Doc about Chicago’s rich ad history is in the works

A documentary about the rich lore of Chicago agencies and the iconic admen who gave Michigan Avenue its special kind of cachet, in the works produced by A&C Film Distribution, a spinoff of the One Club, with the possibility of WTTW serving as its presenting sponsor.

The doc, “Chicago.Adtown,” is the idea of New York-based Mary Warlick, for 25 years the CEO of New York-based One Club. “I opted to leave that position to make this doc,” she said, and take the reins of A&C as executive producer of documentaries about the advertising business.

“It was pretty exciting to make this transition to tell stories about advertising and the people behind it,” Warlick said during her visit to Chicago where she was tracking down archives of local advertising history. She cited the Museum of Broadcast Communications and the Chicago History Museum as two excellent archival sources.

Chicago.Adtown” will be directed by Ky Dickens, of new Conspiracy production / post, who directed the doc’s trailer featuring icons Bob Scarpelli, Keith Reinhard and Susan Credle and some of Chicago’s enduring advertising brands, people and campaigns

"Mary's research and passion surrounding this project is contagious and I'm thrilled 
to be working with her. The rich history, along with a story
that hasn't been told,
makes for an ideal documentary," said Dickens,
who wrote and produced the highly
acclaimed doc, "Sole Survivor."

Mary WarlickWarlick,who is still actively seeking funding, expects production of the 60-minute doc to start in September and be completed in spring, 2016, when it will start traveling the festival circuit.

Chicago was a natural for a documentary, Warlick said, given its lengthy history of advertising and the agencies that began here, dating back to Lord & Thomas in 1873 that became Foote, Cone & Belding, followed by Leo Burnett in 1935 and agencies Draper Daniels, Tatham-Laird & Kudner, Lee King & Partners, Arthur Meyerhoff, Earle Ludgin, Vince Cullers and so many others that flourished from the ‘40s through the ‘70s, before the onset of global conglomerate multi-agency ownership. 

“Chicago.Adtown” is Warlick’s third ad doc. Earlier she was executive producer of Art & Copy, ” and “The Real Mad Men of Madison Avenue,” both of which won Emmy awards in 2011 and 2013, respectively, and aired on PBS.

The One Club docs are used a teaching tool at its boot camps and workshops that are presented at ad markets throughout the U.S.  “We show them, this is how it was done.”

If you know of archives that would be useful in telling the story of “Chicago.Adtown,” or would like to serve as a consultant, send an email to, or phone here at 917/991-5182.