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Lewis Lazare follows Chicago media and marketing news

Recently in Porter Airlines Category

Has Chicago's ad industry lost the "wow" factor? We wondered about that after we got word from Porter Airlines this morning that, for now, the carrier isn't going to award any project assignments to Chicago ad agencies.

This news comes after executives from Porter visited several Chicago ad agencies (more than one and fewer than five reportedly) several weeks ago. Zig/Chicago and Two by Four/Chicago were believed to be two of the shops Porter visited.

The purpose of the visits, we were told, was to assess the agencies and decide whether Porter wanted to work with any of them on Chicago-specific marketing projects. Porter spokesman Brad Cicero has just informed us that Winkreative/London remains the Toronto-based airline's agency of record. As for any decision about using a Chicago-based partner, Cicero said this morning that it was still "considering" such a possibility, but "the process is ongoing." Who knows what the process is, however, and how long it will be ongoing. And, more importantly, whether it will ever yield a Chicago ad agency partner for the carrier.

But nothing the Porter executives apparently saw or heard during their recent visit compelled them to rush to sign up a Chicago shop. Which is unfortunate. Because although the airline industry has been in a state of tumult for some time, it remains a sexy category to be in, to be sure. And an interesting marketing challenge for those agencies that do have airline accounts.

In any event, Chicago agencies seem to have failed to deliver the kind of "wow" presentations that could have immediately brought some Porter business to Chicago. So while we're in the midst of this slump in the Chicago ad industry, maybe everyone in the biz needs to rethink how to give their new biz pitches more of that "wow" factor. Couldn't hurt.

Canada's Porter Airlines is quietly looking for a Chicago-based agency to handle what spokesman Brad Cicero characterized as market-specific advertising projects for the carrier. In this instance those projects, of course, would be Chicago-specific. United Kingdom-based Winkreative has handled all of Porter's systemwide branding and advertising needs since the airline launched three-and-a-half years ago. Porter marketing executives reportedly visited several Chicago ad agencies (fewer than five said Cicero) in recent days. Two by Four/Chicago and Zig/Chicago (which has its roots in Toronto) are believed to be among the shops Porter looked at.

Porter commenced service to Chicago's Midway Airport from its primary hub in Toronto in the fall of 2008, and the airline has been a hugely visible and aggressive advertiser of its non-stop service in Chicago's daily newspapers, among other places. Quietly, some Chicago ad executives have questioned whether Porter's current print advertising does a sufficiently good job of conveying the relatively high-end Porter in-flight experience, which includes complimentary beverage service in real glasses and boxed snacks on all flights. The carrier flies modern turboprop planes. "That raccoon maybe isn't the best way to tout what Porter offers," said one local ad executive, a reference to a raccoon character that appears in numerous Porter display ads.

Porter spokesman Cicero said it would probably take company executives another week or two to review all that they saw and heard in their visits to Chicago agencies, and at that point they will have a better sense of what kind of marketing projects they may want to undertake in Chicago and which local agency would be best suited for the task.

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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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