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Lewis Lazare follows Chicago media and marketing news

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Walmart_WakeUpCall_Still7.L2WR6.jpgYes Virginia, there still is perfection in the beleaguered advertising industry. And what more welcome time for perfection to rear its head in the realm of TV advertising than at Christmas. The spot that has unleashed such unbridled joy within us is "Wake Up Call," an unforgettable tsunami of holiday-tinged emotion brought to us courtesy of Walmart and the Martin Agency in Richmond, Va.

Together they have delivered a truly beautiful reminder of why the TV commercial -- when it is done to perfection with great taste and great vision and a great universal message -- will never, ever be trumped by all the lousy stuff called advertising that is foisted on us in the digital universe or any of the other hot media platforms of the moment.

What most impressed us about "Wake Up Call," was its energetic punch. Perhaps because so many creators of TV advertising nowadays don't really have their hearts in it, we rarely see commercials like "Wake Up Call" that pop so forcefully -- commercials that reach out, grab viewers and compel them to respond.

This "Wake Up Call" couldn't have happened without the Martin Agency's resident musical genius, David Muhlenfeld, a 38-year-old copywriter turned composer. He wrote the spine-tinglingly catchy jingle that so brilliantly evokes that sense of magical wonder and excitement that is at the heart of what unfolds on Christmas morning in countless homes around the world.

We did a little research on the making of "Wake Up Call" and discovered it all came together, miraculously one might say, in a matter of a couple or so weeks. Which only re-affirms what we have long believed -- great work springs directly from great minds without all the endless tweaking and rethinking that is the norm at so many agencies.

Every little detail has been done right in "Wake Up Call," from the lush orchestrations to the rich cinematography, especially that captivating final image of the young girl and her expression of sheer happiness. We haven't seen an image that vivid, that evocative in advertising in a long, long time.

As we type these words, we're aren't so foolish as to think "Wake Up Call" could start a tsunami of equally great TV advertising. No way. There are too many cynics out there in the ad business who have moved on to what they think is the next big thing. Well to them, we say "wake up." The old forms are not dead. They merely need to be revived with great artistry and craft. Then Virginia, they WILL live on. And gloriously so.

Loyalty3.jpgThis will resonate. Of that we have no doubt. We're talking about a new ad campaign from the Martin Agency in Richmond, Va., for Riverwoods, IL.-based Discover Card that breaks today. Three new TV spots all focus on customer service -- or, more specifically, the lack thereof -- at some financial institutions.

The new Discover spots make their point via a customer service agent called Peggy, who is actually a he. Peggy is seen in each spot attempting to deal with a customer who has called a financial institution named USA Prime Credit. In each instance, the interaction with Peggy leads to a situation that is both funny and familiar -- at least to anyone who has struggled to get through to -- and then deal with -- a banking representative.

It's a tribute to Martin's skills that the shop has managed to make us laugh at what is, in fact, a hugely frustrating experience for so many, namely the decline of customer service. Discover Card apparently promises a real person will answer customer calls within 60 seconds. That's a promise well worth promoting in Discover's marketing initiatives. We'll have more on the spots at a later date.

Cash is something everyone's looking for more of nowadays. So it makes smart business sense for Riverwoods, IL.-based Discover Card to push the point that it offers cash back on every purchase. And that's exactly what Discover and ad agency the Martin Group in Richmond, Va., are doing in new TV and print executions debuting his week. The commercials aren't, however, telling consumers to stash the cash they get back for a really rainy day. Rather the commercials suggest those getting cash back should opt for some little indulgences, like a new pair of shoes, a ride on carnival bumper cars or an enjoyable meal out at restaurant.

While it might not be prudent for anyone to spend lavishly at this moment in time, we all know it's imperative to get the economy going again -- something that won't happen very quickly unless people permit themselves to enjoy at least a few of life's little pleasures. So while pointing up a virtue of owning the card, Discover is doing something with this campaign that might help the economy get back on track.

CDW to Ogilvy/Chicago?

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Is Ogilvy/Chicago about to get CDW, the Vernon Hills-based computer parts reseller? Though it seemingly has taken forever to name a winner in the account review that is believed to have been narrowed to Ogilvy and the Martin Agency in Richmond, Va., sources say it now may be just a matter of ironing out the last details of a contract between client and new agency of record. Word is that the CDW business will involve a lot of below-the-line work, which means the account may actually be a good fit with the Ogilvy operation here in Chicago, which is pretty well staffed in that department. And though it's merely circumstantial evidence at best, we've been told Ogilvy/Chicago Chief Creative Officer Joe Sciarrotta has seemed pretty chipper in recent days. We doubt it's the water that's causing the upbeat mood. Maybe it's something called CDW?

Sources say Vernon Hills-based CDW, the computer supplies reseller, has narrowed its search for a new ad agency to two finalists: the Martin Agency in Richmond, Va., and Ogilvy & Mather/Chicago -- two agencies that are vastly different in size and public profile. Martin, of course, is famously known as the shop that won the huge WalMart account from DraftFCB/Chicago, which had the business for just a few weeks. O&M has seen various pieces of business come and then go over the past several years, including Quiznos, Kraft Foods' Oscar Mayer unit and, of course, a large chunk of Sears business. O&M/Chicago remains best known for its recent "real beauty" work on the Dove beauty brand.

Gone from the CDW review, it appears, is DDB/Chicago, which had been pushing hard, we were informed, to remain in the running for business. No indication of when CDW will announce a winner.

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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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