In calendar years, that was 15 summers ago. In the blur of marketing time, it seems more like 30 seconds have passed.
Over the last decade and a half, we’ve had our share of late nights, major presentations and caffeinated creatives. We’ve also had our share of agency moves. I mention this detail because we’re about to pack it all up and move every last nugget of thought leadership to a brand new space.
As of August 31, our new location will be:
Jacobs & Clevenger
303 East Wacker Drive, Suite 2030
Chicago, IL 60601-5212
I also have to admit that this imminent move has made me a little nostalgic. With that in mind, I would like to share a few memorable moments from our last three locations.
The Sun-Times Building • 2000 to 2004
Inside the space
When I started at J&C, we were in the old Chicago Sun-Times Building. If that structure had an inferiority complex, it would have been understandable. After all, the Sun-Times Building was designed to look like a determined little barge on the Chicago River and it stood all of six stories high. Next to it stood the majestic Wrigley Building, soaring into the sky and lit up like a pearl at night. Perhaps that’s why the poor old Sun-Times was dubbed “the ugliest building in Chicago.” But I believe that was an ignorant comment. I’m certain the statement was uttered by someone who never stepped inside.
Our views were spectacular. From Lake Michigan to the east all the way down to the river bend to the west, we had the best panorama in the city. No wonder Donald Trump paid a fortune to buy the space for his Chicago hotel.
I’ll never forget seeing the massive Sun-Times printing presses in action as the next day’s editions were run. Those behemoths literally shook the Earth and rattled the windows. If you looked very closely, you could even spy the men behind the machines. The catwalks were crawling with ink-stained press operators wearing fresh newspaper hats. And here’s a guilty confession: It was such a cinematic scene that I was always tempted to run in and yell, “Stop the presses!” But it would have been a waste of breath; they never would have heard me over the din.
Three Illinois Center • 2004 to 2009
Inside the space
After we left the Sun-Times Building, we moved east into the Illinois Center. When the Illinois Center complex was originally built, it was designed to be a sort of “city within a city.” The idea was that an underground pedway would connect tenants to anything they needed, from spicy Indian cuisine and gentle dentistry to pristine drug stores and trendy health clubs. In theory, one would never have to step outside.
That certainly seemed like a great plan during Chicago’s prehistoric winters. But in practice, the pedway offered a different experience. If you spend enough time down there underground, your eyes will become light-sensitive and you’ll start calling the sun “that nasty, burning orb.” It’s a weird condition that can only be described as Moleman’s Syndrome.
One hot July night back in the Illinois Center, we had a client call scheduled for 9 p.m. Unfortunately, that was the only time our client was available so we were determined to make it work. But a few moments into the call, things went a little haywire. Just outside the building, there was a series of massive explosions and bursts of blinding light. Was it an alien invasion? Was a CTA bus on fire? Or were the molepeople escaping the pedway?
Then the truth became apparent. It was summer. We were just west of Navy Pier. And every Wednesday night at 9 p.m., a massive fireworks show would begin. To be honest, I can’t remember all of the details from that ill-fated client call. But I can still see those spectacular skyrockets.
The AMA Building • 2009 to 2015
Inside the space
When I would tell people my marketing agency was in the AMA Building, they could never quite place our location. Then I mentioned “the hole,” and they knew immediately where it was. In a clever quirk of modern architecture, the building was designed with a four-story square hole in it.
This iconic hole helped define the AMA building against Chicago’s skyline. But for me, it only led to strange dreams. I had this recurring nightmare that Godzilla emerged from the lake and headed straight for the AMA building. Then he picked up our building like a massive cup of coffee. In retrospect, I suppose those dreams were not so far-fetched after all. The Tribune Tower is all sharp pinnacles and flying buttresses. The John Hancock Center is impossible to grip. So why wouldn’t Godzilla go straight for the only structure with a handle?
Shortly after we moved into the AMA Building, we installed an audio studio in the agency. It was a smart move because we have used that studio quite often for our clients. But on one memorable evening, we couldn’t get a session finished. I was the voice talent and my audio engineer was busily manning the soundboard. But every time we started recording, an ominous background noise would rudely interrupt us. It sounded like a combination rattlesnake and metal foundry. Very strange.
We checked the microphone, rebooted the system and even dimmed the lights, but nothing worked. Where was that metallic rattling coming from? Finally, we stepped out of the studio to see the mother of all storms rolling by overhead. The entire AMA Building was shimmying like a Jell-O mold. So the building was the noisemaker. We quickly ducked backed into the studio and waited it out. We’ve had many more recording sessions since then and, fortunately, no more superstorms.
What adventures will our new space hold? I can’t wait to find out. In the meantime, I hope you’ve enjoyed these memorable moments from J&C.