Tonight’s ADDY Awards to reveal best in local adbiz

It’s that time of year.  The time when so many advertising professionals — creatives in particular — start salivating at the thought of all the awards they will collect for a year’s worth of work presumably done well.  Exceptionally well done.

For anyone who hasn’t been following the advertising awards business as it pertains to Chicago, however, it’s worth noting this city has had a tough time of it finding a way to create a credible awards show format that could be mounted year after year.  An awards show format that would bring some distinction to this major hub of the advertising industry and to the people and agencies and clients that might actually win an award at the show.

We were there in the early 2000s when something called the Chicago Creative Club Awards show first reared its head. It was something to behold. The plan at the time was to deliver an awards show like none other before — an awards show that would show up the rather ho-hum Addy Awards that had been in place in Chicago for many years.

The powers that be behind the new CCCA wanted to go classy. So that very first iteration of this new idea in awards shows was held in the entrance foyer of the then still relatively new Museum of Contemporary Art.

The affair was intended to be classy. But we had a queasy feeling about the whole thing as soon as we found out the actual award to be handed out was a brick.  That’s right.  Your basic garden-variety brick.  Ugh.


CCA more a party than awards show

Suffice it to say, for the several years the Chicago Creative Club Awards managed to keep going in different venues, the problem was the same.  Everyone would show up.  Head for the bar.  Drink and chatter to excess.  And totally ignore the main reason for gathering — to honor excellence in Chicago advertising.

Anyway, the Chicago Creative Club Awards inevitably collapsed for several reasons: The city’s ad business was collapsing even as everyone running the show lost interest or moved away from the city.

After the collapse of the CCCA show concept, it was hit and miss for several years, as different ad executives — including a very brave and determined David Stevenson from Two by Four — stepped forward to try and revive some kind of Chicago awards show.

But it was too much work put on the shoulders of too few people.  And nothing sustained came from all the effort. 

Then when all seemed lost again, the Chicago Advertising Federation, the trade association that had always had at least a finger or two in the pot where these different awards shows were cooked up, quietly decided the only way forward was to go backwards and reconnect with the rather staid, but still-there Addy Awards system.

So here we are in 2013.


Entries from more than 50 agencies

And tonight, more than 300 people are expected to convene at the Museum of Broadcast Communications for the Chicago Addy Awards, a look back at the year 2012 in advertising and all that was most excellent about it.

The Addys give out awards in a lot of categories.  But the spotlight tonight will be on the top three awards — Best of Show, Agency of the Year and Client of the Year.  It’s anyone’s guess what the Best of Show winner will be.  Technically it could be any entry in any category in the competition, which included entries from more than 50 agencies.

And Client of the Year has three finalists — Kraft Foods, Hallmark and Allstate — none of which is particularly sexy.  So there isn’t much drama attached to that award.

The most interesting category from our perspective will be the Agency of the Year Award, for which there are five announced finalists.  They are: Arc Worldwide/Leo Burnett; Downtown Partners Chicago; Energy BBDO, McGarryBowen and Third Street.

We’re very familiar with four of the five finalists. 

The fifth, Third Street is a less familiar name.  But with offices in both Chicago and Indianapolis, Third Street has worked with clients such as the city of Indianapolis and MillerCoors.


Energy BBDO and Downtown Partners top competitors

If we had to handicap how this Agency of the Year competition might play out, we would be inclined to put Arc Worldwide/Leo Burnett and McGarryBowen among the less likely winners, if only because Burnett was such a big winner across the boards in last year’s competition, and McGarryBowen suffered a big black eye last year with the loss of its Bud Light business.

That leaves Energy BBDO and Downtown Partners ranked toward the top with Third Street somewhere in the middle. 

DP creative leader Jim Schmidt and Energy BBDO top creative Dan Fietsam are known to be friendly competitors, even though it was Schmidt and DP that were handed the Illinois Lottery account early in 2012, after Energy BBDO was dismissed from the account in late 2011.

Energy BBDO, to our knowledge, has not yet produced any breakthrough creative for its biggest new client, S.C. Johnson, but the Chicago Addy Awards steering committee, which we’re told will decide the winner in this category, may have other reasons for putting Energy BBDO on the Agency of the Year list.

In any event, it will be an interesting category to watch.  Especially if Downtown Partners and Schmidt, who prefers to avoid the spotlight and stick to his knitting, should prevail at tonight’s awards ceremony.


Contact Lewis Lazare at