Third Coast Not Coastal Enough

In his column today, Lewis Lazare, examines the short six-month tenure of Michael Folino as DDB/Chicago’s Chief Creative Officer. According to Lazare, Folino is moving to Wieden + Kennedy, where he will be a copywriter.

Folino’s early departure also is sure to cast a dark shadow over Anderson and Scarpelli, who opted to go with an agency outsider in hiring Folino, a risky move at a creative department not used to being run by outsiders.
But Folino was a dicey choice for another reason: He spent his entire career prior to DDB working at shops on the West Coast, which have vastly different cultures than those of Chicago ad agencies. And recent history has shown creative-staff imports do not fare well at Chicago agencies, which, for better or worse, have much more conservative cultures and clients than what is typically found out West.

The ad biz in Chicago is ruled by suits. Everyone knows that. What I find hard to grasp is why. The arts flourish in Chicago. It is the city for independent theatre, the music scene is jumpin’ and the architecture is through the roof. So why is Chicago’s ad biz lagging, when it ought to be thriving?

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. Well, aside from the premiere agencies on Earth, most shops are run by suits. It has little to do with geography; it has more to do with the clients and new business models. Too many decisions are driven by financial reasons (not typically a creative arena of expertise) and committee decision-making (definitely not a creative arena of expertise).
    It’s no different in New York, LA or anyplace else, in my opinion. Conversely, you’ll find great shops all over the map too.

  2. I’d be interested to know what you consider to be the primary cultural differences between west coast agencies and mid-west agencies.

  3. Flip flops are totally out of place on Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive, for one. Depending on the agency, jeans too might be frowned upon.
    What personal style has to do with the business is hard to say, but Goodby’s jeans and black leather jackets are a long way from the actual suits worn by suits in Chicago and other cities. Attire sends a signal. So does an agency’s work environment and work habits.

  4. You’re right, David.
    But at the same time, the agencies you reference go beyond wardrobe. Wanna see conservative attire? You can find it in plenty of Mad Ave shops too.
    Additionally, let’s not forget the simple reality of weather. Flip-flops work OK in summer (and many agencies have zero problem with them), but not Chicago winters.

  5. flip flop says:

    The over all concensus on Folino was that he was in over his head. He didn’t walk into a room and command the kind of respect and display the comforting feeling of leadership that Bob Scarpelli does. He had a horsey laugh. He was clumsy. Whomever they choose to lead this place has some big shoes to fill. He has to possess that strange combination of midwestern warmth, yet he probably needs to instill some fear in those under him.