Chicago International Television Festival History
When the Chicago International Film Festival was founded in 1964 by Artistic Director Michael Kutza, advertising agency heads Leo Burnett, Fairfax Cone and Dick Needham suggested that, with budgets and craftsmanship equal to the feature films being screened, the Festival should showcase the art of the television commercials and productions. The annual Television Awards were born.
Throughout the years, some of the most innovative commercial creators have been honored at the Television Awards. The festival held a special presentation of Alan Parker’s phenomenal commercial work before he went on to his illustrious career in feature filmmaking. Legendary commercial director Joe Sedelmaier and his iconic “Where’s the Beef” spot for Wendy’s, was also honored, and many of the greatest film directors who started in television advertising – Ridley Scott and Federico Fellini – won awards in our television competition.
The ties between the Television Awards and the Film Festival go beyond just directors. The Heinz “The Big Production” commercial featuring Ann Miller (directed by Stan Freberg) won an award in the competition, and was later presented in the Film Festival’s tribute to Ms. Miller in 1977.
Another constant in the Television Awards’ history of recognizing great commercials is the WTTW11 Audience Choice Award. For 50 years, WTTW11 has presented a half-hour program of commercials from around the world for Chicago viewers to vote for their favorite, at first over the phone and now online.
Five decades on, the simple idea of honoring the art of the television commercial has evolved into an international celebration of the best in television, and encompasses television commercials, productions, series, and the innovative realm of online television programming. Originally a special event during the annual Chicago International Film Festival, in 2003 the event expanded into a separate ceremony in the Spring and in 2017, the Chicago International Television Festival launches a new era with a new name, poised to continue a strong history of recognizing achievement on the small screen.