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I judged the Chicago Creative Club awards show this past Friday. My agency, Euro RSCG hosted the all-day affair, with many of our town’s creative leadership serving as judges. Many other agencies and people are doing their bit as well. Special thanks go to Matt Brennock, Liz Ross and Katie Juras for organizing and administrating…everything! Without these three, I don’t know where we’d be.

I do know where I’ll be on September 10th: the Riviera Theater in Uptown. It’s a grand old movie palace (as a boy, I recall seeing Steve McQueen’s “Bullit” there with my father), and will make an excellent venue for what is affectionately being called the “No Show.”

Rather than stage a typical awards presentation, where winners are paraded up and down and the rest of us stew, the above-mentioned trio has more of a party in mind. A big party. They are hoping for as many as 2,000 local advertising people to attend! And not just the usual suspects. The CCC wants young creatives, students, planners, producers, suits, artist’s reps, vendors…anyone who has a stake in the Chicago advertising community.

In addition to the cool venue, to attract such a massive array of people, ticket prices have been significantly reduced to $50.00 a piece. From what I’m told the indie rock band, Of Montreal will be performing. Supposedly these guys put on quite the show at Lalapalooza. Other surprises include assorted video, of which even the inimitable Chicago Sun Times marketing columnist, Lewis Lazare participated. That could be worth the price of admission!

And, lest anyone forget, there’s the work. Folks, this is our big opportunity to see what of quality is being made in Chicago. I say “our” because this is our stage, our community and our work.

Having just judged all of it, I will tell you winners are not likely more of the same. I’m only guessing, but I think the award-horses of yore will not be as heavily decorated. Rather, we’ll see new campaigns from new agencies receiving accolades. Of course none of the judges know who and what won. We voted via numerical ballots, whose totals we didn’t see. I’m just providing a little color.

Winning is moot if we’re not there to see it. As part of our sponsorship, my agency is in possession of 20 tickets. I hope to procure more. If everyone reading this implores his or her agency, company, etc to pony up for tickets the event will surely be a hit. So send your boss an email. If you’re a boss, beseech management to participate. Point them to the CCC website linked below. The CCC is in everyone’s best interest. It’s also shaping up into a damn fine party. I’ll see you there!

\"No Show\" info & tiks

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Another brick toward building Chicago’s creative reputation.

Bringing the Chicago Creative Club back into the limelight continues to be a priority for me and should be for anyone else who derives a living in our local industry: creatives, account persons, planners, clients, press, students, artists reps and vendors.

Last year we made great strides in turning around the much-maligned advertising awards show. Even the inimitable Lewis Lazare acknowledged the event to be a success…if also a work in progress.

The CCC took place at the Stadium Club in Soldier’s Field and was attended by several hundred people. Good work was heralded and the right stuff won.

But the main intent was, and continues to be, fostering community within our ranks. We are stronger together than we are apart. The CCC is now locking and loading for this year’s event in September. Below is an email that went out to agency leadership in the greater Chicago Community. Instead of hundreds of attendees they are looking for over a thousand. My agency will be there in force, with both people and submissions. Will you?

In recent weeks, several of you have asked for an update, regarding this year’s CCC Chicago ‘No Show’ and so, without further adieu, here is your update.

Though there seems to have been some mild confusion surrounding the goal of this year’s show, let us say emphatically that our goal is to honor this city’s best creative work, Period. We just happen to think that the best way to do this is to do so in the context of the biggest and best ad party this city has ever seen.

To hand out awards is simply not enough and so, we’ve decided to take this opportunity to develop a greater sense of pride, as well as, community, amongst this city’s creative masses.

In the words of our very own Otis Gibson, proprietor of Gertrude, ‘This is a killer party, where an award show just happens to break out’.

We are set for Thursday night, September 10th, at the Riviera Theater. The nights’ festivities will feature a cocktail reception, and a fully interactive award ceremony and a kick ass party, featuring big name musical entertainment.

Now, this is where you all come in. We need your agency’s support. We need your creative support in the form of work submissions. And we need pounds of flesh. We want your people to show up September 10th. We want to fill the Riv and we want people to know that this town is wide awake and still dreaming very big dreams, on behalf of ourselves, and yes, our clients as well.

-Co Chairs: Matt Brennok/Liz Ross/Katie Juras

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What is it about Canadian Club’s print campaign that makes it best in show advertising? The art direction and copy are first rate.  I still can’t tell if those photos were made, found or what. Their reckless boisterousness is irresistible. The art perfectly augments a declarative tagline: “Damn right your dad drank it.”

But stellar art direction and copy are prices for entry in the finalist category. What factor(s) took CC’s campaign to the next level? Why is it so “damn” good?

For obvious reasons, it’s a question worth looking at. Figure out what’s magic about top-flight work and maybe you can create some yourself. My friend and current CEO of Publicis and Hal Riney in San Francisco, Jamie King answered the question in one word: Confidence.

The “Damn Right” campaign has it in spades. And not just because of randy pictures and tough language. Again, price of entry. (And, sometimes, cost of exit). The genuine confidence comes from a brand that looked at itself honestly, found its weakest link, and fixed it.

Jamie’s agency pitched CC, losing to Energy BBDO and the “Damn Right” campaign. During the pitch, his team spoke to numerous drinkers. The comment they kept hearing about Canadian Club was that it was something their Dads drank a long time ago. In other words, CC was old-fashioned and not for them.

Instead of reacting to this learning by forcing a modernization strategy, CC and Energy BBDO turned the perceived negative into an actual positive. “Damn right your father drank it.” He also “had” a lot of women before your mother. In fact he “had groupies” and was absolutely “not a metrosexual.” Owning up to who you are takes true confidence. Positioning CC as “not your father’s Canadian Club” would have been falsely confident and a mistake.

False confidence drives a lot of advertising. I still cringe every time Kate Walsh asks, on behalf of the new Cadillac CTS: “When you turn your car on does it return the favor?” It’s a nifty line, and she’s hot, and I’m sure the car holds its own in the luxury market… So why, then, is the commercial so completely annoying?

While the CTS is not your father’s Caddy that doesn’t mean it has to be a hot rod for MILFs. The campaign is “fronting” for Cadillac.

I don’t doubt certain people like these vehicles and these ads. But mark my words this campaign will not win any creative prizes. And it isn’t because of the writing or art direction, which is fiery and bold; it’s because of tone and manner. Ushering in these bodacious machines, it feels like Mussolini showing off his weapons to Hitler. False confidence.

Canadian Club owns it’s past and tells the truth about it. The confidence is genuine and the ads are relevant, engaging and, best of all, fun.

Confidence is key criteria for many advertisers, especially those appealing to young men. Best make sure and get it right, damn it!

CCC winners, including Best in Show.

After much controversy, criticism and concern, the Chicago Creative Club awards was resurrected last night in the United Club at Soldier Field. While it was by no means a flawless affair, it was a far sight better than the debacle some 15 months ago. Without going into it, the previous show had degraded into a one-sided and ugly contest right before many of our eyes. Participants left drunk and/or dismayed and certainly disenchanted. We woke up to beastly reviews from the local press. Most felt the show had been ruined beyond repair.

We pointed fingers at one another, pissed and moaned about Chicago’s deteriorated creative community, and then, well, went back to our business. There were ads to make. Websites to build. Pitches to win.

Something happened, however, on the way to the funeral. A small group of decent creative persons decided not to let the thing die. Chief among them the Chief Creative Officer of Two by Four, David Stevenson. He came to consultant, Ann Brown’s side when few others would and set up to rebuild our beleaguered award show into something we could all be proud of. Others scoffed. Many more were indifferent. But the coalition of the willing grew. By the time I was asked to help it was “on” again, even if many big questions remained.

We decided to use preeminent local judges, not flown in “stars” from other agencies. The idea here was simple. We made the mess. We had to fix it. Fostering real community was critical. Having a judge from every participating agency meant that participation was certain. Beyond our ads, we now all had skin in the game, literally.

And so, on a Saturday in August two dozen of Chicago’s best creative talents convened at Euro RSCG and made their selections from a previously culled shortlist. My creative partner and ECD of Euro RSCG, Blake Ebel was among them. His quote, caught on camera, summed it up. “This is pretty awesome, guys, all of us together, judging each other’s work.”

Indeed, a jury of our peers. Then and there, Chicago’s creative community was reborn. And from what I could tell, that corp d’esprit carried right over into the show. The best pieces won and, more importantly, we were able to congratulate each other for doing them. Gone was the rude peanut gallery and with it, the copious amounts of Schadenfreud that polluted shows previous. In addition to good ads and good people, the much-maligned venue (too far, no cabs, etc) shined for us that night. After the ceremony, cocktails and light dinner were had out of doors beneath the mighty pillars of Soldier Field. We were even graced by a late evening fireworks show, probably courtesy of some rich couple’s wedding at the Yacht club nearby!

But for me the highpoint came at the end of the awards presentation. Best of show had been given to BBDO, for its ripping Canadian Club campaign: “Damn Right Your Dad Drank It.” Everyone cheered. And cheered. And cheered some more. A deserving campaign, but the applause was bigger. It felt like the biggest winner of all was… us.

A final note: Beware smugness. The CCC may be out of the weeds but hardly in safe harbor. More improvement is necessary. While turnout was a pleasant surprise, there should have been more people, especially newcomers and students. Somehow, ticket prices will have to come down. And where was Cramer Krasselt? As a leading creative agency in town, their seeming boycott was a blot.

A complete list of winners was not available as of this writing. Please check the CCC website for updates. The awards show book comes out this Fall.

“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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