Ogilvy wrote scathing reviews of its own ads for amusing Chicago International Film Festival campaign

‘Critics Welcome,’ which includes a 3D ‘atrocity’ and a nod to Barbie, continues the agency’s string of lively work for the festival

Published On
Oct 16, 2023
The words "Critics Welcome" with a splatted tomato

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Ogilvy Chicago is out with its latest work for the Chicago International Film Festival—a client that’s become quite the creative showcase for the agency.

This year’s theme is “Critics Welcome,” which comes to life in a series of posters fashioned as film-critic reviews of the creative itself—amusingly unkind reviews, for the most part.

Here are the first two posters:

"Critics Welcome" poster by Ogilvy Chicago for the Chicago International Film Festival

"Critics Welcome" poster by Ogilvy Chicago for the Chicago International Film Festival

Gabe Usadel, executive design director at Ogilvy Chicago, told Ad Age that the topic of film criticism “has fantastic tension in it” and worked perfectly for Chicago, “which has a rich history of film criticism—not just Richard Roeper, but Siskel and Ebert, who created a standard for film criticism and brought a lot of credibility and intelligence to film-watching.

“It felt right to tap into that history and just how instrumental film critics are in shaping the medium and the industry. We rely on them for their fairness and objectivity … but when you can take that and do it with a little comedic lens, there’s a lot of fun with that.” 

Usadel said it was fun to ridicule one’s own creative—“and to be able to do it intelligently.” But he added that it obviously couldn’t just be advertising humor for advertising people.

“We were creating buckets for different types and tonality of criticism and trying to find a voice that would have broad appeal,” he said. “We wanted to make it entertaining for others too, not just ourselves. Though the creative process was thoroughly enjoyable and refreshing in itself.” 

"Critics Welcome" poster by Ogilvy Chicago for the Chicago International Film Festival

"Critics Welcome" poster by Ogilvy Chicago for the Chicago International Film Festival

In addition to the posters, there’s the trailer below, narrated by Brian Cox, who played Logan Roy on “Succession.”

“In the past we’ve had John Hamm and Rainn Wilson, some great VO talent,” Usadel said. “This one came through in a way that struck right on, and that brings a level of professionalism that we’re hoping attracts other Chicago talent to be part of this great tradition. A little goes a long way with that.” 


Usadel said his favorite posters include the 3D and QR-code executions below. 

“3D is a technique that’s so specific to film, and I am glad we were able to bring it into the mix,” he said. “I thought the QR codes wild postings were clever, as we not only feature QR code as primary feature, but also a QR code about the QR code in the interest of having fun with it.” 

"Critics Welcome" poster by Ogilvy Chicago for the Chicago International Film Festival

"Critics Welcome" poster by Ogilvy Chicago for the Chicago International Film Festival

Finally, there’s this faux-cynical “Barbie” reference:

"Critics Welcome" poster by Ogilvy Chicago for the Chicago International Film Festival

This is Ogilvy Chicago’s sixth year working with the CIFF, which is North America’s longest-running competitive film festival. Usadel said the goal every year is to create work that not only promotes the event, but rallies around it. 

“It’s a treasure, as are the venues that host it, the films that are played here, and the experience it offers for audiences,” he said. “Every year, it rekindles and captures the spirit and intent of theater-going, how you get to watch something not just alongside family and friends, but your entire community—strangers who you sit and experience laughter and horror and crying, sharing moments together. That’s something unique that a festival like this offers, and CIFF wants to encourage people not to lose that connection with is act of going to theater and being part of a local community.” 

The way in which the advertising engages the community also enhances that connection and further illuminates CIFF brand.

“In many ways that’s what driven us to create work that’s not just a one-and-done creative application, but that creates a conversation and dialogue and connection with festival patrons and theater fans—people who appreciate a little wit and intelligence in their advertising,” Usadel said. “And in Chicago, which is itself a vast network of neighborhoods, ethnicities, cultures—it’s a very worthwhile endeavor to support above and beyond being an advertisement, and instead also being an act of community.” 

“Critics Welcome” is running at bus stops, festival venues, wild postings and across social media. The more people who can see and access the campaign, the more we can pique their curiosity through creative, whether it’s a bus shelter or t-shirt or wild posting or banner ad, the more we can help raise the visibility and credibility of the festival. We’ve been fortunate for some of our CIFF campaigns to be award-winning work, but 

“In the end we are just trying to elevate the caliber of who we want to attract to the festival in ways that will increase membership, as well as teach, educate and inform about the film medium,” said Usadel. “There’s humanity in the exercise. The idea that it can’t be found, discovered, experienced in full only through phone or laptop. We want to make sure we keep theater chains and local venues well-supplied with new movie fans.” 


Oct 16, 2023
Client :
Chicago International Film Festival
Agency :
Managing Director :
Vivian Teng
Artistic Director :
Mimi Plauché
Board of Directors Executive Committee Member :
Mark Mitten
Creative Director :
Mark Bruker
Creative Director :
Michael Blocher
Group Creative Director :
Sakshi Choudhary
Group Creative Director :
Amy Gozalka
Deputy Global Creative Officer :
Joe Sciarrotta
Designer :
Sho Watanabe
Designer :
Jiayu Ren
Executive Design Director :
Gabe Usadel
Account Supervisor :
Leigh Uffelman
Senior Producer :
Mackenzi Schumann
Executive Producer :
Mike Diedrich
Senior Production Manager :
Joan Shelton
Studio Coordinator :
Hillary Horfsall
Digital Imaging Specialist :
Kurtis Chan
Production Artist :
Henry Purdey
Production Supervisor :
Mike Hannon
Studio Director :
Erwin Chamorro
Audio Engineer :
Joe Griffin
Associate :
Cece Xue
Strategist :
Krystal Evans
Strategist :
Fiona Sha
Strategy Director :
Carrie Sabourin
Senior Vice President :
AmySue Mertens
Senior Vice President :
Kappie Kopp
Global Senior Social Media Manager :
John Vetrano

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