2010 Ad Council Public Service Award Dinner, The Waldorf Astoria
November 17, 2010
Last night I covered one of my absolute favorite events. It's the night the advertising world puts on their adult (not in a naked way) prom finery and gets schnockered. I'm talking about the Ad Council Public Service Awards Dinner: the night advertising agencies are honored for their clever, moving, chortle- and tear-jerking UNPAID work "to help people you don't even know," according to Peggy Conlon, President and CEO of The Advertising Council.
Let's get the shallow, lame griping out of the way first. Because believe me, I know how it sounds, getting all cantankerous about anything at an event for something meaningful. But seriously, I achieved new levels of thigh-burning nose-bleeding last night. Which is actually a great sign, it means that attendance (and money raised) was at an all-time high, so much so that my old nosebleed seating was taken up by actual contributors, thus shooting me up to almost on top of the Waldorf Grand Ballroom chandelier. This is not prime seating, not that I stay seated anyway, but the four flights of stairs I'd have to run up and down snuffed out my sprinting photog candle a bit. Also, I don't know, maybe the Waldorf kitchen hierarchy can instruct the waitstaff not to be so damn crotchety. Maybe our nosebleed section gave the impression we were so low-class we wouldn't notice being treated so rudely.
Glad we got that out of the way, because the rest of the night was fantastic. Jimmy Fallon and Brian Williams should do two things: take their show on the road, and a adopt me. Fallon opened up the night by announcing he had penned a song in tribute to the stupid BP Gulf oil spill. His inspiration? The tarballs that would wash up on the beach. The chorus? "Balls in your mouth " - don't go on the beach because you'll get balls in your mouth. Fallon got at least half of the room to sing the chorus in unison. I actually felt the heart rates of the first row of tables sky-rocket when he leapt into the crowd, looking for a single voice to accompany his acoustic guitar in the chorus. NO. ONE. DID. IT.
What the what?! Come on, advertising folks! You're looser than that!
I have always loved newsmen, I think it started with Lou Maglio when I lived in Mantua, Ohio. He shared my heart with Peter Jennings (and of course my weatherman love of Dick Goddard), and then, upon arrival in this great city, I transferred my admiration to NY1's Pat Kiernan and of course, Brian Williams. Brian Williams gives me bad news in a way that makes me feel like it hurts him to say it. He has also been hosting the Ad Council Public Service Awards for four years (three of which I've now covered), and he arrives immediately after taping NBC Nightly News. He exudes a genuine respect for the good work the Ad Council does and calls Peggy Conlon a friend; the tone of his voice when speaking of her is one layered with experience and respect.
More highlights of my night:
"I love me some Jimmy" - Brian Williams, speaking very highly of Jimmy Fallon, basically saying he will slay you with his humor and is one of the greatest, funniest human beings on TV and in life.
"You would have to taser him to keep him from coming" -- Tim Armstrong, Ad Council and Dinner Chairman (and, you know, Chairman and CEO of AOL) letting you know how to keep Brian Williams away from the dinner.
"I call that 'The Failed Merger Slide'" - Tim Armstrong, describing the platinum sponsor recognition slide of AOL, Yahoo, and Time Warner.
*cough* *sip of water* "Sorry, 'bout that, had some balls stuck in my throat." - Andrew Robertson, Ad Council Vice Chairman, and Chairman and CEO, BBDO Worldwide. He should have gotten uproarious laughter for being such a good sport, but the poor guy was only rewarded with a few titters. He introduced the reel thanking participating agencies, harnessing the trippiness of Passion Pit and the iconic imagery of New York City, from the brown Bloomingdale's bag to the cardboard square of an NYC pizza box. I love reels. Sizzling.
The Ad Council dinner raised a whopping $2.8 million, a record effort, and you can laugh with and tear up along with their incredible work to combat poverty, hunger, ignorance and more on their site.
I ran into some very dapper people last night as well. People like Belle Lenz, Director, Corporate Communications at MPG, and Bonnie Barest, EVP at MPG. I also met Jeff Wilson, who does Marketing Comms stuff for GE Capital. He was invited to attend by someone from the Wall Street Journal. Hannah Volkman, ad sales, Huffington Post, and Chris Paul of Digitas were also enjoying the purple lighting bestowed upon the cocktail reception by Yahoo. I kind of met Ben Palmer, Founder of Barbarian Group. He wouldn't actually reply to my questions; the woman he was with at the time, Kristin Kovner, Director of Marketing at AOL, answered for him. Only slightly awkward.
If I even need to know how great Microsoft Search is, I need to look no further than Lauren Huffnal and Michael Elmgreen, Microsoft US Search Evangelists. I ran into AOL's Scott Kelliher, a blast from my Beastie Boys past. He was with Rena Shapiro, also of AOL. I met Abby Cooper of Mediavest; Deborah Leiter of The Ad Council; Janice Snook of Janice & Associates; Rupal Parekh, who writes for Ad Age; Ali Dyer, Social Media Coordinator for Autism Speaks; Melissa given of Autism Speaks; Tracie Rodburg amd Doug Paoletti from the NFL; Andrea Moravito of Broadcasting & Cable magazine; and saw DMNews.com's Kevin McKeefery, whom I'd previously met on a boat.
Thank you to everyone involved with The Ad Council for creating PSAs that educate, inform, and demystify. Still one of my favorite events. The food wasn't bad, either.