Late today, JWT announced that it's Chicago office was ceasing operation and would be soon closing their doors. The shocking news, published in AdAge and The Chicago Tribune, notes that JWT had been a landmark Chicago agency since 1891 (prior to the World's Fair), and was once heralded as the world's largest agency network. Breaking the news to the remaining Chicago employees during a meeting, JWT's North America President, Rosemarie Ryan, stated that keeping the office open was "Not an affordable proposition."
JWT's Chicago office was the creative juice behind innovative campaigns that transcended advertising to play a part in American culture. Most of us have had the Oscar Mayer tune, "My bologna has a first name," stuck in our heads. JWT also masterminded "Snap, Crackle, and Pop" for Rice Krispies, as well as branding 7UP as the "Uncola."
During their 118 years of operation, many famous names walked the halls of JWT Chicago and have moved on to start new agencies, or are in key roles at competing shops. The demise of the Chicago office was as sudden as it was surpising, not only shocking the Windy City, but the industry as well. Former employees, adversaries, and well-wishers have left messages of sadness, anger, and condolence on both the AdAge and Tribune websites since the story broke. There is a small possibility that JWT will leave a satellite office in Chicago if the Illinois Tourism account, currently up for review, is retained. Today's bleak news, however, will surely have a negative impact on this effort.