I Know, Let's Put on a Show! Call it Advertising Week!

Now that its inaugural Advertising Week has been announced for September 20- 24, 2004, the hard part begins for The American Association of Advertising Agencies.

Undoubtedly inspired by Fashion Week, which has the insuperable advantage of parading the world's best-looking women down runways in outfits worn generally behind closed doors by consenting adults (or on stage by prepubescent pop singers), the ad biz will be hard pressed to come up with programming and events that won't pale by comparison - or worse yet, look entirely self-serving.

The good news is that media sellers will fall all over themselves to help pay for whatever the agency community comes up with, hoping to curry enough favor to land an extra page, spot, rich media ad, or a speaker slot at the next ANA meeting. Following in the rich tradition of New York street fairs, I can envision the Conde Nast cosmetic makeover pavilion; the ESPN basketball foul- shooting booth; The New York Times "Buy Today's Paper for $1" booth; The Gruner + Jahr "Guess Our Circulation and Win a Date With Rosie" booth; and American Media's "Buy a Ticket and Help Us Offset Bonnie's Salary" booth. The recording industry will hand out "We Don't Care If It's Okay In Canada, We'll Still Sue Your Ass Off" tee-shirts, Time Warner will give away stock options priced at $28 a share, and FOX will sponsor a "Kiss Paris Hilton" booth, but by then no one will remember who she was.



So far, the most amusing event announced is the dedication of a Madison Avenue "Advertising Walk of Fame" that will forever embed ad icons like Tony the Tiger, the Energizer Bunny, and the Jolly Green Giant and their idiomatic slogans into the cement on a stretch of Madison Avenue sidewalk.

Never mind that there are hardly any ad agencies left on Madison Avenue.

According to (among the top 10 most popular travel sites on the Web, according to comScore), Madison Avenue is a "Street famous for its fabulous (and pricey) stores and boutiques." Not a word about advertising. Perhaps more telling is that since the site launched in February 2000, they are still waiting for someone (anyone!) to visit Madison Avenue and "Be the first to write a user review and tell others about your experience!"

Since everyone in New York already knows just how very hard the ad industry works, much of what is planned must be for tourists. "Okay kids, we have just enough time to stand in the freezing cold outside the Today Show studio, visit the Empire State Building, see a Broadway show, watch the Knicks lose, or read ads slogans in a sidewalk that your grandpa remembers but won't mean much to you. What do you mean you never heard of "The skin you love to touch?"; "Does she . . . or doesn't she? Only her hairdresser knows for sure?"; "When you care enough to send the very best?"; "The beer that made Milwaukee famous?"; "It's the real thing?"; or "Look Ma, no cavities?" Where have you been all your lives?

The planned Advertising Hall of Fame is sure to produce long lines to see Bill Bernbach's first typewriter, Leo Burnett's early copy drafts, David Ogilvy's red pencil, John Wanamaker's bible, or the court papers served by the Saatchi board of directors to oust Maurice and Charles. Take a load off and watch a few loops of famous old TV commercials for brands people born after 1960 probably won't remember, like Carter's Little Liver Pills, Viceroy, Braniff Airways, Lucky Strike, and Oldsmobile.

Someone will hand out "Advertising Awards for Excellence" because if they don't, the industry has a history of just scooping up their own and making for the nearest exit.

What would Advertising Week be without a few seminars and panel discussions? Among the topics to be discussed: "How to Get Back To The 15% Commission Level;" "Protecting Ad Agencies From Excessive And Inconsistent State Sales Tax Audits;" and "Preserving The Full Deductibility of Advertising As An Ordinary And Necessary Business Expense." Seats will be filled on a first- come-first-served basis starting with administrative assistants, junior media planners, network Presidents, Group Publishers, and Search Consultants.

To maximize impressions during the weeklong festival of self-indulgence, media companies have grand plans of their own. Yahoo! has leased the rights to every light bulb and neon tube in Times Square, where it plans to run clickthrough data on the news-crawl at One Times Square. Rival Microsoft's MSN acquired the rights to the ticker on the Conde Nast building and will run a continuous stream of blue-window-of-death system-crash warnings. CNN plans a swimsuit fashion show featuring all of its 102 blonde, blue-eyed newsreaders and reporters. Hachette will hand deliver to every agency French fries, French toast, French bread, and Evian in patriotic red, white and blue canvas bags. All week, every AOL employee will wear label buttons that read, "We're Sorry, Give Us Another Chance."

If you can't get tickets to sold out events, call the media reps - like always.

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