Chicago wind of opportunity for UK agencies

By Emily Roden, Vice Consul - Technology, Creative & Digital Media, UKTI

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Above: UK agency Omobono celebrates its Chicago opening on the company's website.


In a city known internationally for its deep-dish pizza and jazz scene, UK creative companies are setting up shop and making a name for themselves.

Chicago, located along the shores of Lake Michigan, is the third most populous city in the United States.

The city, however, is as influential as it is large, with an extensive list of Fortune 500 companies headquartered in the Chicagoland area. This includes Boeing, Kraft, McDonald’s, United Airlines, Exelon which are just few of the companies that make up Illinois’ 34 Fortune 500 headquarters, the fourth most of any state in the US.

With so many of the world’s largest corporations, it is not surprising that Chicago’s advertising and communications industry is thriving, and has been for years. In fact, legendary agency, Leo Burnett was founded in Chicago in 1935, and since then has created iconic advertising characters including Tony the Tiger and the Jolly Green Giant.

Beyond Leo Burnett, Chicago’s advertising and communications cluster also includes offices for Ogilvy & Mather, Facebook, Arc Worldwide, McGarry Bowen, FCB Chicago, Havas Worldwide, Edelman, Google, Kelly Scott Madison, and Starcom MediaVest Group, to name a few.

Altogether, the industry employs over 20,000 people in the Chicago economic area, and there are a growing number of UK companies adding to this figure

One such example is Omobono, a digital agency for business brands. Omobono is one of a growing group of UK creative companies opening offices in Chicago.

When asked to share what has been surprising, since opening the company’s Chicago office in January 2015, Managing Director, Tom Kelly noted that, “the client-facing side of business (account management, strategists etc.) are of a very high standard over here,” but believes UK design talent is distinctly different and arguably better than what you would find locally, giving UK agencies a potential leg up on the market

"While there are many factors to consider when setting up in the US or any international market, Kelly recommends agencies to “go where the business is. Think about where the big hubs are - where the majority of your clients’ offices are - and start there. Then start to think about the costs of business in each of those cities. The likes of San Francisco and New York are more expensive than Chicago, [which] was a major consideration for [Omobono].”

EngageSciences, an Oxfordshire-headquartered company that provides a platform for brands and agencies to engage, understand and convert their audiences, has also created a presence in Chicago.

When asked why the company decided to have representation in Chicago, Francesca Heath, Director of Corporate Communications, responded, “Having a presence in Chicago is mainly down to the fact that Chicago, and the surrounding central region has a plethora of likely candidate clients in our target industries.

“These industries where we've enjoyed success include companies representing retail, consumer packaged goods, media, sports teams, and travel. Chicago is also the home to a list of significant digital agencies and is also a hub for digital marketing.”

Much like Omobono, EngageSciences has found strong demand for their services, with Heath noting “it has been great to work with [marketers] to provide a flexible platform, helping to create beautiful digital marketing experiences quickly.”

Beyond business opportunities and affordable office space, Chicago offers strong connectivity to the rest of the US and abroad, as home to O’Hare International Airport, which had more arrivals and departures in 2014 than any other US airport.

Chicago is also centrally located within the USA and North America, allowing for direct flights to nearly any major US city.

If you are interested in learning more about Chicago or the greater Midwestern market, please do not hesitate to email me.