Motor City Casino Hotel in Detroit, the Tropicana in Las Vegas and the Crown in Australia. Signorelli especially likes his shop's work for the Detroit casino. "We created compelling outdoor advertising promoting the casino using all graphics and no copy," explained Signorelli. As the economy starts to improve, ESW may find it has more opportunities to work with casinos. They no doubt would expect ESW Partners to make good on its ability to deliver non-formulaic advertising.

ESW Partners/Chicago entered work in six award categories in the 2010 Summit Creative Awards competition and wound up with six winners -- one gold, two silver and three bronze awards. The Summit Awards honor creative excellence in small and mid-sized ad agencies.

The documentary "10 Years Ahead," produced by ESW for their recent 10th anniversary, won the gold. In the winning video, ESW interviewed numerous advertising industry leaders and asked them for their opinion on where advertising will be in 10 years.

The silver awards were given for an online campaign created for client CBS News and for a television commercial produced for MotorCity Casino in Detroit. A print ad and brochure done for MotorCity Casino earned two bronze awards. The final bronze award was for "best idea never produced" for City Pool Hall.

Ad agencies in more than 20 countries participated in the Summit Creative Awards competition.

Following a review, ESW Partners/Chicago has been named agency of record for Blue Chip Casino, Hotel & Spa in Michigan City, Ind. ESW will be assisting Blue Chip with all branding work. The Blue Chip win is part of ESW's effort to establish a major foothold in the casino branding business.

"Blue Chip is much more than a casino," said Jim Signorelli, the CEO at ESW. "It's a resort destination serving the Midwest with a service ethic next to none," added Signorelli.
The Blue Chip win comes as ESW Partners caps off its 10th year, with double-digit increases in revenue and profits reported. ESW was recently named to the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing independent companies in the United States.

ESW Partners/Chicago has reached all the way down under to tap Michael Otten as its new director of business development, always a key slot at any agency.

Formerly, Otten was CEO of Singleton Advertising in Melbourne, Australia. He also has been executive general manager of Crown Casino and consulted for the Skycity group of casinos in New Zealand, Foxwoods in Connecticut, and the Ritz Club in London.

"Further cultivating the casino//hotel category is one of the big rocks we want to move," said Jim Signorelli, ESW's CEO. "We took a long time and went a long way to find Michael, but we were determined to bring in the best person we could find to help us with this objective," added Signorelli. It appears ESW is taking aim at RPM Advertising/Chicago, which has developed an expertise in the casino category. RPM handles advertising for some of the biggest casino operations in the Chicago area and beyond.

At Singleton and other agencies where Otten has worked his clients have included Telestra, Nike, IBM, Honda, AXA, Compaq and Coles supermarkets.

Some ad agencies merely pop open a few bottles of bubbly to celebrate their 10th anniversary. ESW Partners/Chicago was considerably more ambitious. Late last month, to celebrate their 10th year in business, the folks at ESW debuted part one of a two-part video documentary called "10 Years Ahead."

ESW rounded up no fewer than 25 "opinion leaders" (yes, we were one of them) to record their thoughts about the future of the advertising industry. We have seen part one and enjoyed hearing what a really diverse cross-section of people in the business had to say on the topic. Part two of the ESW video project will, we are told, be posted soon at For part two, viewers will be asked to join in the conversation with their thoughts about the advertising business10 years down the road.

Jim Signorelli, needless to say, is happy his agency has survived to see its 10th anniversary. "Ten years ago we were three people whose assets were a desktop computer and a dream," said Signorelli, adding "it's surreal to think that today we are on the Inc. magazine list of the 500 fastest-growing independent companies in the United States."

Fast-casual restaurant chain Cosi has selected ESW Partners/Chicago as its new agency of record, following an extensive agency search. Cosi operates 145 outlets throughout the United States and reportedly plans to expand over the next two years. ESW was hired to handle branding and all marketing and communications efforts for the restaurant chain. Separately, e-SW2, the interactive arm of ESW Partners, will handle all Web-related activities, including the redesign of Cosi's Web site. "Cosi has a great story to tell," said Jim Signorelli, founder and CEO of ESW Partners. Cosi CEO Jim Hyatt said the company chose ESW because of "their knowledge of the restaurant business and especially their analytical approach taken to competitively position the Cosi brand.

With approximately $60 million in combined billings, ESW will celebrate its 10th year in business this October.



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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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