NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- They were lauded for being as tenacious as they were graceful, as much workplace powerhouses as they were dedicated mothers and wives. Linda Sawyer, CEO of Deutsch, was lauded for leading with "an iron fist in a velvet glove." Leslee Dart, founder and CEO of public relations firm 42West, was praised for having class and a bright smile along with "the balls of a burglar."
Ms. Dart and Ms. Sawyer were two of eight women honored today at the annual New York Women in Communications Matrix awards, celebrating women who "change the world" in their professions. Meredith Vieira, co-anchor of NBC's Today Show and host of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" served as emcee for the luncheon, which was held in the packed Grand Ballroom of the Waldorf-Astoria in New York.
The six other honorees included CNN anchor Campbell Brown, The Wall Street Journal deputy bureau chief Monica Langley, DailyCandy.com founder and editorial director Dany Levy, actor S. Epatha Merkerson, Allure editor-in-chief Linda Wells, and Sesame Workshop exec-VP and CMO Sherrie Rollins Westin.
Honorees were presented with the award by mentors or friends, or in many cases, celebrities: Brian Williams presented to Ms. Brown, Jessica Lange and Tom Hanks to Ms. Dart, and Julianne Moore to Ms. Wells. The highlight of the awards, however, may have gone to a less glamorous star: Sesame Street's Elmo surprised Ms. Westin with a serenade of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons' "Sherry Baby."
The Matrix awards were held a few hours after Conde Nast shut down Portfolio magazine, but the event offered its share of support to the print industry. The crowd applauded when New York Women in Communications president Nancy Rabstejnek Nichols said magazines' inimitably beautiful physical format was here to stay.
Entertainment publicist Ms. Dart, however, reminded the room what print -- and media at large -- was up against. There was a time when getting your client on the covers of Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair and Entertainment Weekly was considered hitting the holy grail, Ms. Dart recalled. Getting a client on the cover of Time or Newsweek made the next movie into a huge news event. "Today our ADD culture doesn't tolerate magazine lead times," she said. Not when Susan Boyle, the Scottish "Britain's Got Talent" singer, can attain overnight fame on YouTube --"without an agent."
"You know you are outgunned," Ms. Dart said, adding that her agency is going viral, learning to Tweet and exploring all the rest, she said.
Even Ms. Vieira said she was doing her best to embrace the changes, blogging on the "Today" web site.