AdColor Awards Unlike Most Other Award Shows

Second Year Draws 400 to Boca Raton

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There are a few things the seasoned attendee of ad awards shows notices about the AdColor Awards.

One: The dress code was "sexy black tie" (as I was told by Tiffany R. Warren). I hate wearing ties, but I must say the award show looked like an actual event rather than the large-scale game of "Hipster or Homeless" that usually results when industry creatives and their account execs gather in the same room.

Two: This was the first ad awards show I've ever attended that was started off with a prayer. And I'm not talking moment of silence favored by big-city types made nervous by displays of faith. I'm talking an actual prayer that mentioned God and everything.

Three: Oh yeah, it's an ad industry awards show in which the majority of the 400 gathered were African American. I don't have an actual count, but I'd wager that the second biggest group was Hispanic. Considering the snow-white fields of advertising -- especially at the other award shows -- it was a refreshing change of pace.

At any rate, for those of you who aren't still at the ANA Multicultural Marketing Conference in Boca Raton, Fla., the second AdColor Awards show was held Sunday night, a sort of kickoff to the ANA conference. (Complete list of honorees is here.)

Indeed, ANA President-CEO Bob Liodice was there to say a few words about multicultural marketing and diversity in the industry. Among those words was the notice that starting next year ANA's conference will be known as the Multicultural Marketing & Diversity Conference. "You don't have to be a rocket scientist to see how far diversity has come," he said.

Obviously it still has a long way to go.

And so, too, apparently, does teleprompter technology. An ornery teleprompter plagued presenters and winners throughout the night. But the fact of the matter is, a busted teleprompter added an extra bit of life to the proceedings, forcing people off script. She'll kill me for saying it, but one of my favorite moments of the night was watching Tiffany stand up there saying, "Just waiting on my words. Yup. Just waiting on my words."

Tony Hill, VP-advertising at USA Today, intentionally provoked laughter when he said he had made it as far as he has with "God's grace, a few prayers and a whole lot of spankings" from his mom and grandmother. I thought for a second that, considering my station in life, maybe my mom and grandmother hadn't spanked me hard enough. But some involuntary twitches in my legs -- some 25 years after the last switching Mawmaw gave me -- set me straight on that count.

I thought the highlight of the evening was Carol H. Williams, president-chief creative officer of Carol H. Williams Advertising. Talking about the Legends award she was there to accept, Williams said, "I woke up this morning and wondered if I was dead. ... Next time I want the innovator award, the butt-kicking award. ... Legend award? I'm still cute."

She went on to describe an incident back in the early '70s when she was struggling with writer's block while at Leo Burnett. The woman who penned "Strong enough for a man but made for a woman" for Secret ran into Burnett in the elevator and told him about the problem, said that she didn't know if she could come up with another one. His response? "Yes you can."

That wasn't the first or last allusion to Barack Obama of the evening. Obama's win may have had something to do with the upbeat spirits of those attending, considering the economic news swirling around in the rest of the country. Then again, there was a bit of optimism that marketers maybe are coming around on the diversity issue and, if nothing else, realizing that in a fragmented world of marketing niches, the multicultural niches are particularly ripe for mining.

Of course, nothing helps optimism like a party flowing with free booze -- unless it's an after-party on a yacht (flowing with free booze). Thanks to Karl Carter and GTM Marketing, as well as the good folks at Diageo, after-party revelers were given a midnight cruise along the Intracoastal canal. A cold front made for a nippy night (for Florida at any rate), so all the action went down on the lower decks. I blame this for being deprived of my repeated wish that someone go overboard. Oh well.
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