Who will win S.C. Johnson’s $1 billion ad business?

THE DAY OF RECKONING DRAWS NEAR. We refer, of course, to the decision regarding the fate of S.C. Johnson’s billion-dollar advertising account.  Final pitches are done, and discussions, sources say, are underway to iron out what is sure to be a complicated contract with the agency that lands — or retains — the humongous account.

The finalists for the business are believed to include incumbent DraftFCB/Chicago, Ogilvy & Mather and a partnership of Energy BBDO/Chicago and TBWA/Chiat Day.  At least one source said home products giants S.C. Johnson has initiated contract talks with Ogilvy, but it is possible talks could be going on with more than one agency simultaneously to keep news of the actual winner from leaking out prematurely.

Meanwhile, sources inside DraftFCB say agency staffers remain remarkably hopeful and positive, though no one is in a mood to discuss the S.C. Johnson situation specifically.

Remarkably, the review has gone on while the agency has been conducting a search for a new chief creative officer to replace Rob Sherlock who has expressed a desire to take up a new international post at DraftFCB.  That search for a new chief creative officer is ongoing, and we’re told there is no target date for announcing Sherlock’s replacement.

Should DraftFCB lose its S.C. Johnson business, it will, by all accounts, be a huge financial blow to the agency that could result in substantial job cuts.

One source estimated the revenue S.C. Johnson generates for DraftFCB at around $100 million annually.

Still, DraftFCB prefers to emphasize that it has been busy picking up new business in recent months to help cushion a possible loss of its S.C. Johnson business. Nestle, Sony and Nivea are among the clients that have given the shop new business.

New State Farm and Sears campaigns disappoint

UNFORTUNATELY, this will not go down as a great week for creativity in the Chicago advertising industry.  Two new campaigns for two high-profile clients at Chicago ad agencies have just broken, and both disappoint in a big way.

State Farm, one of the nation’s largest insurers, has returned to the DDB/Chicago fold after working for a while with DraftFCB/Chicago.  The new DDB campaign carries the tag line “Get to A Better State.”  The debut spot, “State of Unrest,” features a guy chatting in the middle of the night with his State Farm rep Jake.

When his wife discovers hubby on the phone, she immediately assumes he’s talking to another women. She snatches the phone from his hands and asks Jake what he’s wearing.  If this is meant to be funny, the punch line was completely lost on us. It’s more borderline creepy than it is anything else.  What’s worse, the spot delivers no clear, compelling message about State Farm. 

The first ad for Sears from new agency of record, McGarryBowen/Chicago, is almost as bad.  MB replaced Young & Rubicam/Chicago on the Sears brand account.

MB’s new Sears spot shows us a husband pulling a blue phone out of the kitchen sink.  The man puts the phone to his ear and hears a Sears rep dispense some cold hard facts about the wide range of appliances Sears carries that other stores apparently don’t.

Again the humor is lacking, and the spot’s hard, cold edge is likely to put off a lot of people.  This early misfire aside, the big challenge for McGarry going forward will be finding a way to brand Sears in a memorable fashion.

Recently, the retailing behemoth has seemed to focus its advertising primarily on electronics, appliances and tools.  If the chain wants to be known for more than those things, the advertising will have to do a much better job of reflecting the broad array of Sears merchandise and giving consumers a better sense of the overall Sears shopping experience.

Fox News still figuring out how to boost ratings

A turnaround in the ratings for the 9 p.m. newscast at Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32 is going to take time.  Perhaps a lot of it. That now seems to be the thinking inside the station where efforts to boost the late news ratings have been well under way for over a year.

In the all important May sweeps ratings book, WFLD remained solidly in last place. But the station has stemmed some of the late news ratings erosion it experienced in previous ratings books.  The station is still experimenting with how it presents the news in its late newscast. Some evenings there are more in-depth segments. Other nights, the hour-long newscast has a faster pace.

Sources say the rhythm of the newscast will probably vary from night to night for now, depending on the day’s news developments and WFLD’s decisions about how to cover them.

New York based Tony Awards not a hit here

CHICAGO MAY BE KNOWN as an important theater city, but that doesn’t mean local TV viewers want to watch a three-hour live theater awards show focused on Broadway theater.

The telecast of the 65th annual Tony Awards show, which honors excellence in Broadway theater, was a big ratings disappointment  Sunday night on CBS-owned WBBM-Channel 2.  The three-hour telecast drew an anemic 4 rating (140,000 households) in the Chicago market.

The Tonys were clobbered by what turned out to be the deciding game in the NBA championship, which the Dallas Mavericks clinched.  The Sunday night NBA finale scored a whopping 19 rating (665,000) on ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7 in Chicago.  Despite the Tony Awards telecast’s lowish ratings, critics generally applauded the overall quality of this year’s Tony Awards show.

Lewis Lazare take on the media appears in ReelChicago on Tuesdays and Thursdays.