CLIOS STILL STRUGGLE PAST ROUGH PATCHES;ENTRIES ARE UP, BUT FEW WINNERS ATTEND SHOW

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SAN FRANCISCO-Jim Smyth has given the Clio statuette a facelift, coating it in 24-karat gold and accentuating details on the globe.

Overhauling the Clios should be so easy. For a few moments, the 36th Clio Advertising Festival, Expo & Awards Presentation held here May 12 threatened to be a repeat of the 1991 debacle, when guests rushed the stage and grabbed statuettes.

At 7:30 p.m., when the broadcast winners were to be announced, the crowd of 1,400 was ushered into a hallway outside the theater where the presentations were to be made. As the crowd moved into the hallway, large wrought iron gates behind them were closed. But so were the doors leading into the auditorium because the presentation was still being readied. For almost a half hour, the crowd was sandwiched together unable to move. At one point, some began to clap hands. Then others pounded on the walls. There were some shouts of "Let us in" and "Open up."

When the doors finally were opened, the $175 a ticket gala was far from ready.

At one point, the wrong commercial was shown. At another, all waited for a video of infomercial winners to roll, but it never did. In one confusing, "unclear on the concept" moment, an outdoor board of a sinking Titanic was dropped onto the stage without clear explanation to the audience. Apparently, it was promoting the upcoming film, "Titanica."

The hosts were film critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, who began their spiel with a script rehashed from their 1994 Clio awards presentation.

So few award recipients were available to receive their Clios that three times during the show, long runs of commercials were presented one after another because no one was present to receive the statues.

Overall, most of the winning work was uninspiring, even one of the evening's industry presenters acknowledged. "The judging still isn't right," he said.

Some raised an eyebrow at the awards going to Bassat Ogilvy & Mather, Barcelona, including the Grand Clio for best of show in print for Levi Strauss & Co.'s 501 jeans "Trendsetters" campaign. Agency Chairman Luis Bassat is also chairman of the executive panel of judges for the 1995 Clios.

"I can't say it was intentional, but it was a little close in proximity to his responsibilities," said one ceremony attendee.

The following Monday winners were confused about their take. Lou Tripodi, exec VP-director of corporate affairs for DDB Needham Worldwide, New York, called Advertising Age to find out about his company's winners. He said he had tried Clio offices, but no one answered the phone.

Not that Mr. Smyth isn't trying and having some success since becoming executive director of the Clio Awards in 1993. Entries nearly doubled from 7,000 in 1993 to 13,000 this year-still down from the 24,000 in 1991, however. He has stocked the Executive Committee with industry celebs: Hal Riney, Richard Fizdale, Jay Chiat, Philip Dusenberry and Pat Fallon.

He hired PBN Co., a high-power San Francisco public relations firm, to publicize the event.

His public service award of $30,000 to the organization featured in the best public service announcement also succeeded in generating positive press. He's even dressing the part. The normally staid, conservative Mr. Smyth now sports a white ponytail.

He also continues to expand the contest with new categories, sure to draw more competitors as well as attendees at the gala. For example, Clios now are awarded in interactive and Hispanic categories, and for music videos, which he contends is a form of advertising.

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