Chicago Sun-Times
Lewis Lazare follows Chicago media and marketing news

Recently in Two by Four/Chicago Category

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.

Two by Four/Chicago is one of 42 agencies competing for the prestigious OBIE Best of Show award. Two by Four is nominated for its Chicago Bears "One City. One Team." campaign, which celebrates the indelible connection between the the team and Bears fans. The OBIE Awards recognize creative excellence in outdoor advertising and are the oldest awards program in the ad industry. Two by Four is competing against agencies such as Cramer-Krasselt, Wieden + Kennedy, Euro RSCG/Chicago, and Crispin Porter + Bogusky. The 2010 OBIE Award winners will be announced at a gala celebration in Phoenix, Ariz., on May 4. Steffan Postaer, chairman and chief creative officer of Euro RSCG/Chicago will emcee the event.

DSC_1432.JPGThe year 2009 has been mostly about whining in the advertising industry. We all the know the basic tale of woe by heart by now. No new business at many agencies. Clients cutting back. Losses piling up. And on and on. But you won't see many long faces around at least one Chicago ad agency, namely Two by Four. No indeed. In fact, Two by Four chief creative officer and founder David Stevenson threw a big bash for his staff last week, and then was kind enough to send us information about all he did for his employees to celebrate Two by Four's successful 2009.

So what does Stevenson know that so many others in the ad biz don't? Apparently he knows how to manage staff and his cost structure to sustain a 20 percent profit margin. Not bad. Even in a very down year.

To celebrate his ad business acumen and his staff, Stevenson presided over a "Let's Make A Deal"-themed bash for employees on Friday, Dec. 11th, at which he gave away no less than $20,000 worth of prizes, including a trip to New York City to see a Broadway show (What? Chicago theater isn't good enough for Stevenson's folks??), a trip for two to Las Vegas (another cultural hotbed!), and two tickets to the Final Four in March. And oh yes! A contribution of $1,000 towards the purchase of a pup of the prize winner's choice. Stevenson said the pup prize was by no means the most popular of the lot. The big showcase prize, we're told, was a solid silver bar. On top of all the prizes won, each staffer also got a bonus check.

Stevenson told us his last round of layoffs happened last February. Since then he has added staff, returning total head count to about where it was prior to the February cuts. For those tired of working for ad agencies that have become little more than glorified -- and sharply downsized -- sweat shops in recent years, Stevenson seemed to suggest to us that his agency aims to be anything but that. "We've handed out bonus checks for every one of the 13 years we've been in business," notes Stevenson.

Scott Voege has joined Two by Four/Chicago as an account director. He will be responsible for managing a variety of accounts at the director level, including Grainger and Bridgestone-Firestone retail and commercial operations. Voege will report directly to Jennifer Nicks, Two by Four group account director. Previously, Voege served as director of client partnership at Lisa P. Maxwell on accounts for Boyd Gaming, Blue Chip Casino, Waterton Residential, David Barton Gym and Groupon.com. Two by Four President and Chief Creative Officer David Stevenson described Voege as "creative, strategic and passionate at his core."

Congrats to Willie Wilkov, who has been promoted to vice-president of marketing for the Chicago Sun-Times. Wilkov also will oversee marketing initiatives at the scores of other Sun-Times News Group publications.

MarketSense has acquired Robert Brandt and Associates in Burr Ridge. The Brandt company will now operate under the MarketSense name, with corporate headquarters located in Burr Ridge. Key employees of RBA, including Robert Brandt, will join the MarketSense team.

The Illinois Lottery is seeking a Chicago-area firm that can provide public relations and integrated communication services to the African-American community on behalf of the Lottery. Interested vendors must have at least 10 full-time employees and be able to provide sufficient dedicated staff to address the Lottery's needs on a time basis. Written proposals are due by Mar. 24.

Joe Kim has been named a partner and executive vice-president at the Maddock Douglas agency in Elmhurst. Kim has more than 16 years of experience in management consulting, focusing primarily on operational innovation and leadership development.

Zebra Technologies will partner with Ogilvy Public Relations/Chicago on corporate communications and product public relations programming for its two main divisions, Specialty Printing and Zebra Enterprise Solutions.

The River North Association has relaunched as the River North Business Association. The organization will continue to provide the same membership benefits and networking opportunities to the River North community.

Cobra Electronics has joined the client roster at Schafer Condon Carter/Chicago. SCC will work with the company to launch the Cobra Electronics Aura camera and the Driving Hazard Database.

Sam Karow is joining Chicago Creative Partnership as director of integrated marketing and media services. For the past 13 years, Karow was with Starcom, where most recently he was a media director on the Bank of America business.

Two by Four/Chicago has added the Hotel Arista as a client. The property is an eco-friendly luxury hotel that opened in the fall of 2008, in Naperville's new 31-acre mixed-use City Gate Centre complex. Two by Four will work on strategy, advertising, design and interactive.

Virtual public relations firm GreenMark has been retained by the Kenosha Civil War Museum to handles its official opening in the summer of 2009.

Jim Kokoris has been promoted to president and general manager at JSH&A Public Relations in Oakbrook Terrace. Kokoris has been with the agency for more than 13 years.

All Terrain Public Relations/Chicago has been named public relations and social media agency of record for Bioelements, a professional skincare line.

"Party!" Now there's an exhortation that is sure to get the attention of a lot of local ad agency professionals who have suffered through a lot of miserable weather and agency downsizing in recent weeks. And there it was at the top of an open house invite emailed to us today. The man who invited us (yes, even us) to the office-warming event next week is David Stevenson, who is apparently anxious to show off the new digs of the agency he founded called Two by Four/Chicago. Among the shop's most high-profile clients, locally anyway, is the Chicago Bears. Two by Four, as Stevenson will tell you, used to be the lead agency for the Chicago White Sox, but then they weren't. And we'll say no more. It's a sensitive subject for Stevenson.

Still losing the White Sox account hasn't stopped Stevenson and his agency from moving on up and around in the local ad world to new offices at 10 N. Dearborn St., in the heart of the Loop. Several Chicago ad industry sources who have visited the offices told us how cool the new Two by Four space is. There's even reportedly a Sun-Times newspaper honor box at the entrance. How neat.

Though he always seems to be busy with one client or another, Stevenson may have a little more time over the next few months to enjoy his new office space, because he has passed responsibility for organizing the next Chicago Creative Club awards show to two new leaders: Matt Brennock of Fusion Idea Lab/Chicago and Liz Ross of Tribal DDB/Chicago. We know Stevenson worked hard to make a success of the 2008 awards show honoring the best creative work from Chicago ad agencies, and the event really was a vast improvement over the previous several sorry CCC shows. Now let's hope Brennock and Ross can match what Stevenson made happen.

In the meantime, let's party!

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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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