Cubs hit a homer by naming local SCC their agency

New SCC Cubs ad promoting holiday tickets

Everyone knows s**t happens in the ad biz.  Sure.  But every now and then good stuff does too  And sometimes, when the stars are really aligned, several really good things happen at an ad agency at once that pull it off the sidelines and position it center stage.

That is exactly what seems to have happened at Schafer Condon Carter, one of Chicago’s mid-sized shops that had been plugging along (in a good way) for as long as we can remember.

But over the past couple of months, the shop looks to have found a new energy. A new focus that has made it more than it was just a couple of years ago.

First there was the big move into new offices in a lovely vintage office building at 1029 W. Madison — a move that had been long in the works.  But now that the shop is actually there, the agency appears to be operating as if reborn.  We can be more than we were, and we will be is the message the shop is communicating nowadays.

Even the messaging on the agency’s Web site suggests as much.  “Think again. Never ever settle. Rattle the cage of tradition” are but some of the exhortations that now appear at the top of the agency’s Web home page.

Cubs a high profile and prestigious account

No doubt the city’s ad industry sat up, took notice and thought again, so to speak, when the big news came down a week before Thanksgiving that SCC would become the new agency of record for the Chicago Cubs. 

Insiders know the Cubs account is not a big-money piece of business.  Never has been, and we doubt the account’s move to SCC will grow the pot of money the agency is given to handle the business.

But though it may only marginally enrich SCC, the Cubs account is high profile. And prestigious. And these are two things in the ad world that are almost worth their weight in gold, as the saying goes.

Some may wonder exactly how SCC wound up with the business if no one had the shop at the top of their list of candidates?  One major factor had to be Cubs chief marketing officer Wally Hayward’s dawning realization it wouldn’t be prudent to carry on the working relationship with the New York-based agency Brooklyn Brothers.

That relationship prompted incredible rancor within the Chicago ad community earlier this when it was revealed that Brooklyn Brothers had produced what would be the Cub’s principal marketing campaign for the 2012 season, namely “Baseball Is Better.” 

To this day, Hayward still insists he likes the Brooklyn Brothers shop and the work they did for the team. But savvy ad man that he is, Hayward knew it was high time for that relationship to end and to start building a new rapport with a Chicago agency, which is where the Cubs’s ad account should always be.

Then the question became which agency.

Hayward knew some of the SCC folks

Prior to Brooklyn Brothers, Hayward and the Cubs had worked with DraftFCB, which had done work tied to the theme “It’s a Way of Life” that Hayward liked very much too.  But so much had changed at that shop since he last dealt with it that Hayward obviously felt it was time to look elsewhere.

That led him — for one simple, but compelling reason — to the doorstep of Schafer Condon Carter, where top management is comprised of several people with whom Hayward had previous relationships during his career.  Not least among those people is SCC managing partner David Selby, who was at Leo Burnett at the same time Hayward worked there.

Selby went on to hold top posts at several other companies, including Sears and Potbelly Sandwich Works.  At the same time Hayward was developing and running his Relay sports marketing firm, with which he severed ties several years ago on a rather acrimonious note unfortunately.

But that relationship with Selby and several other top guys within SCC clearly became a factor in Hayward’s decision about which agency would get the Cubs ad account. Hayward told us as much himself.  “This is a relationship business,” he said.

And so it is.  At least it is the way Hayward prefers to do business.  And that has been a business philosophy that obviously has worked in SCC’s favor. 

But the agency’s Cubs win, while a nice one, isn’t the only thing that is making SCC an interesting shop to watch now — perhaps more so than at any time in recent history.

Uncle Dougie’s, the incubator unit’s success story

The agency now is fully invested in a new incubator unit. SCC is latching on to small, little-known companies such as a rubs, sauces and drink mixes-oriented Chicago company called Uncle Dougie’s and using SCC’s marketing know-how to try and grow the brands into something much more.

With Uncle Dougie’s, SCC is certainly well on the way to doing that.  Earlier this month, the agency cut a deal with Variety, the show biz bible, to put Uncle Dougie’s in the goody bags at a gala event in Hollywood where Seth McFarlane was being honored.

Plus, over the past year SCC has helped redesign Uncle Dougie’s product labels, expand product offerings and distribution channels and help put the product in the hands of influencers that can raise the brand’s profile. 

With this incubation unit, SCC executives like to say they’re actually walking the walk — proving that smart marketing is key to building a brand.

And that can be said, as well, for what SCC management is doing for its own agency. Right now, SCC is on a roll.  And it’s rolling ever more to the forefront of what’s going on in the Chicago advertising industry. 

It’s a good thing for SCC, for sure.  And for the Chicago advertising industry.

Contact Lewis Lazare a