Lightfoot unveils campaign to welcome air travelers

Neither the mayor nor World Business Chicago CEO Michael Fassnacht mentioned the much-ridiculed “Chicago Not in Chicago” campaign, but they didn’t have to. It was the elephant in Terminal 2.

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Shark-free beaches are just one of the things arriving air travelers are urged to check out while they are in Chicago, under a new ad campaign at both Midway and O’Hare airports.

Shark-free beaches are just one of the things arriving air travelers are urged to check out while they are in Chicago, under a new ad campaign at both Midway and O’Hare airports.


Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s most recent effort to market Chicago was roundly ridiculed as a dud worthy of a refund — if only the advertising giant that created “Chicago Not in Chicago” hadn’t devised the confusing slogan pro bono.

On Monday, Lightfoot unveiled a campaign to “welcome back” tourists and business travelers returning to O’Hare and Midway Airport in droves and encourage them to experience Chicago’s strengths: “26 public beaches and no sharks”; hundreds of public parks; iconic museums; and the “world-renowned” Chicago hot dog sold at countless stands.

The new campaign will be featured on TV monitors, screens and banners throughout O’Hare and Midway airports under a more straightforward slogan: “What We’re Made Of.”

It was devised by advertising giant FCB Chicago, where World Business Chicago CEO and chief marketing officer Michael Fassnacht once served as CEO and president.

Neither Fassnacht nor Lightfoot mentioned the “Chicago Not in Chicago” debacle devised by EnergyBBDO. The idea behind that campaign was to remind people that no matter where you live — New York, London, Tokyo, Berlin or Sao Paulo — that you are impacted by what was created and perfected in Chicago.

But they didn’t have to. It was the elephant in Terminal 2.

“What we’re made of. It is the right tag line for our beautiful, diverse and unique Chicago. A city of stories. A city of experiences that simply cannot be found any place else on the planet. We’re claiming and redefining our narrative here,” Lightfoot told reporters.

“One of the driving ideas behind this campaign is to show visitors that Chicago is so much more than what they may have heard, imagined and beyond our downtown. So yes, when visitors travel here, they absolutely should go to Navy Pier, our great destination. They should see the Bean, Millennium Park, the breathtaking skydecks at Willis Tower and the Hancock Building. But they should also want to experience what makes all of our 77 neighborhoods great — from food and museums to beaches and parks.”

Fassnacht has defended “Chicago Not in Chicago” as a “smart and cheeky guerrilla marketing campaign” devised to “challenge one’s perception of Chicago and highlight aspects related to the city that many, especially our younger generations, aren’t aware of.”

Meanwhile, he argued, the new and “eye-catching” airport campaign gives arriving O’Hare and Midway passengers — visitors and residents alike — “the feeling of how great our city is.”

“They might tell themselves, ‘I have to check this out and I have to spend some money there,’” Fassnacht said.

Phase One features the lakefront (“26 Public Beaches ... And no sharks”). Phase Two will highlight neighborhood arts and culture and Chicago’s 7,000 restaurants.

Phase Three remains wide open. Fassnacht encouraged Chicagoans who “feel very passionate about what we should highlight” to use social media to “give us your ideas” well before the planned August launch.

During Monday’s news conference, Lightfoot and Aviation Commissioner Jamie Rhee also touted the installation of 70 of the 91 new vending machines planned for O’Hare.

The 24-hour machines sell everything from over-the-counter drugs, electronics and healthy food choices like freshly-cut fruit and hummus to diapers, sippy cups, wipes and Legos for parents traveling with babies, cranky toddlers and bored older kids.

And for those prone to travel-related blood clots, 10 foot massage machines are being installed.

Lightfoot said there is no better time than now to offer an array of “touchless,” 24-hour vending machine choices, because “Chicago is back.”

In December, passenger traffic surged 124% at O’Hare and nearly 57% at Midway over the same period the year before. O’Hare also “leads the nation in total trade value for January, 2022” with $27.2 billion in goods “moving through this airport alone.”

Lightfoot noted an “incredible resurgence” in leisure travel, but added: “Businesses, you need to get back to traveling. We welcome you. We will treat you like kings and queens. But come on back. Send your folks on the road. Because business travel obviously needs to also come back at the same pace that we’re seeing leisure travel come back.”

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