Two by Four puts new energy into OTSC luncheon

Let’s hear it for the little guys.  If it wasn’t for the little guys — by that we mean the smaller shops that are part of the warp and woof of the local ad industry — where would we be as an ad community at this point in time?

We got to thinking about this as we were listening to the indefatigable Jessica Montrie at Two by Four/Chicago talk about her agency’s efforts on behalf of the Off the Street annual holiday luncheon, which this year is set for noon on Dec. 6th, at the Swissotel.

Who knows whether the Off the Street Club luncheon would still be happening if small and mid-sized shops such as Two by Four/Chicago weren’t willing to step in and do a lot of the heavy lifting that used to be handled almost exclusively by much bigger shops with far more resources — resources that come from being part of publicly-traded global holding companies that exist primarily to watch all that cash from their vast holdings fall to the bottom line and into the hands of jubilant shareholders.

But as those who still keep a watchful eye on what is happening — or not happening as the case may be — in the local ad community know all too well, the big guys left in the Chicago ad world seem to be ever more inwardly focused on their own problems and concerns.

Big guys not as involved anymore

And coincidentally, most of these big shops are not nearly so big as they were in the good old days.

Yes, DraftFCB/Chicago once could lay claim to being the city’s largest ad shop. Yet in just a year’s time, it has tumbled from that pedestal and is feverishly searching for new business to fill the gaping hole left by the departure of both S.C. Johnson and MillerCoors.

Near total collapse as recently as three or four years ago, DDB/Chicago has at least stabilized its operations under the new leadership of Ewan Paterson and Peter McGuinness. But from the outside, DDB appears, like DraftFCB, to be intently focused on its new business efforts rather than on the greater good of the local ad community.

The same could be said of Leo Burnett, which, if nothing else, has certainly been an aggressive supporter of local ad shows.  And the big winner in them as well, since few other shops appear especially interested in whatever good may come from touting that “we won an award!”

So increasingly we find that we have mostly the little guys in the local ad world to thank for much of what is being done that doesn’t fall into the category of pure self-interest.

Club mission increasingly important

Sponsoring the holiday luncheon is certainly not an act of self-interest. As those who have attended the event before know well, this luncheon tends to draw a nice crowd because it is all about a good cause, namely the city’s Off the Street Club.

The club works tirelessly to keep disadvantaged kids in difficult neighborhoods off the street and out of trouble.  With gang violence surging across the city over the past 12 months, the Off the Street Club’s mission has become ever more important.

The theme Two by Four/Chicago is using to promote this year’s big luncheon is “It’s not every day you can change a kid’s life on your lunch hour.”  And it couldn’t be more apt in highlighting the reasons that the Off the Street Club exists and that the holiday luncheon is held each year.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be too harsh on the big boys for their apparent lack of commitment to the greater good of Chicago’s ad business. 

Two by Four’s Montrie did tell us some of the city’s other, larger ad shops, including Burnett, Digitas, Ogilvy and McGarryBowen, have been helpful in handling some of the many little details that go into prepping for the annual luncheon. So bravo for that at least.

Why OTS kids depend on the luncheon

How is Two by Four trying to freshen up the whole approach to marketing the holiday luncheon this year?  Well, we’re glad you asked.

In the area of luncheon sponsorships, the different levels of support have been renamed to give that aspect of the overall fundraising effort a fresher, more contemporary feel.  Depending on how much an agency contributes, for instance, the agency will fall into a “very cool” or “super cool” category of support.

The raffle is another primary fundraising mechanism. Two by Four is producing posters that show staffers/raffle ticket sellers from other ad shops posing with Off the Street Club kids.  It’s  another way to help establish a closer bond between the local ad community and the beneficiaries of their holiday largesse.

But above all, in all of its marketing messages for the upcoming luncheon, Two by Four wants to stress — using a bit of wry humor to do so —  that the kids depend on the ad community now more than ever before.  Why is this?  Well as one line from Two by Four’s holiday luncheon marketing arsenal puts it, “Oprah left, so someone had to step up and help the kids.”

Yea, someone had to. And someone has.  Let’s hear it for the little guys. And a few of the big guys too. 

Contact Lewis Lazare at