Award Shows Do Their Darnedest to Get Guests to Quit Talking

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Only a couple of more weeks until the drawn-out advertising awards season draws to its decadent and debauched close at Cannes, but Adages is still going strong, hitting not one but two affairs to remember last week.
David Bowie had a little trouble limiting his Webby speech to five words.
David Bowie had a little trouble limiting his Webby speech to five words.

The lavish Webby Awards were held midweek at Cipriani on Wall Street, and while a few guests complained too many awards were given out, at least the speeches were brief. The show's trademark rule? A five-word limit at the podium, which always leads to a bit of creative thanking.

This year some were raunchy: "Hairy balls got me promoted," said the woman accepting an award for Philips Norelco's "Shave Everywhere" viral campaign. Others were ridiculed: "Yelpers: Useful, funny and cool," said a woman accepting the award for Yelp, to which host and former "Daily Show" correspondent Rob Corddry cracked, "Except for their five-word speech." Mr. Corddry spared no one. "That was my crazy uncle," he cracked after R/GA's Bob Greenberg accepted an award for the shop's Nike Woman work. Then again, who hasn't thought that in the presence of Bob?

Other notables came from the Greater Boston Public Transportation System, which won for best government website ("Fewer Boston drivers. You're welcome.") and The New York Times' DealBook, which won for best business blog ("Hey, Rupert, we're available. Call."). We also liked Nickelodeon's self-serving acceptance speech: "Have sex. Make more kids."

The Beastie Boys, the YouTube guys and eBay's Meg Whitman also were honored, along with a dapper David Bowie. His speech? "I only get five words? Shit, that was five. Four more there. That's three. Two."

The end of the week was punctuated by the awards ceremony everyone seems to love to hate: the Effies. What, you mean they don't give awards for being surreal or featuring an operatic rabbit? We have to actually drive traffic and sales? Darn.

In past years, the event, held in a Marriott ballroom in the heart of New York advertising extravagance -- Times Square -- was not unlike an Appalachian prom, according to one recent-free-agent creative who wished to remain anonymous. This year the white-drenched Metropolitan Pavilion lent an air of Village chic to the event. We're guessing the guests weren't entirely unhappy to be there given the volume of chitchat that completely drowned out a Catalina Targeted Advertising spokesman's attempt to welcome everyone. The only thing we heard was that we had a chance to win an iPod or TV.

In the spirit of efficacy, Adages would like to recognize some of the evening's speakers for their attempts at crowd control. Bronze goes to Shafi Saxena, VP-global brand development for Dove skin, for telling the audience, "If you get too loud, I will do this speech in Hindi (Watch the video)." Unfortunately, the minute she started to talk about actual sales, she lost the audience, regardless of language. The award is shared by the school marm who then passed by our table and said: "Can we see what we can do to listen to her?"

Silver goes to Effie board President and Ogilvy Senior Partner-Managing Director Linda Cornelius for asking everyone to clap if they could hear her. That worked for about 20 seconds a pop. Advertising Age's own publisher, Scott Donaton, also gets a silver for sheer cheek when he reminded the talkers that one of his first columns at Ad Age was about the difference between "doing something edgy and just making noise -- like all the people in the back are doing."

The gold goes to PHD President-CEO Matt Seiler, who dispensed with speeches altogether to "get us back on schedule," which led to the greatest crowd-controller of all time: the reels. This is why the 30-second spot will never die: Everyone shuts up as soon as the film rolls. Or maybe it will die, seeing as people left in droves for the bar and bathroom.

If creatives can't even hold their own attention, they could be in trouble.

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Contributing: Abbey Klaassen
Written by Brooke Capps. You can reach Ken Wheaton, who's hanging out with his own crazy relatives, next week at [email protected].
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