Wirtz Corp. backs Banner Collective productions


Rocky Wirtz, the man behind Banner Collective

One thing that always warms our heart is seeing superior talent recognized and rewarded. Genuine talent. Not the mediocrity that often gets far more credit than it deserves in this advertising capital called Chicago.  But genuine skill and creativity.

On Wednesday, good people got rewarded.  Very good people. And though there will be some, inevitably, who pooh-pooh the development, they will — we can only hope — be pushed aside soon enough so that real talent may prevail.

What happened yesterday, in a nutshell, is that the Wirtz Corp., one of Chicago’s largest privately-held conglomerates, recognized the significant talent in its midst and decided to make more of it than the Wirtz company already was.

This development involves Dave Knickerbocker and Patrick Dahl.  Remember the names.  They may prove instrumental in determining the future shape of the video and digital production business in Chicago.

Banner’s Dave Knickerbocker and  Patrick DahlFor the past several years, Knickerbocker and Dahl have been working their video magic in-house for the Chicago Blackhawks, a hockey team whose popularity has skyrocketed since the team took home the coveted Stanley Cup in 2010 — an honor that puts recipients in a special league all their own.

Though Dahl and Knickerbocker have worked in tandem with Ogilvy/Chicago on advertising for the Hawks in recent years, we were surprised to discover that some of that fine advertising, as well as most of the flashy and compelling videos displayed on line and shown to rabid fans at the United Center, were in fact the handiwork of just Dahl and Knickerbocker.

Good sports videos and advertising must be one thing above else — exciting.  And the videos we’ve seen from this duo at the United Center, on television and online have met that standard and generally exceeded it by quite a bit.

Which is no doubt why Rocky Wirtz, owner of the Blackhawks, and his larger Wirtz Corp., finally acknowledged what was right before their eyes:  Dahl and Knickerbocker deserved a larger palette on which to work before they and their exceptional skills up and went elsewhere.

Banner Collective part of the Wirtz empire

So on Wednesday, the Wirtz Corp. said it is bankrolling a new full-service video and digital production company called the Banner Collective.  Sure this news won’t make a lot of people in the always-hungry Chicago video production community happy. Nobody likes to see more hungry and capable talent make a stand.

But come on everyone.  We all know more good competition usually tends to raise the bar for everyone and makes for a better product that Chicago can sell to more of the world.

The Wirtz Corp. made it clear the money to start up the Banner Collective is coming from the Wirtz Corp. empire, which, in addition to sports, includes liquor distribution, real estate, insurance, banking and entertainment — all businesses fully capable of throwing off enough cash to fund a fledgling, but hugely promising video and digital production company.

Give credit to the Wirtz crowd for seeing an opportunity and grabbing it.  Noted Danny Wirtz of the Wirtz clan:  “We saw a great opportunity to capitalize on the talent and resources we already had.  The world of video is expanding at a more rapid pace than any other media vehicle. Having the ability to service our family of companies alone is worth the investment.”

We suspect Danny Wirtz and the rest of the Wirtzes will find that hunch to be quite accurate.  In announcing their new video company, Knickerbocker and Dahl were mum about what kinds of  businesses they might target as they develop a roster of new clients.

Banner’s focus on “creativity and efficiency”

But fear not, the Blackhawks will remain a key business partner of the Banner Collective, no matter how many new clients show up on the Banner roster. 

Knickerbocker in a brief comment about the launch of Banner did indicate the new company will focus on both “creativity and efficiency” as it starts to work with a broader range of businesses.

While Knickerbocker functions more as the business mind in the new scheme of things at Banner, it very well may be Dahl who winds up at the center of the new firm’s creative output. 

Dahl was the key hands-on producer of much of the internal video that he and Knickerbocker developed for the Blackhawks.  While working in-house at the Hawks, Dahl also picked up two local Emmys for writing.  So the guy has great visuals skills and a way with words. Nice combo.  Prior to joining the Hawks five years ago, Dahl also got some good experience on the west coast working for the big boys at NBC Universal.

So watch out. Banner is happening.   We feel confident in saying it’s gonna make the video production business an interesting arena to watch in Chicago in the months and years to come.

Contact Lewis Lazare at LewisL3@aol.com