Can I get you a drink, Chicago?

Can I get you a drink, Chicago?

A friend called my writing last week on Gods the “Love Boat marathon.” And I suppose it was. As most of you know, I looked at five marvelous but unheralded campaigns from five different Chicago advertising agencies. We hear a lot about what’s wrong with the Chicago advertising community. I decided to go another way. I held to the good, as my pastor instructed. (Don’t you love that line?)

Sure, a few cynics made fun and/or took exception with some of my “picks.” That’s inevitable, especially in the blogosphere. Still, the vast majority of readers were pleased by the examination. Online and off, I received many pats on the back for, basically, giving others a pat on the back. Proof positive that good always begets good, even in the supposedly cutthroat world of advertising, perhaps especially in our world.

I’ve written a lot about schadenfreude in advertising, of how we are all so sensitive and paranoid that we actually take pleasure in our peer’s misfortunes: in the lost pitches, laid off colleagues and deposed leaders. I maintain that we advertising folk, always seeking approval, have insecurities so ingrained in our psyches we almost can’t help ourselves. Almost. (BTW, this week I’m writing about the topic on Talent Zoo.)

Lord knows I’m not an angel. As does anyone who knows me! I’ve drunk from the cup of cynicism. I’ve indulged in the forbidden fruit of mean-spiritedness. Yet, I don’t want to be that guy. And neither, I’ll bet, do my peers. The material gains are minimal and the emotional hangovers are nothing short of debilitating.

And so, leaving the past, we try and do the next right thing. And we are successful.

Last year, we pulled together and resurrected the Chicago Creative Club from its very sorry state. No need to rehash all that was wrong with the CCC. (If you must, just search this blog’s archives.) The point is we turned the once-contentious event into a community-building celebration of our town’s creativity.

While there’s still plenty of room for improvement there was also a lot to be proud of. This year’s show can be even better, despite the crippling financial crisis. But only if we hold to the good.

And only if we work together. In this context, praising each other’s work, as opposed to maligning it, seemed like the right thing to do. I hope to do this again soon. And I hope others do as well.

51ql5e43vul_sl500_aa240_A line so good they put it on a book.

Given the grim climate in Chicago (the weather, the economy, the government), I’m thinking it might be high time we celebrate the unheralded but quality work coming out of our city’s many agencies.

We hear a lot about what’s wrong with the people, places and things as it relates to the Chicago advertising community. I want to go another way. Hold to the good, as our pastor likes to say.

In this spirit, every day this week, I’m going to feature a campaign from a local shop that deserves praise… not punishment.

Chicago sports teams are a passion for our city often beyond reason. The Cubs seem to attract fans without even playing good baseball. Currently in a freefall, the Chicago Bulls still manage full houses. Bears fans are a frustrated lot but, come hell or low temperatures, they’re there, freezing ass in Soldier’s Field.

Chicago’s other teams need help filling seats. And for that, they turn to Chicago’s ‘very own’ advertising agencies.

Right now the resurging Blackhawks are riding high behind Oglivy & Mather’s “One Goal” campaign. In stark TV spots, the team’s young stars skate up to a lone microphone and state their goals for the season. Low budget but effective, I admire these commercials for what they’re not. File footage of players scoring goals is better suited for Sports Center. These moving portraits bring the players to life, making them user-friendly. Not “lovable” like the Cubbies, rather they come across as ambitious, unwilling to lose. It’s a fresh face for a team (if not a sport) that needs it.

I also like the tag line: “One Goal.” You don’t have to see Lord Stanley’s Cup to know what that goal is. It reminds me of the Raider’s “Just win, baby!” Only more understated. As a copywriter, the obvious wordplay makes me smile.

Though no longer the theme for the Chicago White Sox, I am still a huge fan of the popular “Grinder Rules” from local agency, Two by Four.


I remember going to the World Series in 2005. Seeing these grinder posters along the stadium walls really captured that team and its winning season. Fans were stopping to have their picture taken in front of them, kudos for any ad campaign. I believe the term grinder was pulled from comments made by irascible coach, Ozzie Guillen. This tells me the agency did their homework and got it right.

In 2006, having won it all, the White Sox went “back to the grind.” And it was a perfect sentiment. Unfortunately, the team did poorly and, as is the case in advertising as well as sports, changes were made. Energy BBDO now has the account. But “Grinder Rules” is still the best campaign I’ve seen for a Chicago sports team in a long, long time.

Score two for the home team of Chicago.


Given the grim climate in Chicago (the weather, the economy, the government), it’s high time we celebrate the unheralded, quality work coming out of our city’s many agencies. We hear a lot about what’s wrong with the people, places and things in the Chicago advertising community. I want to go another way. Hold to the good, as our pastor likes to say.

In this spirit, for the next few days, I’m going to feature campaigns from local shops that deserve praise… not punishment.

They may not be famous or ground breaking. But they are good. Join me as we give a warming hug to the City of Big Shoulders!

Let’s start with Chicago’s landmark agency, Leo Burnett. Having worked there 16 years, it’s also my “alma mater.” LBCO has been in the news for the same kind of struggles besetting most agencies and their clients: shrinking advertising budgets, layoffs, and turbulent change in business practices.

Still, the work they have done on Allstate deserves kudos for its great sureness during these worst of economic times. Actor Dennis Haybert calms and guides we jittery consumers, looking us right in the eye. He is a patriarch in the best sense of the word. Indeed, when he asks if we “are in good hands,” I know I/we could be with Allstate.

I’ve secretly admired this iteration of Burnett’s long running “Good Hands” campaign for some time now. Secretly, because I know it’s not a creative showcase. But I’m being childish. This advertising deserves a medal of honor for it’s steady hand, especially in this climate. Take a look at the attached commercial about surviving a recession. The voice over says it all: “It’s back to basics and the basics are good.” So is this campaign.


Permit me to share some thoughts regarding my first year in the blogosphere. Lessons learned. Mistakes made. That sort of thing.

Last post, I stated that Gods of Advertising is a “must write” for me, even if it’s not a must read for you. Totally true. As a writer (trying to become a better writer), nothing challenges and teaches me more about the craft than maintaining this blog.

Having an audience makes blogging even more of a Godsend. At first, I had only ten or twenty readers (Thanks Mom!) but that number has since swelled to several hundred a day. Hardly anything in the grand scheme but everything to me.

Not to get smarmy, but I owe each one of you a debt of gratitude. Pale Writer. Andy Webb. Van Gould. Jason Fox. All y’all! I don’t believe writers write regardless of audience. Maybe a diarist but even then I suspect he or she fantasizes about a reader. If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to see it…writers are like those proverbial trees.

But, with exposure, you make yourself vulnerable to hatchets! Week one, I got my first lashing from “Anonymous.” Then another. And another. I quickly learned that one’s audience is not always friendly, especially when they’re shooting arrows from afar, under cover, on another blog for example.

Among other things, I was chastised for writing about my agency, the work we were doing and the way we were doing it. I was accused of pimping my novels.

Harsh lessons in humility but useful nonetheless. Though my blog is mine, it is not a My Space page. Tooting one’s horn is almost always a bad move. It’s not that people don’t give a damn, necessarily. It’s more complicated than that. People do care. They care enough to tell you when you’re being self-serving and a moron. Most bloggers become inured to cyber attacks. Some call them cowards and haters. Yet, there are lessons for the receiver as well.

When I blog I ask myself if I’m being useful. Is what I’m writing worth being read? Will it enlighten as well as entertain? I realize a lot of GOA readers are students of advertising, young writers and art directors. They are not here to hate. I owe them my best effort.

If a post receives a thoughtful comment or question, I reply. When I err, I am contrite. If I make light of another agency or its work I do so cautiously and with an even hand. If writing about something melodramatic (agency upheaval, layoffs and the like), I know there but for the grace of God go I.

This is privilege for me. I intend to keep writing. Please keep coming back. And may your God(s) come with you!


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