That's the date of the Madison Avenue Sellout, the third annual ad industry blast against AIDS, a live auction, silent auction, street fair and soiree well on its way to becoming one of the marketing game's must-be-seen affairs.
The audience that swelled Soho's Puck Building last year had the great good fortune to watch some of the business's great swells dispense their good fortunes in the cause of care. Among the highlights: Donny Deutsch's victorious proffer for courtside Knicks tix with Spike Lee; Wendy Kaufman, the Snapple lady, winning a catered cocktail party for 20 from Upper Crust; and the bidding war between Jeff Weiss and Susan Kirshenbaum for a spree at Prada, with none other than Mr. Deutsch as personal shopper. (In the end, Mr. Weiss and Ms. Kirshenbaum shared the spoils, if shopping with Donny can be called a spoil.)
There were also lowlights, chief among them yours truly screaming himself hoarse as celebrity auctioneer. Suffice it to say, I won't give Sotheby's any competition -- a good thing because this year the auction house's fashion department will be there, putting merchandise from a spate of high-end designers under the hammer.
If last year was representative, the '99 Sellout will offer such big ticket items as a week in Cabo, private dinners at Manhattan's finest bistros, plane tickets to Paris and smaller (no less exquisite) items -- signed screenplays, autographed sports memorabilia, fine portrait photography and, for those who can't bear the thought of leaving work, Herman Miller Aeron chairs. There will be food, drink, dancing and mingling -- the ad game's favorite pastimes (not necessarily in that order).
The Sellout was the brainchild of Sharon Spielman, managing director of agency headhunter Jerry Fields. Through her long involvement with the United Jewish Appeal's ad-industry efforts, she knew little had been done to tap the philanthropic force specifically of the creative community. Further, unlike the fashion, design and media industries, the agency business, she realized, had lagged in the effort to combat AIDS. Spielman called Richard Kirshenbaum, co-founder of Kirshenbaum & Bond, and together they decided to tackle both goals at once.
Mad Dogs & Englishmen President Nick Cohn came up with the concept that defined the event: a charity garage sale. His co-conspirators loved it. "This would be the first time," says Spielman, "the industry was going to get together in support of something, without a dinner, without a preconceived notion of honoring somebody. We wanted to open it to the world."
That has been the most affecting, energizing thing about the Mad Ave Sellout. For an industry that prides itself on its ability to connect with common folk, the agency business does its philanthropy -- and does it well -- way up at the high end, with pricey tables at black tie affairs that bring out the wealthy to honor the mighty.
The Sellout may be the only event where junior media planners belly up to the bar with CEOs, where shaggy copywriters and carefully coiffed AEs compete over canapes for an auctioned adventure. The pricing -- $75 in advance, $85 at the door, but $35 for pros with less than five years experience -- guarantees a democratic time for all. "The heart and soul is the young people in the industry, but we've gotten enormous response from agency heads," says Richard Kirshenbaum.
More of those bigwigs need to show their faces. Last year, the place was crawling with juniors but the agency chiefs could be counted on two hands and one mangled foot. This year, I'm told Ted Sann, Phil Dusenberry, Frank Ginsberg, Linda Kaplan-Thaler and Ed Vick have committed to join the notables I spotted last year -- Ken Olshan, Joanne Davis, Harold Levine, George Fertitta, Mike Jeary, Jerry Della Femina, Greg DiNoto, Esther Lee.
This event should draw at least as many CEOs, CCOs, presidents and EVPs as your average man of the year or Effie ceremony. Yes, the money -- for UJA's AIDS project and AMFAR, the leading AIDS research initiative -- counts. But, as Mr. Kirshenbaum points out, "Doing this kind of charity work is important not only for the people receiving the charity, but for the people doing it."