Chicago Marketing, Advertising and Design Spotlight

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Inside Chicago’s Marketing, Advertising, and Design Scene

Chicago Marketing: Inspiring Great Brands and Agencies

Chicago and the marketing and advertising industry grew up together from the ashes of the Great Fire. In fact, Chicago can be credited with many firsts in the industry from nurturing the father of modern advertising, Albert Lasker, to bringing world renown to brands like Palmolive, Morton Salt, Kellog’s, and United Airlines.

Chicago is also the birthplace of advertising icons like the Pillsbury Doughboy, Tony the Tiger, Green Giant, The Keebler Elves, StarKist’s Morris the Cat, and the Marlboro Man to name a few.

While Chicago’s marketing industry has continued to evolve, I think you will find many who stand very strongly behind some of the tenets that were born here and blossomed in the city. From understanding the customer and a focus on great copywriting to using branding and design to reach those consumers, Chicago’s brands and the city’s agencies continue to redefine their categories.


Chicago today

Thirty three Illinois companies made the Fortune 500 in 2016 including Deere, State Farm, Caterpillar, AllState. Top corporations that call Chicago home include McDonalds, Kraft, Navistar, Boeing, Walgreens, United Continental, Sears Holdings, Mondelez, Abbott Labs, R.R. Donnelley & Sons, Discover, and Jones Lang LaSalle.

Chicago has a rich arts and music scene with 200 theaters, around 200 art galleries, and was one of the oldest municipalities to require public art as part of municipal buildings. Today, it’s restaurant and foodie scene continues grow and global recognition. With 7,300 restaurants, there’s no shortage of places to dine.

That’s a good thing, because although the city has 2.6 million residents, it is home to more than 40 million visitors each year from tourists to business guests. Chicago brings many people together from sports to music to hosting many business exhibitions across industries at McCormick Place, the largest exhibition space in North America.

Cubs win

Source: Ron Cogswell

Chicago is a city full of inspiration, diversity, and innovation. It sits at the heart of the United States and is still central to marketing and advertising in the US and for many global brands around the world.


Chicago’s rich marketing heritage is the birthplace of modern advertising

Below, you will find a glimpse of Chicago’s marketing past. I hope our stories and coverage of the Chicago’s marketing and design scene above will give you a glimpse of the city today.

  • 1881 is known as the birth of advertising in Chicago with the launch of Lord & Thomas. The company’s eventual leader, Albert Lasker, was hired at age 18, for a three-month trial period at a salary of $10 a week. Mr. Lasker, known as the father of modern advertising, later created a copywriting technique to appeal to consumer psychology and turned advertising into a creative field. In 1943, Lasker gave the agency to three managers and changed the name to Foote, Cone & Belding, now known as FCB
  • Advertising cereal kicks off in 1906 when W.K. Kellogg places his first ad for Corn Flakes in six Midwestern newspapers.
  • cornflakes-first-advertisment

    Source: Getty Images

  • In 1911, Milwaukee-based B.J. Johnson Soap Co. hires Lord & Thomas to promote Palmolive. Within several years, Palmolive becomes the best-selling soap in the world.
  • palmolive-first-advertisment

    Source: Getty Images

  • Industry publication Advertising Age was born in 1930, launched by Crain Communications.
  • In 1935 Leo Burnett comes to town. Leo Burnett, a 44-year-old Michigan native, sells his house and borrows against his life insurance to found Leo Burnett Co. in the middle of the Great Depression.
  • 1955 brings the Marolboro Man. Burnett’s Marlboro Man campaign was created to erase the cigarette’s reputation as a women’s favorite. The campaign goes national and becomes key to the brand’s significant sales increase through the second half of the decade.
  • In 1965, the Pillsbury Doughboy and the ‘Friendly Skies’ are both introduced by Burnett. United Airlines hired Burnett over a cadre of New York-based competitors. Both the relationship and the “Fly the friendly skies” slogan last for 31 years.
  • The Chicago office of New York-based J. Walter Thompson introduces the “Uncola” tag line for 7-Up in 1969.
  • Agency network, Omnicom is born in 1986 through the merger of Needham Harper Worldwide, BBDO International and Doyle Dane Bernbach.
  • In 1991, Chicago’s Bayer Bess Vanderwarker creates Gatorade’s “Be Like Mike” campaign. BBV was absorbed by FCB in the late 90s.

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Feature photo credit: Roman Boed