Note to agencies: We are not alone

For the last few years our agency’s worldwide mandate has been to “put digital at the core” of everything we do. This means exactly what you think it means. Instead of putting digital in a “bucket” or “silo,” and treating it as one of many marketing services, Euro RSCG revolves the company’s universe around it. And within that scheme, we (the employees) have been strongly encouraged to “get social” or get out of town! These directives are elemental to the agency’s primary purpose of “getting us and our clients to the future first.”

A couple weeks back, JWT named its Worldwide Digital Director, David Eastman, North American CEO. Worldwide CEO, Bob Jeffries indicated that this sent a strong message (to clients and competitors) about what direction the agency was going, and that JWT was serious about putting digital at the center of business operations.

As I write this, Ogilvy & Mather Chicago rehired digital ECD, David Hernandez from Tribal DDB. He’ll “provide digital creative leadership across all agency disciplines,” said Joe Sciarrotta, Chief Creative Officer of the agency.

And so it goes, by hook or by crook, ad agencies everywhere are finding ways to make digital their big story: on our creds, in our case studies, in general. Whether this is done via purchase or through internal machinations or both it is getting done. Some of us are doing it faster and better than others. But it’s a crowded field. And the race is far from over.

My point is not to ridicule this any of this. I wholeheartedly support it. What I find interesting is Ad Land’s belief that this is a media centric phenomenon, that the migration of marketing to digital platforms is somehow unique to our industry.

Everyone is putting digital front and center. Be it media, education, insurance, institution, government, finance, retail, CPG, the dry cleaners up the street. One is hard pressed to find any operation that isn’t doing business online, let alone marketing it that way. Some die trying (Pets.com). Some flourish (Amazon). Most are somewhere in between.

One has already heard the call that consumers are taking over the message. Ad Land’s first reaction was just that: a reaction. Born of fear. That somehow we –the creators and drivers of all consumerism- woke up one day and discovered a new landscape, and one where we weren’t needed anymore. That fear drove us to buy, hire and promote digital expertise with breathless abandon. To play catch up if you will.

But is the fear real? No more than it is for any other business. The only difference is somehow we deemed it our mission to re-take that landscape. Or perish. Perhaps we doth protest too much. By overly stating how important digital is to our operations, we demonstrate fear of being left behind.

I’ve said it before: We are all pioneers. The landscape is free country and has been since Al Gore invented it. We need only apply our vast skills (ideation, creation, brand management and so on) in the same direction as everyone else.

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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 offthestreetclub.org 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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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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