Loss of media columnist Lewis Lazare diminishes Chicago adbiz importance

SUN-TIMES COLUMNIST LEWIS LAZARE was abruptly fired Friday from his 11 year post as ad/marketing and local broadcasting columnist – a serious blow to the adbiz here, despite mixed feelings about the writer himself.  He was one of four writers, also with lengthy tenure, who were axed, presumably as part of a money-saving staff cutback.

Lewis always told it as he saw it, in an entertaining and thoughtful manner, although his critiques stung if you were the stingee.  And he always coughed up an apology on those rare occasions when it got it wrong (believe me, it happens). 

Nonetheless, Lazare’s moving on leaves a huge gap in agency news coverage and adds to the impression that Chicago’s ad community is sinking slowly into obscurity, instead of boasting how big, important and impressive it actually is.

It’s very discouraging to see Chicago agencies beat the drum about their talented people or the excellent work they do.  Rarely do you find a Chicago dateline in national advertising publications, as if Chicago agencies want to keep that blanket over their heads lest anyone learn how good they are. 

Lewis Lazare did the very best he could for more than a decade, under very difficult news gathering circumstances, to keep the agency business vital, meaningful and interesting.  And for this long, Lewis is owed him a big debt of gratitude.

“THE STATE OF WOMEN IN ADVERTISING” is the provocative topic to be discussed  at Film’s Executive Breakfast March 23, with panelists Lisa Burke Snyder, mcgarrybowen’s head of broadcast production; Hermene Hartman, president/CEO of Hartman Publishing Group, publishers of African American newspaper N’Digo; Jen Martinsen, Razorfish account director; Rose Cameron, chief planner, Euro RSCG and your Reel publisher, moi.  The breakfast at Holiday Inn, Chicago Mart Plaza starts at 8 a.m. 

DDB HAS CUT STAFF across the board, affecting every departmen.  The downsizing was attributed to “agency restructuring,” which sounds a lot like cutbacks due to financial reasons. 

THIS MAY BE OLD NEWS to some, still: DDB upped two agency veterans, Bill Cimino and Mark Gross from group CDs to ECDs, reporting to CCO Ewan Paterson, who said, “We will work as a triumvirate on everything from recruiting new digital talent to new business and, of course, the work itself.”

Cimino joined the agency as a copywriter in 1993, working on Anheuser-Busch InBev, McDonald’s, State Farm and Frito-Lay.

Art director Gross joined in 1994 and also worked Bud Light and Cars.com. His most acclaimed campaigns were Bud Light’s “Always Worth It” and award-winning “Real Men of Genius.”

“A NIGHT WITH JAMIE FOXX,” hosted by Robert Downey, Jr., is the stellar fund-raising event for the Gene Siskel Film Center June 4 at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel.   Foxx will receive the Gene Siskel Film Center Ranaissance Award from the School of the Art Institute president Walter Massey and  Downey will interview the Oscar winner about his career as an actor, comedian and musician over the past 20 years. 

THE TAX MAN COMETH.  We hear …  As a result of an Illinois Dept. of Revenue audit, an equipment reseller is billing present and former clients for alleged unpaid taxes on equipment rentals made in the past – eight years ago, in the case of one puzzled production house that received a sizeable bill.   The reseller is putting pressure on clients to remit by May 31 when the tax bill is due.

Apparently, the reseller passed along a certain equipment exemption that was not meant for the visual media industry, but it was picked up anyway to avoid taxes.  It went unpoliced by the IDR until they began auditing and learned the state was owed a great deal of money.   We hear the reseller is doing its best to pay the tax bill.

CW’S “COOPER & STONE” PILOT starts shooting Monday at many different city locations over the 8 days the L.A. crew will be here. Alex Breckenridge (“Life Unexpected”) is one of the two smart female detectives. John Dahl (“Dexter”) directs.

Speaking of pilots, one of the many locations for the early1960s-set “Playboy” pilot also filming here is the Chicago Athletic Club on Madison and Michigan Ave., that replicates the old Playboy Mansion on State Parkway.

TMC’S ROAD TO HOLLYWOOD TOUR arrives here March 24, in celebration of the TCM Classic Film Festival, with a special screening of the classic musical movie, “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” at the Music Box.  Special guests are TCM host Robert Osborne and “Brides” singing actress, Jane Powell.

PITCHFESTS are usually a popular main event at L.A. workshops and festivals, but now we hear, Chicago will be getting what feels like a first time Pitchfest. Said Pitchfest and workshop, with big name players, is supposed to land here in May.

FACTOID.  Fpr the third straight year, AFTRA dominated the broadcast pilot season by being the union for about 90% of the pilots.  Of the 79 pilots that were ordered by the five networks, 69 were covered by AFTRA.  Ten of the pilots were reported to be SAG-affiliated.