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Bob Winter.JPGYoung & Rubicam/Chicago has tapped Bob Winter to succeed Ken Erke as its chief creative officer.

Winter, who starts at Y&R on Dec. 6, comes to his new post from Leo Burnett/Chicago, where he was an executive creative director for the past four years. Winter is coming as the top creative to a shop that is dominated by the huge Sears advertising account. Winter said he wanted the Y&R post more than anything because it would give him the opportunity he craved to put his unique stamp on an ad agency and make it a place where he is happy to work and where he hopes plenty of other talented creatives will want to work as well.

But it won't be easy. Sears has gone through several top marketing execs in recent years, and when there is a revolving door on the client side, that always can make for potentially treacherous relations with agencies that service the client. But Winter said he has been told by Erke and by others who should know that Y&R's relationship with Sears is as solid as it has ever been. For Winter's sake, let's hope he's been given good information.

Winter said he's been working a lot recently on Kellogg business at Burnett, where he has found his boss, top creative Susan Credle, to be "tough but personable." Winter is perhaps most famous -- and widely respected -- for the Bud Light "Real Men of Genius" radio campaign he created during his nine years at DDB/Chicago. That campaign has -- deservedly -- won numerous top advertising awards and still continues to run many years after its debut.

How about a shocker for this otherwise tranquil fall afternoon? Chief creative officer Ken Erke has exited Young & Rubicam/Chicago. He's taking a job as executive creative director at the small Chicago office of R/GA, the digital agency founded by Bob Greenberg in New York. An official announcement is expected later today.

In addition to Erke, e-business consultant Matt Marcus is joining R/GA's Chicago office as an executive creative director. Marcus previously worked with clients such as Ermenegildo Zegna, National Geographic and CVS/Caremark. Erke and Marcus will be responsible for growing the Chicago office and will report to Nick Law, chief creative officer in R/GA's New York headquarters. Law described Erke as a "great brand story-teller" and called Marcus a "talented digital creative leader."'

Erke had been Y&R/Chicago's COO for the past three years, after joining the agency in the year 2000 from Cramer-Krasselt/Chicago. Erke oversaw Y&R work for Sears, Hilton Hotels and Miller Genuine Draft, among other accounts.

Erke wasn't immediately available for comment. But his departure from Y & R, of course, raises questions about the situation at that Chicago shop. It may be that Erke simply saw bigger opportunities long-term at R/GA, given its focus on the digital end of the ad business. Or it may be, as many observers have suspected in recent months, that a turning point in Y&R/Chicago's relationship with the giant Sears account could be looming. Sears has long been the dominant account at Y&R/Chicago. Should Sears exit, Y&R/Chicago would be left with a giant hole in its account roster.

There has been upheaval within Sears Holdings marketing department recently. And as we all know, when client marketing honchos come and go, it can often spell trouble for the agencies that suddenly find themselves reporting to someone new with different expectations and demands.

R/GA's Chicago office, which opened last year, currently has 13 employees. Principal clients served out of the Chicago office are S.C. Johnson and Dow Chemical.

NPCA 1.JPGWe're sure it seemed a lovely concept in theory, but we're not so sure Young & Rubicam/Chicago's new ad campaign for the National Parks Conservation Association works very well in practice.

The centerpiece of the campaign is a newly-developed website,, where visitors can share their stories about our national parks and monuments, create a unique image from their words and make a donation to support the NPCA's work. In conjunction with this online effort, Y & R has developed posters and bus shelter boards of national park images created out of the actual stories submitted online. The campaign theme line is: "Your two cents can add up to more than just talk." Indeed it can -- and does in this instance -- add up to a lot of words as well.

Suffice it to say the finished posters and billboards are excessively wordy affairs that will require considerable effort to digest from any viewers who actually wish to read the tales. And as we all know, effort is something that a lot of people in this instant gratification world of ours aren't interested in expending, unless absolutely forced to do so. No matter how worthy the cause.

We also wish the Y& R creative team had found a way to make the images created from the verbiage -- such as grizzly bear with a fish in his mouth -- pop more vividly than they do in this word-based format

The new campaign marks the NPCA's first national effort since 2008.

jreath.jpgFormer Young & Rubicam/Chicago chief marketing officer Jim Reath has turned up as group account director at the McKinney agency in Durham, N.C. Reath had been head of the huge Sears account at Y&R, but quietly exited that account and the agency several months ago. At McKinney Reath will lead the Qwest Communications and Sherwin-Williams accounts. Though he is no longer with Y&R, Reath reportedly added 20 percent in incremental revenue during his tenure there.

In a statement about his new job at McKinney, Reath said "the chance to do great work, make a difference, help shape our collective future and answer to people inside our walls instead of a global headquarters is really exciting." Funny how things look in hindsight sometimes, when one has taken a new job. McKinney's chairman Brad Brinegar and Reath both previously worked at Leo Burnett/Chicago.

"Holey Moly!" is the new tagline Young & Rubicam/Chicago is introducing for Einstein Bros. Bagels, an account the agency recently picked up. The new line will be visible in online banner ads for the company and in various branding efforts at the bagel chain's Web site. So what are we to make of "Holey Moly!"? According to the agency that chose the line to encapsulate what Einstein Bros. is all about, "holey moly" is "the surprise ingredient in every Einstein Bros. creation." Put another way, "Einstein Bros. delivers surprise and invention with every experience." This isn't an elaborate effort. But how many campaigns are in these difficult economic times?

Coincidence? The folks at Young & Rubicam/Chicago certainly say so, but coincidentally or not, the agency is about to part ways with Jim Reath, the top account executive on its big Sears account, just as Richard Gerstein, the top marketing executive at parent Sears Holdings, has exited the company to take a job with HP. Kevin Reilly, an internal candidate has been chosen to replace the departing Sears account person at Y & R, and agency management expected to have the deal finalized with Reilly by late today.

Gerstein, who had the top marketing job for the Sears brand before being promoted to the top marketing post at parent Sears Holdings, was known to be a big fan of the Y & R shop. But now, like a number of other Sears marketing execs in recent years, Gerstein is suddenly gone from the corporation.

That has left Scott Freidheim, currently executive vice-president operating and support businesses for Sears Holdings, as the parent corporation's interim marketing chief. No doubt the shift on the client side has left some within the Y & R camp more than a little worried about what's next for the Sears account. In recent years, it has almost become an axiom in the advertising industry that whenever there is a major shift in marketing execs at the client, major shifts in ad agencies almost invariably follow. Almost, but not always.

Whatever happens from this point on, nobody at the agency is willing to admit any connection between the Sears account management change and Gerstein's exit. In a worst-case scenario, a loss of the Sears account would leave Y&R with a huge, huge hole to fill in its client roster.

Nobody would say Y & R has had an easy time of it since they won the Sears account several years ago following an agency shootout with Ogilvy/Chicago after hedge fund honcho Eddie Lampert took control of Sears. Much of the Y & R work for Sears recently has focused on tools, appliances and electronics, while the retailing behemoth's clothing lines have been given relatively short shrift. But clothing lines still occupy a lot of space at Sears stores, and the expectation is that Lampert will have to start marketing these goods more aggressively or else jettison them from stores.

liveboywalking.jpgGun-related violence is not an obvious topic to wax witty about, but Young & Rubicam/Chicago nonetheless has tried to do so in a new pro-bono ad campaign for the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence. No one is going to argue that gun violence isn't a problem in Chicago. It certainly is. And a big one for which no one seems to have a viable solution. But in the absence of one, ICHV and Y&R are trying to remind the public that something has to be done -- and soon.

Y&R's effort to draw attention to the problem involves kids fashion and bullet-proof vests. In a series of bus shelter executions we see adorable children dressed in the latest spring fashion -- which in each instance also includes a vest to protect against gunshots.

In one ad, we see two young girls and the headline "Alive on Arrival," along with ad copy that states in part: "Whether it's just a bit chilly or raining bullets, this cozy vest is sure to protect your child from all the elements." Another ad features a young boy and the headline "Live Boy Walking," together with ad copy that says in part: "Turn the local park back into a playground. This vest fits snug, while leaving arms and hands free to raise in the air for that 'don't shoot I'm innocent' stance."

There is more copy in both ads that points out that more than 150 kids have been shot this year in Chicago -- more than 25 of them shot dead. The statistics are grim indeed, which is why it may be hard for some who see these ads to smile at the thought of combining bullet-proof vests with the latest fashion sense. In other words, tone and message in the ads don't quite mesh. But at least the problem is getting some attention. The ads will go up on 50 bus shelters throughout the city.

Young & Rubicam/Chicago has been named agency of record for Einstein Bros. Bagels. As agency of record, Y&R will handle creative, digital and media initiatives. The win came after a review that included three other agencies. "We had immediate chemistry wit the team and can't wait to get to work," said Kary McIlwain, president of Young & Rubicam/Chicago.

There are over 350 Einstein Bros. locations in 27 states. Einstein Bros. Bagels was named one of the top 10 healthiest restaurant chains by Health Magazine in 2009. "We were impressed with the integrated ideas the agency (Y&R) delivered both on and offline," said James O'Reilly, chief concept officer for Einstein Noah Restaurant Group.

Brett Favre's Sears TV spot debuts


BrettFavreJPEGPics__67466[1].jpgA month ago we wrote about Brett Favre's secret trip to Chicago to film a new commercial for beleaguered retailing behemoth Sears. The indecisive (and boy has he ever proved the truth of that descriptive) Favre was called into action to tout the debut of Sears blue electronics crew, a new team of blue-shirted sales clerks being introduced to help work with customers looking to make a purchase in the electronics department. At the time of our previous writing, we wondered if Favre would prove to be a great addition to the commercial, especially in terms of helping up the spot's humor factor.

Well, the commercial from Young & Rubicam/Chicago is finished now, and we have seen it. And we can say with complete certainty one thing about it -- it's not gut-bustingly funny. Not at all. The commercial's director obviously decided to keep Favre on a very tight leash. The new Minnesota Vikings quarterback mostly stares at something off-camera and issues very brief responses to his comic foil -- the blue-shirted clerk who plays his part very down the middle. Yes, we do get the message that Farve can be indecisive, but it isn't delivered with any comedic flair. We just get a grim-faced Favre going through his carefully-scripted paces. Perhaps if the quarterback had been given a bit more leeway to improvise, the results would have been far funnier.

jim screen_bw[1].jpgJim Reath has added chief marketing officer responsibilities to his current role as group account director on the Sears business at Young & Rubicam/Chicago. In his new role, Reath will help on new business pitches and report to Kary McIlwain, president and CEO of Y&R/Chicago. "Jim is doing a terrific job on Sears," said McIlwain, adding, "as the lead on this significant business, Jim is intimate with our full range of capabilities and knows our strategic and creative depth."

Reath joined Y&R in April, 2008, after six years at Leo Burnett/Chicago. He has worked across a wide range of categories, including Kraft, Morgan Stanley, Visa, Panasonic, Amtrak and Embassy Suites. Reath began his career in Canada, working for DDB Needham and Ammirati Puris Lintas. He also spent time on the client side, handling marketing for Labatt Breweries in Canada.



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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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