Creative energy still garners awards for Highland Park resident
Dennis Abelson of Highland Park has added another award to his collection: The Icon Award for overall work on behalf of the pet industry from Pet Age magazine.
While the award is coveted in the pet industry, Abelson has been known to work on behalf of many well-known industries throughout his career in marketing and advertising.
The co-founder and chief creative officer of Chicago-based Matrix Partners in Chicago, Abelson also was a copywriter at Leo Burnett Advertising and other firms, where he collaborated on national advertising campaigns for Kellogg's, Proctor & Gamble, Oldsmobile, Heinz, Nestle, KFC and many others.
"I wanted to be on the front lines, where I was doing less planning and more doing in the creative process," said Abelson, 64.
Abelson, who was born on Chicago's South Side, moved with his family to Indiana and South Carolina before moving to Glencoe to attend high school.
He earned his bachelor's degree in liberal arts from Washington University and a masters in advertising from Northwestern University.
He started with Leo Burnett after college in the 1970s and loved dealing with radio and TV commercials, including the Heinz ketchup commercial that showed a slow moving ketchup coming out of the bottle to the Carly Simon song, "Anticipation."
He also collaborated on the Kellogg's Sugar Smacks cereal commercial and its lovable frog, Dig 'Em. Other notable commercials came along, including for Schlitz Beer, Peter Pan peanut butter and other products.
Over the years, he's been honored for several campaigns, including the Addy Merit Award, McGraw Hill Professional Recognition Award, Chicago Financial Advertisers Eagle Awards, PetSmart Packaging Award, and the EFFIE Gold Award.
"The challenges were just so extraordinary," Abelson said. "You had to perform every day, there was never any resting on your laurels."
Through the 1980s, he also worked for other advertising and marketing firms until he decided to freelance.
By 1987, he partnered with Don Tomala, now of Orland Park, and they formed their own advertising and research firm, Matrix Partners. While they started with a variety of clients, they soon specialized in the pet industry, including high-end food products and related pet companies.
"Creating marketing campaigns is like making free-form music in the sense that you have to be disciplined but comfortable playing with words and images," Abelson said. "Sometimes all it takes is one serendipitous idea to bring a lackluster brand to life."
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