Viva Digital Kitchen, winner of Cannes Design Grand Prix

DIGITAL KITCHEN has brought some Cannes glory to Chicago.  The Chicago-based collective of more than 100 artists, designers and filmmakers walked off Wednesday with the Grand Prix in the design category at the Cannes International Advertising Festival, considered the most prestigious of the many advertising award shows held each year around the world.

Digital Kitchen won at Cannes for its work in the lobby and other spaces at Las Vegas’s Cosmopolitan Hotel, which opened Dec. 31, 2010.  The Cosmopolitan lobby features a series of stunning columns designed and executed by Digital Kitchen.  

The columns are comprised of giant screens that display constantly changing and moving combinations of film, photography and 3-D animation. The effect is breathtaking at times, and certainly unlike what one finds in most hotel lobbies, which can be rather sterile.

Digital Kitchen’s displays for Las Vegas’ Cosmopolitan Hotel

Sources at DK say the firm was not exactly expecting to win one of the top prizes at Cannes.  The small company did not even send a single representative to the awards show on the French Riviera.  Still, the Cannes victory is a huge honor for DK, which is well-known for its work on the title credits for  HBO TV series Six Feet Under, among other achievements.

“We are continually inspired by the creativity and passion to reinvent the hospitality experience through design and technology,” said Jeff Brecker, managing director of Digital Kitchen  Wednesday in the wake of the firm’s win.

Among the key Digital Kitchen staffers involved in the Cosmopolitan Hotel project are:  Mark Bashore, head of creative; Anthony Vitagliano, executive creative director, and Chad Ashley and Jeremy Stuart.  In addition to Chicago, Digital Kitchen has offices in Los Angeles and Seattle.


WE’VE BEEN TOLD more than once — well many times actually — that if the local ad industry is ever going to fully resuscitate itself, creative boutiques will need to show the way for some of the larger shops that have — we hope — only temporarily lost their way over the past decade.

Unfortunately, a number of these crucial boutique shops have come and then gone from the Chicago ad landscape in recent years. But one of them continues to stand tall and deliver work that should be the envy of just about every other agency in Chicago — large or small.

We refer of course to the Escape Pod/Chicago, under the very able creative leadership of Vinny Warren.  On more than one occasion — many actually — Warren has surprised and impressed us with work that is both funny and smart.  We’ve be happy enough if the Escape Pod could produce work that was either funny or smart. But to be both? Well, we couldn’t ask for — or expect — more.

A good example of what the Escape Pod is capable of is the agency’s newest work for Claussen pickles.  Now there’s something about a pickle that is inherently funny.  Which of course makes it an ideal subject for Warren, who candidly confesses he hadn’t been a pickle connoisseur until he was handed the Claussen assignment.

Explorer “Edwin Horsham” is determined to find his Claussen Pickles, in a scene from an 85-second video

That assignment posed a particular challenge for Warren because Claussen pickles aren’t found on the pickle shelf  with the rest of the brand’s competitors in grocery stores.  Instead Claussen pickles are stocked in the refrigerated deli department in stores that carry the brand. So of course it’s important for customers to know that fact when they go shopping for pickles.

Leave it to Warren and the Escape Pod to find a highly theatrical and amusing way to make that point in a 85-second video featuring an intrepid explorer named Edwin Horsham.  As it turns out, Horsham is waiting along with his dogsled at the entrance to a grocery store to lead a seemingly clueless customer to the place where Claussen pickles are displayed. 

The actor portraying Horsham bears a striking resemble to Bill Murray. But he also is a wonderful ham who knows just how to handle the dorky guy who plops down in the dogsled for the journey to find Claussen pickles.

Yes, taken at face value, it’s all terribly ridiculous, but Warren still makes us believe in what we are seeing unfold in the video because the performances are so superb.  It’s also great fun, but the video leaves us with the clear message that Claussen pickles are different and fresher because they are kept chilled.  Click here to see video.

Lew’s view:  A-

Read Lewis Lazare Tuesdays and Thursdays in ReelChicago.  Email,