Just Business as Usual as Parsons Accepts PSA Honor

What Everyone Is Taking About

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This year's Ad Council dinner was expected to be an unofficial industry swan song for Richard D. Parsons, the outgoing CEO of Time Warner who was being honored last night. But never the sentimentalist, Mr. Parsons made his appearance come off like business as usual during his acceptance speech for the Ad Council's Public Service Award.
Parsons was stumped -- should he have worn a tuxedo or an ump's outfit?
Parsons was stumped -- should he have worn a tuxedo or an ump's outfit? Credit: Timothy Greenfield Sanders

He started out humbly enough. "I feel like a bit of a fraud standing before you," he told the packed crowd in New York's Waldorf-Astoria. "I really am here to represent the 900,000 men and women who are Time Warner, and on their behalf I thank you for this terrific honor."

He also had to defend himself after the night's emcee, NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams, cracked wise about running into Mr. Parsons on vacation once when his private helicopter arrived in a remote sector of Rhode Island. "If it was up to me, I'd drive five hours and take a one-hour ferry," he said, before setting the record straight of his encounter with Mr. Williams. "So we pulled up and we were still circling, and the pilot says, 'You won't believe this, but there's a guy and his kid playing baseball in the runway. I think it's an important guy.' And I looked and I said, 'Oh yeah, that's Tom Brokaw.'"

Though there was no direct reflection on his tenure at Time Warner, Mr. Parsons still exhibited a keen sense of the unique role he's played in the ad industry over the years. Speaking as the head of the world's largest media company, he said, "I didn't know whether to wear a tuxedo or an umpire's uniform." But when it comes to public service in the ad industry, he added, "Everybody wears the same uniform."

Public-service announcements have seemingly become a priority for the creative industry, with more than $2 billion in donated media for 2007. In fact, the presentation of all of the campaigns in the past year took twice as long as Mr. Parsons' acceptance speech. Everyone from Shrek (for HealthierUS.gov) to "The Jungle Book" (MyPyramid.gov) to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children was in the mix this year. Clearly, we've come a long way from Smokey the Bear. As Mr. Parsons pointed out, "I grew up thinking every time there was a fire in L.A. it was my fault, because only I could prevent forest fires."
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