BMO Harris Bank’s new agency sure to be a local shop


The BMO Harris Bank agency review is entering its final stages, sources say, and a decision could come by Thanksgiving. One source is reporting that three agencies remain in contention for the account, currently housed at Element 79/Chicago. 

The finalists are believed to include incumbent Element 79, as well as Young & Rubicam/Chicago and Digitas/Chicago.

The inclusion of Digitas as a serious candidate for the account may reflect BMO Harris management’s belief that the financial institution needs a more well-defined online marketing effort — something that has not been a top priority while the account has been based at Element 79, sources say.

For the past several years, BMO Harris marketing has focused on the theme of helping its customers in various ways.  “We’re here to help” was, in fact, a tag line developed at Element 79.

For a while, BMO Harris even went so far as to provide very practical information about navigating one’s way around Chicago as part of that advertising strategy. In more recent campaigns, however, the bank has put more emphasis on ways it can help corporate clients.

Sources say BMO Harris executives want the account to remain in Chicago, whether or not it stays at Element 79.  The agency review was believed to have been precipitated by top Toronto-based marketing executives at BMO Harris’s parent, Bank of Montreal.

Bee-mo Harris Bank name is here to stay

That Bank of Montreal connection, by the way, is the principal reason why all references in advertising and bank signage now reference the former, familiar Harris Bank as BMO (pronounced “bee-mo”) Harris Bank — a name that is jarring to the ear and rather too informal-sounding, in our opinion, for a major financial institution.

But sources say Canadians always refer to Harris Bank parent Bank of Montreal as BMO, so it appears we will have to get used to that name in Chicago, as well. 

And don’t be surprised, if one day in the next couple of years “Harris Bank” disappears altogether and BMO becomes the name of what is now the city’s second largest financial institution.


What was once known as Tom, Dick & Harry Advertising has a new name and a new Web site. 

The agency’s refreshed name is now Tom, Dick & Harry Creative Co., and the shop’s new Web site has a snappier image that, according to agency co-managing partner Don Brashears, does a better job of reflecting all the ways the agency’s focus and operations have changed in the nearly 10 years it has been in business.

“Our old site was in Flash, which made its content largely unavailable to search engines,” explained Brashears. “The new site is in ExpressionEngine,” he added.

Brashears also believes the new site does a better job of reflecting the agency’s integrated, diversified approach to business. 

Approximately 40 percent of the shop’s business is now in the digital arena, according to Brashears.

Contact Lewis Lazare at