Kick Off Monthlong Vote for Nation's Favorite Ad Icon

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NEW YORK ( -- Flanked by such superstars of the marketing world as Charlie Tuna, Mr. Peanut, Miss Chiquita and the Michelin Man, former New York Mayor Ed Koch and a
Photo: Leah Harris
Striking the pose from 'Abbey Road,' four top brand icons strut their stuff for this morning's Advertising Week in NYC press conference. Click to see larger photo.

bevy of advertising industry executives officially kicked off the run up to Advertising Week in New York City (AWINYC) today.

The ceremony at City Hall in lower Manhattan drew swarms of news photographers for a morning of unique photo-ops that included Tony the Tiger, Mr. Clean, the Crash-Test Dummies and the Wise Potato Chip Owl re-enacting the Beatles' Abbey Road album cover pose on a Broadway crosswalk.

The day's press conference, sponsored by USA Today, launched the voting campaign that will pick "America's favorite ad icon." The campaign is a promotional stunt for AWINYC, a celebration of the ad industry that runs from Sept. 20 to 24 in venues throughout Manhattan.

In that spirit and in a grave tone, George Shea, a spokesman for the event, told reporters that "we are in a political season and we are deeply divided. Mr. Clean has the hearts of the female vote and Tony the Tiger is being embraced by Nascar dads."

Campaign literature
Nearby, staff members of the various candidates' camps passed out campaign literature and favors that included bags

Photo: Leah Harris
On hand to advise icons vying for the vote as 'America's Favorite Ad Icon' contest is former New York Mayor Ed Koch. Click to see larger photo.

of Planters' peanuts and squeeze-toy versions of the Aflac duck.

The proceedings echoed the humorous methods that AWINYC is employing to make its point about the importance of the business of advertising to the city's economy as well as that of the country at large.

'Our quality of life'
Ken Kaess, president-CEO of Omnicom's DDB Worldwide and chairman of AWINYC, said, "This is a campaign devoid of politics. It's about recognizing the impact of advertising on our quality of life." He was joined by Ron Berger, CEO and chief creative officer of Havas' Euro RSCG Worldwide; O. Burtch Drake, president-CEO of the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4As); and Jerry Shereshewsky, Yahoo!'s "ambassador plenipotentiary to Madison Ave."

"Our industry is not as attractive as it used to be," Mr. Shereshewsky said. "People don't appreciate it enough. I’m hoping that Advertising Week in New York City, beyond just voting for you favorite critters, will expose lots of people, especially young people to the business. We’re dependent on them. If bright young people don’t want to come into this business, we’re going to be in trouble."

AWINYC, which was created by the 4As, involves more than 25 advertising and media trade associations. The 4As represents the U.S. advertising agencies that create and place about 80% of America's advertising.

26 brand icons
For the next month, actors dressed as 26 famous ad icons will circulate around New York City, asking people to vote for them to be placed on the Madison Avenue Advertising Walk of Fame. And since most of the ad industry heads to the beach in the summer, the "icons will also show up in the Hamptons," Mr. Berger assured "I wish the presidential election were as pleasant as this."

The winning icons will be announced at AWINYC's opening event Sept. 20 on the corner of East 50th Street and Madison Avenue.

The campaign also includes voting for a favorite ad slogan. Among the 26 nominees are the U.S. Army's "Be all you can be" and Budweiser's "Whassup?"

Mr. Koch, the former mayor, was enlisted to help coach the ad icons on the art and science of effective campaigning. "It’s a good fit, the icons and myself," he said. "I used to have a slogan of my own: 'How am I doin'?'" A live toddler was produced and Mr. Koch instructed Mr. Clean how to kiss a baby. "Always on the cheek," he said.

Several no-shows
Many icons were no-shows, including Ronald McDonald and the Jolly Green Giant. A rumor quickly circulated that the Energizer Bunny did not make an appearance because the marketer felt that it would be "off-message" for the drum-thumping rabbit to be seen in public being "wanded" at City Hall's security checkpoint. A spokesman at Energizer's ad agency, Omnicom's TBWA Worldwide, said that was not true. "I don't know why the Bunny didn’t show," the spokesman said. "It was probably a scheduling issue. I’m sure he wasn’t missed."

Voting for icons and slogans is open to the public, and can be done online at Also several nominees, such as the Aflac duck and Mr. Clean, have redirects on their company Web sites to the online voting site.

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