Fear Factor By The Lake

In today’s Chicago Sun Times, Lewis Lazare offers his gloomy year-end wrapup.

We’d love to say 2005 was the year the Chicago advertising industry impressively made its case on the global stage. But we would be lying. It was, in fact, another pretty exasperating year. New business was, for the most part, hard to come by, and, on the whole, agencies seem to have lost more than they gained.
And creativity? Well it was very much a hit-and-mostly-miss matter. What was lacking, in particular, was one locally produced commercial that could spark a loud buzz in the global ad community. One piece of work that would have signaled Chicago is now where it’s happening.
But that didn’t happen.
It’s been said before, but it bears repeating: Chicago probably won’t ever be ready to claim to be an exciting and important center for great advertising until the leaders at local shops find a way to dispel the impression this is a city that only knows how to do packaged goods advertising. Of course there’s nothing wrong with doing such advertising (it pays a lot of bills), but it becomes a major drawback when that looks to be the primary reason most agencies are in business in this town.
Advertising used to be about flash. And drama. And heartfelt humor. And most importantly about impact. And, yes, selling too. But now, a climate of fear has all but done in those qualities that advertising — and by extension the industry — once embodied. Now it’s all about fear. Fear that clients will suddenly pack up their billings and move elsewhere. Fear that the agencies won’t make their bottom-line numbers. Fear that ad executives will be shown the door if they misstep too often and too egregiously.
It’s a horrendous atmosphere in which to produce great advertising. And it seems to have put a major damper on creativity.

Lazare goes on to mention that Hadrian’s Wall, Tom Dick & Harry, Fusion Idea Lab and Point B Communications have all held their own in the less than stellar environment he describes.
It seems to me Lazare longs for the glory days when dinosaurs ruled ad land. He’s still evaluating TV spots and such, when he might dig deeper and examine fresh developments like the progress made by Chicago’s own Word of Mouth Marketing Association.



About David Burn

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. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.