Penis Play Gives Agencies Hard Ons

Chicago's "hawk," the freezing lake wind that rips through the city, has been accompanied by an equally brutal agency climate this winter.

Layoffs abound, with DDB icing 37 and Frankel 100 just this week.

Though the new biz environment seems as barren as an Arctic wasteland, all it takes is a quirky little account to give agencies the hots.

According to this report, the author of a local play currently in previews titled "Penis' Responses to the Vagina Muse," was "deluged with overtures from Chicago ad agencies" to do its campaign.

The winning agency raced to the playwright's apartment to snatch the account.

It'll probably be a good fit, considering the agency's name is Hardware.

Since Chicago is "The City That Works" not "The City That Jerks," the relevance of this piece of business to paying prospects is a stretch.

But it'll probably give award show judges a rise.

Kwasnick first tried to reach Ahrens by telephone, but her line was repeatedly busy, apparently because of calls from other agency executives anxious to pitch the playwright after news surfaced that one local agency had rejected Ahrens' business.

Anxious to make contact, nonetheless, Kwasnick hopped into a cab that same morning and directed the driver to head for Ahrens' Bucktown apartment. While en route, Kwasnick finally managed to reach her on the phone. Ahrens later admitted to being impressed by Hardware's pro-active stance.

"I was surprised that they were willing to make the effort to come to me," said Ahrens, who had in fact been deluged with overtures from Chicago ad agencies.

Ahrens and Kwasnick spent a couple of hours talking over the theater project and what Hardware could do for it at a Bucktown coffee house that same afternoon. Two days later, Ahrens called Kwasnick and gave him the account. Hardware has since given Ahrens and her co-producers the full-blown ad agency treatment.

Hardware developed a marketing strategy for the show and several print ad executions--one designed to run during previews and others ads intended to run from opening night onward, Kwasnick said.

This is the first foray into the topsy-turvy, extremely unpredictable world of live theater for both Kwasnick and Kawalec. But for the moment, both agency executives are enjoying their taste of show business and remain enthused about their new account. "It's like Halley's comet," Kwasnick said. "This kind of opportunity only comes along once every 100 years."

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