Signs of rebounding ad community at IAAS graduation

Euro CEO Ron Bess heads Chicago 4As chapter

It was a lovely evening for a graduation.  It really was.

Nearly 100 people gathered on the verandah at the Museum of Contemporary Art Wednesday night for the formal graduation of the largest class ever (a total of 50 students) in the history of Chicago’s Institute of Advanced Advertising Studies (IAAS).

The Institute, an arm of the American Association of Advertising Agencies, was founded 47 years ago in Chicago by Vernon Fryberger, a professor at Northwestern’s Medill School.  From its Chicago roots, the Institute has grown to encompass programs in major advertising markets across the country, including New York, Minneapolis and other cities. 

In a nutshell, the Chicago Institute welcomes students selected by local agencies and media buying firms to participate in a 14-week program of evening classes.   Many of those weekly sessions feature lectures given by working members of the Chicago advertising industry.

The program in Chicago — open to advertising professionals with one to four years of experience in the industry — is overseen by Marty Kohr, a Medill adjunct professor who previously worked at several Chicago shops, including Leo Burnett, Hal Riney and DDB.

In addition to attending evening classes, the IAAS participants this year were divided into five groups.  Each group was required to develop an ad campaign for the Chicago Tribune’s RedEye newspaper. The Trib’s free RedEye tabloid, celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, is aimed primarily at millennials who may not read any other daily newspaper or visit a newspaper Web site.

The finished campaigns from the five IAAS teams were presented to a panel of 12 judges last week. That panel included representatives from the RedEye, as well as a cross-sampling of executives from local ad agencies.

Muckrakers the winner among five competitors

Marty Kohr and Dana Kavan with the winning Muckrakers team.The winning team from among the five that competed was the Muckrakers (each group came up with their own team name).   We happened to speak to a couple of members of the Muckrakers before the winner was announced, and they were pretty confident they would prove victorious. They were right.

For the record the Muckrakers team included: Yvonne Booth from the Burrell agency;  Doug Gallow, Ogilvy; Emily Hoffman, Schafer Condon Carter; Bryan Rees, SMGx; Eddie Revis, Energy BBDO, Laurie Rosko, Cramer-Krasselt; Katherine Salerno, Arc; Jeremy Smith, Commonground, and Justin Stielow, Digitas.

An overview of the Muckrakers’s winning campaign was on view at the Museum last night.  As might have been expected, the campaign was peppered with cultural references familiar to young adults.

One Muckrakers display ad, for instance, talked about doing the Dougie, a hip-hop dance performed by moving one’s body in a shimmy style. The Muckrakers positioned the RedEye as a multi-platform lifestyle brand providing millenial Chicagoans the city buzz throughout the day.

Redeye deputy digital editor Dana Kavan commended all the participants in the five pitches for their work and said the ideas presented would be of great help in shaping future RedEye campaigns.

Ron Bess reports ad community definitely rebounding

But Wednesday night’s IAAS graduation ceremony was about more than just announcing the winning RedEye pitch and giving each program graduate a handsome diploma.  It was also about making a statement that the Chicago advertising industry is starting to come back after a disturbingly dark decade in which most local ad shops lost clients and shrunk in size.

Euro RSCG/Chicago CEO Ron Bess, who heads up the Chicago chapter of the 4 A’s, was  at last night’s graduation ceremony to welcome everyone and offer up a couple of reasons why he believes there is more hope now for a revitalized Chicago ad community than there had been in recent years.

Among other things, Bess pointed out that most Chicago agencies are now headed by a new wave of talented executives who are helping to fuel the growth that was absent in the local ad business for so many years.

Bess also said some 700 new advertising jobs have been added over the past year, a figure that gives him — and others apparently — renewed confidence the Chicago ad business is definitely rebounding.

Agency honchos supported the graduates

It was heartening to see at least a few of the bigwigs  from local ad shops and media buying firms on hand last night to applaud the graduates and help bring back that sense of community Bess and his cohorts in the local 4 A’s chapter are trying to instill once more within the local ad profession.

Among those present to acknowledge this year’s IAAS graduates were Cramer-Krasselt CEO Peter Krivkovich, C-K managing director, Karen Seamen, Energy BBDO/Chicago president Tonise Paul,  Jack Morton agency managing director Matt Pensinger and Euro RSCG/Chicago president Norm Yustin.

Yes, it was nice night for a graduation.  And it was a graduation that certainly suggested there are better days ahead for what has been for too long a very beleaguered local ad industry.

Contact Lewis Lazare at