Walk Of Fame Winners To Be Immortalized In Icon Museum

The Madison Avenue Advertising Walk of Fame is only in its fourth year, but winning the vote that determines which advertising icons and slogans are inducted each year has become a much-coveted--and much-campaigned-for--honor.

What's not to like? In addition to being celebrated by your peers at the announcement/induction ceremony and press conference during Advertising Week (being held at New York's Paley Center at 12:30 p.m. today), your icon/slogan and the name of the agency behind it are strung up on banners that will proudly hang on Madison Ave. between 42nd and 50th streets for years to come.

And if that's not enough, the icon winners will, it turns out, also be immortalized in the Advertising Icon Museum that's scheduled to open in Kansas City, Mo., in first-half 2009. Why Kansas City, you might well ask. The short answer: Robert A. Bernstein, founder of Kansas City-headquartered Bernstein-Rein Advertising, Inc., is building a massive complex that will house his three companies, a boutique hotel, restaurants, stores, an auditorium and the Advertising Icon Museum--his way of both giving back to the city and honoring the advertising industry, according to Howard Boasberg, the museum's executive director.



Through cooperation between the organizers of Advertising Week/the Walk of Fame awards and the museum, said museum will be the permanent home of the Walk. Winners who cooperate by donating 3D icons and accouterments (and who isn't going to cooperate?) will see their icons prominently displayed in a house-like setting taking up the first floor of the two-floor museum (think Charlie the Tuna in the kitchen, Speedy Alka-Seltzer in the medicine cabinet). The icons will also be cast in bronzed plaques and featured in various multimedia offerings (looping commercials featuring the icons, videos about what makes an icon an icon, etc.).

Oh, and did we mention the parade and whistle-stop tour? Yes, for the grand opening in April 2009, the museum will be throwing a bash in New York City, parading the icons (with accompaniment from the Blue Devils, winners of the 2007 Drum Core International Championship) from Central Park to Penn Station, and hopping on a rented Amtrak train for a tour, stopping in cities like Buffalo, Cleveland, Toledo and St. Louis, and ending back in Kansas City.

Actually, the museum won't be limited only to Walk of Fame winners, although they'll have their dedicated home area. Orville Redenbacher of Gourmet Popping Corn fame is one of 26 icons nominated for the Walk this year, and ConAgra Foods, while naturally hoping to win, plans to participate in the icon museum either way, according to Stan Jacot, vice president/marketing for the division's popcorn brands.

Meanwhile, ConAgra, like most of the marketers with brand nominees for the Walk, did a bit of campaigning while the worldwide voting was going on at a dedicated site on the Yahoo network from Aug. 28 until Tuesday. The company's outreach efforts to employees and consumers included, for example, featuring its nomination at Indiana's Popcorn Festival in September and urging event attendees to vote for Orville, reports Jacot.

ConAgra views the nomination as honoring Redenbacher's passionate, lifetime pursuit of the perfect popcorn--and is particularly pleased that Redenbacher is the only icon among the nominees based on a real person, and will definitely be thanking voters/nominators and getting the word out to consumers if Redenbacher wins, Jacot adds. (No mention of whether the digital Orville might play a role in this.)

Many other nominees also harnessed their creativity in lobbying for votes for their icons or slogans. Geico, whose gecko won in 2005 along with Juan Valdez, used the newswires to urge consumers to vote for the Geico Cavemen this year, for instance.

According to Matt Scheckner, executive director of Advertising Week, the Walk of Fame contest (which is open to "anyone on the planet" on a one-person, one-vote-only basis) drew combined votes of over 2 million in the first three years.

"That averages to about 700,000 a year, but we get surprised each year by certain nominees," he says. "For instance, last year, Juan Valdez alone drew over 250,000 votes." Scheckner didn't yet have a vote tally to report, but said that there was every reason to believe that the voting was easily as robust this year as in past years.

In addition to the 26 icons, the same number of slogans were nominated--ranging from The New York Times' "All the News That's Fit to Print" to Perdue's "It Takes a Tough Man to Make a Tender Chicken."

The Walk of Fame balloting was promoted by co-sponsor USA Today, as well as across the Yahoo network (Yahoo builds and maintains the Walk site).

The Walk of Fame is "unequivocally and emphatically a great showcase for brands," says Scheckner, adding that the program was designed to honor a combination of classic and contemporary icons and slogans. But while additional consumer exposure to brands is certainly a plus, it's enough to "make people in the business smile and feel good," he sums up.

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