Downtown Partners’ Jim Schmidt succumbs to cancer

Jim Schmidt, the consummate Chicago adman

Downtown Partners’ office is closed today out of respect to its founder, Jim Schmidt, the universally considered creative genius, who died Wednesday of cancer. He was 58. 

Mr. Schmidt was the consummate Chicago adman, who spent his entire career as a co-owner of two advertising agencies, in which he had been the creative partner.  Downtown Partners mission, he wrote, “is to create purposeful work that creates a positive impact for our clients.”  He would have celebrated the agency’s tenth anniversary next May. 

One of the agency’s highest-profile clients is the Illinois Lottery, for which Mr. Schmidt had taken a different approach than the Lottery’s previous agencies that worked more persuasively with ticket buyers. 

“Jim was the best creative guy I ever knew. His quiet, anarchic humor, his always seeing the best in people, and his sense style made his work memorable, effective, and wonderful,” said Lottery director Michael Jones.  “It was a privilege to know him and, even more, to work with him.

Prior to starting Downtown Partners, Mr. Schmidt had been executive vice president and creative director partner for 15 years at McConnaughy Stein Schmidt Brown, with billings of $90 million.  In 2000, Euro RSCG (now Havas Worldwide) acquired the agency and Mr. Schmidt spent the following three years as Euro’s chief creative officer. 

In 2004, Mr. Schmidt, in partnership with creative director Joe Stuart and account director Katie Baxter formed Downtown Partners.  The agency is an offshoot of DDB and is located in DDB’s office building.

In the course of his distinguished career, Mr. Schmidt had won just about every major award in the advertising industry.

A North Shore native, Mr. Schmidt attended Ball State University as a journalism major in 1981-82, and attended Columbia College, 1985-1987. 

He is survived by wife Cindy Schmidt and children, Lauren, Jimmy, Kathryn and Jack.
Funeral services and additional information will be forthcoming.

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