Chrisisms: Ad campaign has Rockford fired up

By Chris Wachowiak

I’m taking this week away from my 20 20-somethings because, honestly, I got sidetracked with a local ad campaign — one that seems to have taken too much of my attention.

I’m sure by now you have seen an ad campaign, titled “Misery Loves Company,” about our community by city marketing arm Rockford Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (RACVB). I was personally caught off guard with such a style and approach. I was also surprised when they launched the first “Hide Out in Rockford” video, because it was so clever and well executed.

The RACVB has created a campaign that has raised a lot of emotion with their wording/phrasing. I personally have received a number of phone calls about this campaign, and as my wife would say, I’ve wasted even more time trying to figure this campaign out and where I stand — along with how some of us were used in these ads with no one ever asking us.

Now, I must stress that I am a big fan of taking chances, making mistakes, making adjustments and pushing forward in search of successes. I’ve also been guilty of not asking permission, but to beg for forgiveness. I also believe in pushing buttons at times to create certain passions and emotions. I believe people need to be held accountable and rewarded. I have personally made some edgy ad campaigns and pushed some limits of decency … but then again, that’s my personality. One of my favorite quotes is “make sure the juice is worth the squeeze.”

A good marketing campaign can have multiple agendas, or it can have one agenda. I believe John Groh of the RACVB had best intentions to showcase the beauty of our city. As John told me, he is sick and tired of Rockford being down on itself and too often hearing some outside source saying we are on this list or that list for something less than stellar. He believes our community has many gems and those gems need to be highlighted. It is from our latest publication ranking that he and ad firm GrahamSpencer pulled the trigger on a attempted “tongue-in-cheek,” locally-aimed campaign.

Now, my question is only this: “Did this ad campaign fire up Rockfordians?” I would say most certainly. I’ve seen Facebook campaigns to stop this branding campaign and I’ve seen another campaign to stop that campaign. A dialog has been started. In that dialog, a success has been found. Many posts have been made pro and con. A bunch of “mock ads” have been created and deleted. News stories have been written and interviews are being done almost a week later.

We, as Rockfordians (and as a mass generalization), are guilty of being down on ourselves too often. We almost have a poor view of ourselves and our self worth at sometimes. Yet, we will also say, “Rockford’s not so bad, we have (fill in the blank).”

If this recent campaign has accomplished anything, it has stirred a pot of emotions. But the question I will leave with you now is one that echoes from last week’s article: “What do you want Rockford to be, and what are YOU doing today to make it so?”

I’m not looking for company in this article or in others. I’m looking for individuals to be that change they want to see in the world they live in. Next week, I’ll return with a 20-something who’s doing just that, and I hope to shine a little light on those “doing” in our passionate community.

Chris Wachowiak is owner of Kryptonite Bar, 308 W. State St., No. 110, Rockford. Read his blog at Do you know a 20-something who is doing something unique and should be recognized? E-mail Chris at and tell him who, why and how to contact them.

From the March 13-19, 2013, issue

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