The almighty “Rep”

Ever notice during the Academy Awards the winners from both sides of the camera always find time to thank their agents and managers, before even co-stars and spouses? They never forget these people. Even when the cut-off music begins they do not leave that stage without thanking the manager(s) who stood by their sides and the agent(s) who put the deals together.

Odd and sad then, that during every –and I mean every- advertising awards show the winners never –and I mean never- thank the men and women who got them the very jobs that are winning them awards!

I’m of course talking about artist representatives; otherwise known as “reps.” A liaison between agency and producer, these are the folks who secure gigs for the photographers and directors who produce all our ads. An indispensable link, and yet they typically go unheralded: by agency personnel and by their own talent.

Why? Maybe it’s a form of restrained prejudice where they are considered “help” and the creative community their masters. More likely our egos and insecurities get in the way. God forbid we share credit with yet another person. Neither option is attractive (to them or us) but either way it’s been like this forever.

Yes, there are exceptions. And yes, I should probably speak for myself. But still, these soldiers of our fortune deserve better.

When I first started out, it was reps that took me to lunch, introduced me to peers, and talked to me when my supervisors wouldn’t. They came to my office, bringing coffee, cookies and directors. Entranced, I even asked a couple of them out on dates! One or two may have even said “yes.” Like I said, theirs is thankless work.

While the digital age permits reels and photos to be viewed over the Internet, the artist rep can and does play a vital role in getting jobs booked.

So… to those many tireless advocates of creativity: for all you’ve done (for me and the industry), for all you’ve endured, and for all you’ve brought to the table- Thank you!

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Ralph and the kids at Off The Street Club

Ralph and the kids at Off The Street Club

I usually refrain from writing about my agency’s work but in this case I feel it is entirely appropriate… even necessary!

For more than 100 years, Off The Street Club has been a haven for kids in one of the toughest, most crime-ridden neighborhoods in Chicago. Providing a safe, supportive, loving environment for hundreds of 4 to 18 year old kids, OTSC offers a number of programs designed to help kids develop into upstanding adults.

Those are words on a new website we built on behalf of Off The Street Club. Yet mere text doesn’t do the site or the club justice. You need to hear these children talk about their “safe place” in the city. You need to look into the eyes of OTSC’s tireless and fearless leader, Ralph Campagna.

And you can, if you go to Videos of these delightful kids and staff as well as other surprises await you. You can actually pull children off the street and put them into the club! Poignant, hopeful and utterly human, it’s a gorgeous piece of interactive. Begging your pardon, but we are very proud to be behind it. Thank you Blake Ebel, Briar Waterman, Rob Starkey, Doug Gipson, Gosia Zawislak and all the other Euros who made this site soar.

For those unawares, each year a different Chicago advertising agency gets behind OTSC, creating marketing, fund raising materials, and doing whatever it can to further the club’s most worthwhile agenda. This was our year, the website our opening salvo.

Visit the site. That’s a composite of the real building and its blighted surroundings. In one image you see the challenges and the hope. Go now and you’ll be rewarded by a terrific online experience. If you’re kind enough to make a small donation to the club, you’ll be rewarded by something more valuable: grace.

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“OMG… It’s so not about the awards!”

I’ve been working with a number of my peers on renovating, rejuvenating & re-imagining the Chicago Creative Club awards show slated for Sept 10th.

That’s a lot of “Re” but the show Really needed help. After several years of events marked by drunken heckling, whispers of jury rigging and, worst of all, indifference the CCC had reached its nadir. Last year’s event was so heavy in flaws it went over like the bricks being handed out as awards.

It serves no purpose pointing fingers. Deep down we got what we deserved. What is important is getting this thing back on track. None of us in Chicago (peers, clients, employees) benefit from a crummy show or no show at all. As a creative community it’s high time we acted like one.

After a few spirited sessions of debate, a solution arose: We got ourselves into this mess; we’ll get ourselves out. The creative community needs to participate in every aspect of the CCC and so we will. The team asked me to draft a mantra; it is as follows:

In 2008, the Chicago Show will be just that: a show for Chicago, about Chicago, and uniting Chicago. Our many agencies, big and small, will be brought together in celebration of the great work being done here. Winning awards shall not be our only focus; rather joining together and saluting this fine work will.

Not a divisive awards show, this year we come together as a creative community. We will choose the best work from one another’s agencies, not pointing to our own. We will give and receive awards to one another, not coveting our own. By judging each other’s creativity we will become familiar with each other and our work. When we shake a winner’s hand it might well be a former partner, a past creative director, even a future boss.

This is why this year will be so exciting and different. The cheering will be special, for it’ll come from our peers, who judged our work, and us worthy. The congratulations will be real. When the show is over the goal is for everyone to leave exalted. We want our creative community to be the biggest winner of the night. The Chicago creative community misses that more than anything. We are stronger together than apart. We always have been.


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