Advertising Week 2006

Advertising Week Pulls 'Em in for Booze, Schmooze

A Look Back at the Industry's Annual Event

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- If nothing else, Advertising Week 2006 proved one thing: The open bar is the greatest promotional tool ever.
'Of course the free drinks helped,' noted the American Association of Advertising Agencies chief O. Burtch Drake.
'Of course the free drinks helped,' noted the American Association of Advertising Agencies chief O. Burtch Drake.

No one's quite sure what the third-annual industry blowout had to say about the ad business, but one of its stated aims is to boost employee morale, and it certainly mobilized large numbers of staffers, including legions of young folk, to its panels, conferences and, of course, after-hours booze sessions.

Copious tolerance
The copious tolerance was on full display at Monday's opening gala when two open bars were sucked dry of beer and wine. Even O. Burtch Drake, chairman-CEO of the American Association of Advertising Agencies, in a rave about "the record attendance," especially at Thursday's closing night bash, said it was aided by the gratis potent potables: "Of course the free drinks helped."

The improved turnout was also helped along by the organizers' decision to streamline logistics, including trimming the number of venues. Mr. Drake said the event also "more than broke even," adding the 4A's, which paid to cover deficits the past two years, won't be doing that this time around.

As to the question of whether it will be back in New York next year, Mr. Drake answered: "There's absolutely no doubt."

MONDAY
The week kicked off with a waffle-making contest between Martha Stewart and BBDO CEO Andrew Robertson. "My lawyers tried to get me to waffle," Ms. Stewart told the invite-only crowd, referring to that whole obstruction-of-justice thing. That the case did not work out in her favor, she told a laughing crowd, only proves that she is not a "waffler." Only such promiscuous use of puns on a Monday morning could make one long for the ad-icons motorcade.

Omnicom CEO John Wren, in a one-on-one with Disney Theatrical President Tom Schumacher, offered the second-best quote of the week involving both the word "ass" and some kind of fowl: "There have been a few times when I felt like I pulled a duck out of my ass." See below for the first best.

TUESDAY
If New York City Councilman Larry Seabrook ever gets tired of beating on ad agencies for their lack of diversity, he might just have a career as copywriter. Savor this quote on ad agencies' decision not to show at the council's hearings into why minority-owned media outlets don't get more ad support: The agencies, Mr. Seabrook said, "ran like chickens with their asses plucked clean. ... Perhaps we need to put something in their hand called a subpoena and then they will come and testify."

WEDNESDAY
Hollywood, for what must be the thousandth time, is taking a classic, almost sacred text that addresses themes of no less import than the cosmic struggle between good and evil and sticking brands all over it. It's true, the Transformers will be getting the old branded-entertainment working over when a live-action feature-film adaptation of the 1980s cartoon comes out this summer. "The script was designed to incorporate some of these things ... as opposed to jamming a soda machine in somewhere after the movie's done," said producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura at Advertising Age's Madison & Vine East conference. Please, please, please don't turn Optimus Prime into a Prius.

You could have gone to the Advertising Giants panel featuring luminaries such as Harold Burson, Lester Wunderman and Tom Messner to hear them reflect on their decades in the business. Or you could have wasted a half hour or so endeavoring to get into any event at the ever-so-Orwellian Bloomberg Building, whose Holland Tunnel-at-rush-hour-paced check-in lines gave every panel there a vaguely punitive feel. Thanks, Bloomberg.

Unfortunately we can't tell you about the CEO Comedy Showdown, which was meant to be top secret -- or at least press-free. "If you write word one about this, I'll cut your [unprintable anatomical reference] off," Matt Scheckner, executive director of Advertising Week said to a reporter. In deference to the organizers and the agency executives who risked so much in the name of laughter, we'll leave it at that -- and merely offer the remark that Andy Berlin's relationship with his dog bears further examination.

THURSDAY
Ever shooting for the stars, the Radio Advertising Bureau made the bold claim that radio ads are "less annoying" than TV ads -- which is kind of like saying Katie Holmes is less crazy than Tom Cruise.

Waffles, schmaffles. Mark Cuban, in a one-on-one with TVWeek's Chuck Ross, got himself a recipe for click fraud. "Set up a blog, get Google AdWords on it and get all your friends to click on it. So what if you make $50 or $100 -- that's better than what dad gives you for allowance. Now imagine that's going on around the world. ... It's just too easy." We hear a new social-network idea. Fraudster, anyone?

FRIDAY
Who says the advertising business is snobby and elitist? Two high points of redneck culture made a clean sweep in Times Square, the center of blue-state land. KFC's Col. Sanders was crowned favorite icon and the top slogan was "Don't Mess With Texas," the slogan created by Austin's GSD&M, which executed a aggressive viral campaign on its behalf. Naturally, the final day of Advertising Week was not without controversy. Protesters from PETA dogged the Colonel, handing out leaflets sporting an image of a bloody bird, along with images of Pamela Anderson and Al Sharpton.

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Abbey Klaassen, Nat Ives, Andrew Hampp, Stephanie Thompson, T.L. Stanley and Marc Graser contributed to this report.
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