Final thoughts on the end of JWT Chicago.

April 6, 2009

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And so we came to end…

Not just the title of a popular advertising novel, but a fitting salvo to JWT in Chicago. After many years of serious decay, New York President, Rosemarie Ryan came to Chicago and ended it. Last Friday, JWT Chicago closed its doors forever.

Not long ago, she and other New York managers had come to town looking for a team to run the place. They quickly discovered how expensive a proposition that would be and balked, despite words to the contrary.

In the end, JWT Chicago hasn’t been right for years. One could have argued for putting it back together (at any cost) but that reasoning became untenable in light of the crippling recession.

I’m not going into the Who and Why of it. There is a major debate covering these issues on Adcam as well as in AdAge’s original story. Be sure and read the comments portion in both articles. Kernels of truth in all of it.

When I went looking for my first job in this business, JWT’s offices (or, as it was known back then, J. Walter Thompson) resided in the iconic John Hancock Building. They had numerous floors and, if memory serves, billed more than most any agency in Chicago and certainly more than its counterpart in New York.

Anyway, JWT and Leo Burnett both made me an offer. I’ll never forget the numbers. LBCO was higher by $500. I went for the big money and so began a 17-year career at Leo Burnett.

But if JWT Chicago wasn’t ever a creative powerhouse, it certainly needed no introductions. They could play and compete on the biggest stages and regularly did. Theirs was a slow decline, which only really accelerated toward the end.

Even if the agency was a competitor it’s sad. I knew and know so many of its people. I almost took a job there three different times. My creative partner worked freelance at the agency prior to joining me. And so on.

Euro RSCG was on its last legs when I joined. Fortunately, we are in good shape now. And we are blessed and grateful. Even more so in the wake of JWT’s demise.

4 Responses to “Final thoughts on the end of JWT Chicago.”

  1. Sad. And sadder still the way things were mis-handled all the through to the end. While it might be hard to expect today’s leadership to see around corners or look a few years into the future, they should at least know that fortunes change, situations and circumstances change, and marketplaces change. But now that doesn’t matter. By officially announcing the killing of the office, it will never ever be able come back–more than a century gone down the tubes. Better to have let it more naturally devolve into the service office it will become anyway, without closing off other options for the future. Now they’ve made it really dead.

  2. YUSEF said

    Wow, I think this post really covers all the bases. I’m not really sure anything else needs to be said on the unfortunate case of JWT Chicago, an office I’ve admired since I sang so gaily, “My bologna had a first name…” Well, you know the rest… I have only one thing left to say… in the words of Led Zeppelin…and then Tori Amos…and, also, Alanis Morrissette…”Thank You.”

  3. SRP said

    You’re an enigma, Yusef. Or sarcastic. Or both. Either way, I’m not in the habit of moderating posts.
    So, I see your “thank you” and call.

  4. MAV said

    Well put. You said it all Steffan. JWT RIP. Euro RSCG is alive because of the thoughtful creativity your team is allowed to embrace. Best of everything in the future and thank you from an old friend for keeping at least one agency in Chicago alive when it looked like it was over.

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