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OTSC-0807.jpegThe Chicago advertising and public relations industry's annual Off the Street Club holiday luncheon almost didn't happen this year.

Jack Rooney of Ogilvy & Mather/Chicago delivered that shocking and grim bit of news at the top of what turned out to be a very festive affair Thursday at the Fairmont Hotel Chicago. Rooney said he was told early in the summer that no ad agency or public relations firm had stepped forward to sponsor the 2010 luncheon. Usually by that point, planning would be well under way for an event typically held early in December each year.

Tradition has it that one ad agency or public relations firm is the luncheon's lead sponsor. But times being what they are (hard, in case you hadn't guessed) in the Chicago ad world, no agency apparently raised its hand to follow in the steps of Euro RSCG/Chicago, lead sponsor of last year's slickly-executed luncheon.

Rooney made it clear Ogilvy wasn't prepared to shoulder the responsibility of doing this year's luncheon all alone. But before panic set in, a decision was made to pull together a consortium of agencies that are part of the Chicago chapter of the American Association of Advertising Agencies and let the bunch of them share the responsibility of doing the planning and execution of this year's event.

The luncheon's near collapse notwithstanding, we are pleased to report it went off without a hitch, with upwards of 700 in attendance. As always, the highlight was the naming of the Off the Street Club Boy and Girl of the Year. This year they are Jovan Bradley and Latarsia Jackson.

We never cease to be amazed at what poise and polish these hugely promising youngsters demonstrate when they stand all alone before a large crowd of strangers to give a speech and share a little bit of what makes them special. Jackson wants to grow up to be a poetess, and she read a lovely poem about peace and giving thanks. Bradley proudly channels Justin Bieber, and he gave a performance that demonstrated Bieber has nothing on him.

Altogether, the luncheon is expected to raise in excess of $400,000 to help the Off the Street Club continue its decades of work with children from the city's west side, where drugs and gang violence are constant concerns.

For the record, the ad agencies that helped make the 2010 luncheon happen are (in alphabetical order): Cramer-Krasselt; Digitas; Energy BBDO; Euro RSCG; Leo Burnett and Ogilvy & Mather. Edelman/Ruth did the video presentation. "Hope" was the theme for the luncheon.

hernandez_david_port.JPGDavid Hernandez is rejoining Ogilvy & Mather/Chicago as managing director of OgilvyOne and executive creative director of Ogilvy & Mather. Hernandez previously worked at OgilvyOne from 2003 to 2009, before joining Tribal DDB in Chicago as managing director.

Hernandez's jump back to Ogilvy comes as Tribal DDB/Chicago is going through a massive downsizing in the wake of the loss of its State Farm business to DraftFCB/Chicago. There had been talk a couple of months ago of Tribal DDB merging its operations with sibling DDB/Chicago, which has been in a major slump for several years. But several high-up DDB operatives were reportedly resisting such a merger.

Hernandez's return to Ogilvy is part of the shop's efforts to position itself as a digitally-savvy operation. "David is an exceptional digital leader who will be a great addition to our Chicago management team," said Jack Rooney, president, O&M/Chicago. "David's expanded creative role is designed to provide digital creative leadership across all agency disciplines," added Joe Sciarrotta, chief creative officer of Ogilvy & Mather/Chicago.

The American Bar Association has named Ogilvy & Mather/Chicago as its agency of record following a review that included one other finalist. The ABA will work with Ogilvy to support a broad array of marketing outreach programs designed to expand its membership activities. "Ogilvy & Mather/Chicago came to our attention because of their success with the American Medical Association," explained Carolyn Lamm, president of the ABA, adding "they understand the corporate structure and needs of an Association such as the ABA and know how to build successful member outreach programs that cross multiple communications channels." Ogilvy recently was award the integrated marketing accounts for American Family Insurance and CDW, which it handles in conjunction with Ogilvy & Mather/New York.

It may be one of the most protracted contract negotiations in the history of advertising, but CDW, the Vernon Hills-based computer reseller, finally sealed the deal Tuesday -- naming Ogilvy/North America as its agency of record. Interestingly, the appointment press release says Ogilvy/Chicago will be lead shop on the account, but other Ogilvy shops, most notably flagship Ogilvy/New York, will work on the business as well. That suggests CDW wasn't exactly comfortable putting all its eggs in the Ogilvy/Chicago basket -- given its shaky track record in recent years. Not that Ogilvy/New York, or Ogilvy in general, has much to crow about either.

One thing should be stressed about this win. While it will provide welcome revenue for Ogilvy, CDW will not be a showcase account that demands breakthrough creative. So don't look for it to help elevate Chicago's slumping image as a place that produces great advertising.

After we first broke the news that Ogilvy was likely to land the account, months passed before the deal was finalized, as the agency and CDW dickered and dickered -- and then dickered some more -- over the nuts and bolts of the contract. From what we hear, CDW was anxious to ensure that they got what they needed from Ogilvy for the lowest possible dollar amount. Call it nickel-and-diming by CDW. Or just prudent business practice.

But this is the way it goes now in the advertising world, where countless agencies have so devalued their images and their services that they can be forced to do whatever a potential new client wants. And aren't just about all American agencies absolutely starved for new business? You bet.

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?

Any day now, we could learn the outcome of the review for the CDW advertising account that has been underway for several months now. Two finalists, we're told, remain in the running for the computer product reseller's ad business: Ogilvy/Chicago and the Martin Agency in Richmond, Va. On Tuesday morning, we ran into Ogilvy Chief Creative Officer Joe Sciarrotta in the lobby of the building in which we both happen to work. He was all gussied up in a suit -- a decidedly different look than the jeans and tee that we've previously often seen him in when our paths have crossed. Sources tell us Sciarrotta may have been en route to the final pitch for the CDW business on that fateful Tuesday morning, though he certainly didn't say that to us.

In any event, we're also told Ogilvy has been pulling out all the stops to land CDW, even bringing in bigwigs from Ogilvy's New York headquarters to supplement the local team working on the pitch. Anything to impress the potential client, you know. Though Martin is a formidable competitor, there are those who think Ogilvy may have a decent chance at winning the CDW business, because it involves a lot of below-the-line promotional work. Ogilvy's complement of workers here in Chicago includes people versed in that particular sort of marketing work. And Ogilvy just may be hungrier -- having recently lost the Oscar Mayer business that parent Kraft Foods had handed the agency.

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.

Everybody who thinks it's time for a regime change at Ogilvy/Chicago, please raise your hand. It no doubt surprised no one in the local ad community to find out that Ogilvy had lost its Oscar Mayer business, which parent Kraft Foods handed to the Chicago shop on a silver platter a couple of years ago. The OM business now is moving to McGarryBowen/New York, which along with its Chicago outpost, is becoming a popular destination for a variety of Kraft brands. The MB Chicago shop just outdid itself with a hip new Miracle Whip campaign.

But this isn't about MB. It's about Ogilvy/Chicago and the very unsavvy way that shop has been run in recent years by Joe Sciarrotta and Jack Rooney, two executives who seem to have an extreme fear of stepping into the spotlight. Maybe it's just because they're shy. Or more likely, it's because they're afraid the limelight would expose what a shabby job they've done of running the joint. Does anyone out there really have any idea what Ogilvy/Chicago is up to? Does anybody out there even care? More importantly, do Sciarrotta and Rooney really want their shop to grow and thrive? They certainly have given us no indication that is what they want.

It has been apparent for some time that their game plan was pretty much like that of the sorry management team of the about-to-die JWT/Chicago. In other words, let the whole thing sink into the muck and mire due to inertia and neglect. One wonders what Ogilvy brass in New York think about the sad situation here in the Chicago office? If they're thinking at all about it. Certainly they've got enough problems to deal with in the New York flagship office, which is plagued by the same issues evident in Chicago -- only on a bigger scale.

Rooney and Sciarrotta have had their chance -- and then some -- to make Ogilvy/Chicago a happening place once more. They haven't gotten the job done. It's time for a change.

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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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