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When it comes to prevailing in new business pitches, DDB/Chicago doesn't have much to show for its efforts of late -- having lost out in a bid for the Radio Shack account that agency insiders, we're told, were confident was winnable. The fact that DDB has no chief creative officer may have had something to do with its failure to nab Radio Shack. Or it just may be that the shop's pitch didn't resonate with the intended audience.

But whatever the case, DDB now appears to have learned how to play hardball to stay in the running for new business as long as possible. DDB is one of several shops still believed to be contending for the CDW ad account, which has been quietly in review. Vernon Hills-based CDW is a reseller of computer hardware and related supplies. Sources say that when it became apparent that DDB was about to be eliminated from the review, DDB parent Omnicom Group, which just happens to be a CDW customer of some size, ever so subtly dropped hints it might have to rethink vendors for its computer supplies.

Needless to say, the hints were heard. DDB has remained in the review, we're told. Sources now say a decision on which agency will win the CDW account is expected shortly.

DDB/Chicago: An insider's take

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The ad world isn't an easy-- or often very happy -- environment to work in these days. Witness the following observations we received in a letter from an insider at DDB/Chicago:

"I am a current DDB/Chicago employee who has been troubled by recent events. In particular, the recent layoffs on Feb. 6, 2009. On that date, an entire creative group (who worked on Wrigley) was let go along with a member of the Studio (probably their best employee), as well as employees who had been with the company for over 20 years. Although I am grateful to still have my job, it troubles me that these individuals were let go while the head of the Omnicom Group awarded himself a $25 million bonus. If he and the other top managers could see who they let go, they might have reconsidered. Forgoing the $25 million bonus would have definitely saved their jobs and many, many more. There is no more loyalty for good, hard, honest work. The individuals that were laid off have worked hard, while others have not even done their job. Every time this is spoken of with the intention of changing things, it falls on deaf ears."

Of course, scenarios not unlike what this DDB insider has observed are playing out at other agencies too. And none of what is happening is going to make for a very pleasant work situation at many ad agencies in the months ahead. As long as the bottom line is what truly matters at the publicly-traded ad agency holding companies such as Omnicom, then it is the holding company managers who make sure the numbers are made that will get the big bonuses, while peons are brought in and kicked out at will to make sure the top honchos get what they believe are their just rewards.

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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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