According to Chicago Sun-Times ad guru Lewis Lazare, our Penny Pranks campaign was the second best work to come out of the Midwest last year. Yay!
And because we’re only number two, we will try harder this year. So look out Barrie D’Rozario et al!
Ads that were great in 2008
ADVERTISING | Giving kudos to sunny side of the business
January 12, 2009 | BY LEWIS LAZARE
Just a week ago, we were talking about our concerns that 2009 might prove to be at least as difficult a year for the Chicago ad industry as 2008 was. Who knew that just hours later, a federal lawsuit would be unsealed alleging Leo Burnett/Chicago had inflated billing on the huge U.S. Army account over several years? It was a stunning revelation that Burnett quickly tried to put a damper on by announcing it had agreed to settle with the federal government and two whistleblower plaintiffs to the tune of more than $15 million. What a way to kick off the new year, eh?
But this column isn’t about 2009. It’s all about acknowledging a few ads from Chicago-based ad agencies and companies that brightened our days over the course of 2008. Granted, it has become more difficult in recent years to find work coming out of Chicago that was better than merely acceptable. Clients nowadays are all about using advertising for short-term gains, so the big idea that used to be at the core of the ad business has all but vanished. And outstanding creativity along with it, we hasten to add.
Still, we looked back over the 2008 local ad output in all manner of advertising formats and pieced together our annual list of the five best ads:
1. “Sea Orchestra.” (Barrie, D’Rozario Murphy) Ad biz insiders will immediately know that this exquisitely detailed TV commercial didn’t come from a Chicago agency, but rather a boutique in Minneapolis. But it was executed on behalf of a longtime Chicago-based company, United Airlines. This is by no means the first time a United spot has topped our annual list of the year’s best ads, but when we first saw this commercial featuring a vast group of sea creatures performing United’s signature musical theme “Rhapsody in Blue,” we knew it would be tough to beat in 2008. In fact, we don’t recall seeing anything anywhere in the last year that came remotely close to matching the creative genius exhibited in this lush spot that brilliantly burnishes the United brand.
2. “Used Car.” (The Escape Pod) Creative honcho Vinny Warren, who had a productive career at DDB/Chicago, left that shop several years ago to open the Escape Pod. Freed from the corporate shackles of a declining DDB, Warren’s creativity seems to have flourished ever more impressively. A series of spots done for OfficeMax last summer include some of Warren’s best work. Shot on location in New York, each commercial showed what happened when attempts were made to purchase merchandise with only pennies. A spot featuring a car salesman with hysterically oily mannerisms was perhaps the best of a very good batch of work.
3. “Egg” (Leo Burnett) As if it didn’t have enough to deal with already, Burnett now has to grapple with the fallout from an internal billing scandal. But despite all the agency’s problems, there are a few creatives toiling at the shop who have demonstrated some creative savvy via outdoor work for longtime client McDonald’s. This big egg sign went up at a McDonald’s near Wrigley Field last summer and was cleverly designed to crack open each morning and then close up again as the lunch hour approached — all to remind passersby that breakfast was being served fresh and hot beneath those iconic golden arches. Nifty.
4. “Blue” (Euro RSCG) There’s no shortage of fashion advertising out there. But we find most of it to be cut — as it were — from the same cloth. Not to mention rather snooty and forgettable. Which is why we rather like Euro RSCG’s chicly unpretentious yet subtly amusing set of print ads for Brigid’s Bags, a local boutique vintage bag business run by Brigid Murphy, also known in show biz circles for her Milly’s Orchid Show. With a few deft copywriting strokes, this simple, uncluttered ad for a refurbished blue bowling bag suggests how the bag was of the moment more than 30 years ago in decidedly unchic Sheboygan and could be again today in Manhattan, where fashion is taken quite seriously in certain circles.
5. “Trust Fund Baby” (Cramer-Krasselt) In today’s ad world, the would-be humorists in too many creative departments tend to equate being funny with being crass and stupid. We long ago got our fill of that kind of stuff. So we are always eager to applaud work that comes at humor from a slightly more civilized angle. That is certainly how Cramer-Krasselt approached a campaign for Sealy mattresses that broke last year. A series of television commercials successfully poked fun at some very spoiled souls in our society who, because of their good fortune, never have to worry about getting enough sleep. The trust fund baby execution was our favorite, but the art direction on all of the commercials, coupled with some great voiceover work, made this very focused campaign pop.
[update: We just realized that it would be unsportsmanlike and churlish not to offer congratulations to Barrie D”Rozario Murphy. However begrudging they might be. So here it is. Congratulations Barrie D’Rozario Murphy. Happy now? Good]