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Chicago family firm at center of TV ad controversy

Walter E. Smithe Furniture + Design, a Chicago family business known for its clever television commercials, is at the center of a controversy involving local TV news reporters' and anchors' participation in an ad paying tribute to outgoing Mayor Richard M. Daley.

Time Out Chicago blogger Robert Feder wrote:

... Walter E. Smithe is, by any measure, a major advertiser on Chicago television. The company has spent millions of dollars over the years marketing its brand and cleverly transforming owners/brothers Walter, Tim and Mark Smithe into local media icons. There's nothing wrong with that.
But make no mistake: While Daley may be the subject of these particular spots, Walter E. Smithe is the beneficiary....
Beyond that, the notion of journalists gushing about how much they'll miss Daley is just plain wrong. Expressing respect, I suppose, is one thing. But publicly heaping praise on a politician and professing gratitude to the guy? What part of "unbiased reporting" don't they understand?

Chicago Tribune business blogger Phil Rosenthal noted that some of the news reporters and anchors requested that they be cut from the ads. Many of the tributes, Rosenthal wrote, were recorded at an April 14 party in Daley's honor hosted by Smithe, the Melman family of Lettuce Entertain You restaurants and the Elysian ads. Rosenthal wrote:

Some who appeared in the ad insisted they did not know the clips would be made public, let alone part of a Smithe ad. But that in no way mitigated the cringe-inducing fawning over Daley.

(Sources: Time Out Chicago, May 9, 2011; Chicago Tribune, May 10, 2011.)

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