C-K and longtime client AirTran sever remaining ties

A relatively long client-agency relationship — at least by today’s standards — has quietly ended at Cramer-Krasselt/Chicago, where as recently as last week the agency was celebrating the win of the Cedar Fair amusement parks business — the first account of its kind to land on the agency roster.

While Cramer-Krasselt is picking up Cedar Fair, the agency has severed its last remaining ties — media buying duties — to longtime client AirTran Airways, which was acquired over a year ago by the much larger low-fare carrier Southwest Airlines.

The acquisition has been approved by all the necessary United States government authorities, and the integration of the two carriers’s operations is well under way. Eventually, of course, the AirTran brand will simply disappear.

The irony of Southwest’s acquisition of AirTran is not lost on longtime Cramer-Krasselt employees with some historical perspective. 

AirTran was a Cramer client for 14 years

Southwest had been a client at Cramer-Krasselt for some eight years before the airline consolidated its advertising account at GSD&M/Austin, which has had a relationship with the Texas carrier since it began flying some 40 years ago. C-K had handled new market extension advertising for Southwest.

In the wake of the loss of Southwest in the 1990s, however, Cramer used its experience in the airline category to land AirTran, which has been on the Cramer roster since 1997. For most of that time, Cramer handled not only creative responsibilities, but also AirTran public relations and media buying.

AirTran is one of those accounts agencies hate to see go.  It was high-profile and allowed creatives to have a little fun — something that isn’t as commonplace nowadays at ad agencies as one might think.

This time around, it will be tough for Cramer to replace AirTran on the roster, because the airline industry landscape has changed dramatically in the last decade.  A number of airlines have merged and profits have been hard to come by for many carriers as passenger traffic slumped and fuel prices skyrocketed. 

While it is looking, Cramer may take some comfort in knowing it has been placed on the Southwest agency roster, according to a C-K spokeswoman.  It’s unclear whether that is merely a formality until the AirTran brand is fully retired, or possibly something that could yield significant work for C-K down the line.

A C-K spokeswoman declined to specify what, if any, work the agency might be doing for Southwest.  For now, anyway, it appears GSD&M continues to handle the major advertising assignments for Southwest.

AirTran departed after ACD Kevin Micko left C-K

Cramer CEO  Peter KrivkovichThough it is impossible to know if there was a direct connection to the AirTran developments, associate media director Kevin Micklo has also departed Cramer-Krasselt after a 19-year tenure.  A Cramer-Krasselt spokeswoman confirmed Micklo’s departure, but would not comment on the reasons for his exit. 
The Cedar Fair win is certainly a plus for C-K, but some observers nonetheless maintain the agency’s overall fortunes are not as robust now as they have been in years past.

If  indeed the agency doesn’t have the total billings now that it might once have enjoyed, Cramer-Krasselt certainly isn’t alone in Chicago, where other of the city’s iconic shops have seen their client rosters, their billings and their staffing shrink in recent years.

Yes, times have been tough in the Chicago ad industry, and Cramer-Krasselt veteran CEO Peter Krivkovich apparently knows that as well as many of his peers.

In fact, one source told us Krivkovich was recently overheard noting: “I’ve never worked so hard in my life for so little.”  Krivkovich could not be immediately reached for comment, but the line sounds like it would be a great title for a book.  It could be time for Krivkovich to get cracking on that potential bestseller.

Contact Lewis Lazare at LewisL3@aol.com.

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