CHICAGO—Recently divorced Saatchi & Saatchi branding executive Brad Stritch, 38, has already generated considerable buzz in the Chicago singles community about his return to the highly competitive world of dating, friends and coworkers told the press Monday.
"It's incredible how much people are already talking about him," said Jack Guyer, one of Stritch's colleagues. "Everyone's discussing who he'll date first and when he's going to do it. If he can sustain this level of interest for another month, he's going to be like a kid in a candy factory when he finally gets out there again."
Stritch, married to Deborah Bauer-Stritch from June 2001 to December 2003, officially announced his divorce in April 2004. Initially, he positioned himself as a newly single man too consumed with pain to even consider dating.
"Stritch made all the right moves, that's for sure," Guyer said. "Instead of talking a lot about his divorce, which carries the risk of becoming annoying, he only mentioned it to a small number of people in key locations like the office, the gym, his after-work bar, and the coffee shop where that one hottie works. By revealing his 'secret' to a few fashion-forward people and allowing them do the legwork, he created a textbook viral-marketing campaign."
"This is probably his best work since Red Bull cocktails," Guyer added.
Friends and coworkers said Stritch has redesigned his packaging in recent weeks, ostensibly to increase his desirability among the single, 18-to-30 female demographic.
"He's been taking care of himself like he used to before he met Deborah," said Sandi Lillenstein, who had a short affair with Stritch three years ago. "While he was married, he let himself go a bit. But lately he's been hitting the gym hard, and he's gotten some great new outfits. It's not so much a re-working of his image as a throwback to the classic Stritch that we all used to know."
"I wonder if he'll be looking for a down-to-earth woman like his wife again, or if he'll go for something wilder," Lillenstein added.
Last week, when interest in his divorce began to die down slightly, Stritch strategically leaked information about his "emotional devastation" to his personal assistant, Cindy Solomon.
"That was a risky maneuver that could have easily backfired," Guyer said. "Telling Cindy how painful the divorce was and how much he has learned about himself gives him a stronger experience quotient, but overselling that message could've made him look pathetic. The brilliant part was that he told Cindy to keep it quiet because he didn't want everyone to know."
Guyer said that, in response to this latest market drop, he's already overheard three women gushing about Stritch's sensitivity.
"It's working beautifully," Guyer said. "Damn, if I could've created a solid support base like that when I was doing that Wrigley's Gum project, I'd be vice-president now."
At a recent roundtable that Stritch conducted with his male friends at the Horse Head Bar And Grill, the group reviewed possible plans for the final stage of the whisper campaign. Although he had originally hoped for a July release into the dating world, friends helped Stritch decide to wait until Aug. 15, to "let the buzz increase."
"You don't want to go off before things are ready to pop," Stritch's friend Larry Ennis said at the meeting. "Although it's tempting to go out early, you have to have the patience to treat this re-launch carefully. I have faith that politely refusing the women who ask you out for a drink with the excuse that you're 'not ready yet' will brand you as mature, not just the same old pussy-hound wrapped in a new box."
Ennis said Stritch plans to conduct house-to-house marketing to bring interest in the new image to a "fever pitch."
"Brad believes placing stickers with the phrase 'Who is Brad?' in unusual locations throughout the city will be just the thing to keep people talking," Ennis said. "Also, he's planning a 'Who Says All The Good Men Are Taken?' theme party. He's trying to get it sponsored by Bacardi Silver, but they want him to hand out their T-shirts. He'd prefer the focus to be on him and his availability to attractive women, not a premium malt beverage."