"To get these guys to understand our point of view," says co-chair Cathy St. Jean, "you have to include them and create a dialog and talk their language in a comfortable setting".
Sounds unproblematic, and it was - if it hadn't been for the fact that Maxim, the UK-bred lads' magazine, was the event's sponsor this year, drawing gasps of incredulity from some industry observers. "The thought behind it was, if you're going to affect real change, you have to have some people who have been accused of being offenders in this area," explains Allison Burns, president of Fallon/NY and co-chair of the event. The surprise move was also meant to involve more men in the Good/Bad/Ugly extravaganza. In previous years, according to St. Jean, the show had about a 75/25 percent women-to-men mix. An eyeball estimate of this year's 500-plus crowd showed a 60/40 ratio.
Anyway, how does Maxim feel about its role in the event? No conflict at all, shrugs Keith Blanchard, the mag's editor-in-chief. "The thing about Maxim that jibes with what AWNY is doing is that we're reaching for the first time this group of guys that's unreachable," he says. He points out that, like AWNY, Maxim gives women their due respect. "I think one of the strongest things about this magazine is that even though we use the sort of eye candy that turns guys' heads, for people who take the trouble to read the magazine, they'll see it has a very couple-friendly, positive attitude toward women," Blanchard claims. "All of our problems have been with people who just look at the pictures. We put women on a pedestal not just to look up their skirts."
For its part, AWNY is not only unapolgetic, but pretty happy. "[The Maxim sponsorship] did exactly what we wanted it to do, which was make a big impact, get people to start talking about it," says St. Jean.
Another departure this year was that the show was an evening shinding complete with comedy and live music, instead of the sleepy, Pashmina-strewn luncheons of events past. More significantly, men were added to the judges' table, and criteria for the `Good' awards sharpened. Not only were the ads judged on the positive messages they presented to and about women, but they had to be high-quality creative as well.
It's undecided whether AWNY and Maxim really do mix. But if advertising's all about creating a buzz, well then, mission accomplished.