..Lese Dunton..

The Best in the Business

The advertising industry has been very persuasive over the years. For example, it has urged us to drink Coke, brush with Crest, and use the right deodorant. Just as persuasively, it has also comforted America after 9/11, increased diversity in the workplace, and likes to teach the world to sing.

The American Advertising Federation (AAF) honored the best in the business at the 58th Annual Advertising Hall of Fame Awards luncheon at New York's Waldorf Astoria on March 20. Creativity and helpfulness took the spotlight.

The CEO and president of AAF, Wallace Snyder, said that to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, you have to be a real pioneer in the business as well as a leader in your community.

Bruce Gordon, former retail markets president at Verizon, is indeed both pioneer and leader, and one of the seven people who were inducted. He calmly and confidently spoke about advertising as a significant force for change.

"For those of you in this room who are still at it, you have the opportunity, if not the obligation to use your power and to use your influence in ways that contribute positively to the people who experience your work. I encourage you to leave here today with a willingness to accept the challenge to do just that."

On a big screen behind him, he showed a Verizon commercial he created called "Lady Liberty," which aired from 9/10 - 9/14, 2002 to "touch our hearts and our minds." Clearly, Mr. Gordon deeply understands the positive power at hand.

Another inductee was Roquel "Billy" Davis, who passed on in 2004 and is best known for the feel-good songs, "The Real Thing," and "I'd Like to Buy the World a Coke." His son, Shawn Davis, accepted the award and described the latter song as "an iconic anthem for symbols of brotherhood."

If he were alive today, "he'd be searching for new ways to connect people...that song, like all the tunes my father created, was successful because he expressed his humanity through his creativity."

Shawn closed by saying, "I ask you to remember these words, which are contained in a picture framed in my home. They were words my father spoke, 'It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. I say that a song is worth a thousand pictures, a million feelings, and a lifetime of memories.' So here's to you, Dad. The real thing."

Much of the ceremony focused on the "real thing," which is pure creativity, kindness, and uplifting the human spirit. Equally real and important is producing healthy profits, such as the surge in sales for Crest toothpaste after Bill Cosby did a commercial back in the early 60s.

Bob Whehling of Proctor & Gamble convinced Mr. Cosby to do it after revealing the research showing African American kids had more cavities due to non-brushing. The commercial would help the black community, Mr. Whehling said. And it did — showing that doing good and making money can go hand and hand.

Vince Cullers, who passed in 2003, started the first African-American owned ad agency. "He was the Jackie Robinson of ad agencies," said his wife in a video that was shown. His son, Jeffery Cullers, accepted the award. "It's the most beautiful day I've had in a long time...Somehow he is here with us grinning and finding inspiration as we speak."

The AAF is 101 years old. It started as vigilant committees to reform advertising — because advertising and print was getting started. "So that was really the focus — we have to do better in our advertising," said Wallace Snyder. "But the thing is it grew; it grew to a 50,000-member federation. It's got everybody at the table — clients, agencies, and media. Then we have 200 local ad clubs, and we're on 215 college campuses, helping to prepare these young people to come into the business."

All the folks who've been in the business, who are still in the business, and who will soon get started in the business, have a lot to be proud of.

A complete list of winners:
-David Bell, chairman emeritus, Interpublic Group, for serving as one of advertising's most effective ambassadors and tirelessly leading industry organizations including the American Association of Advertising Agencies, Ad Council, Advertising Educational Foundation, AAF and National Advertising Review Council;
-Vincent T. Cullers, former president & CEO, Vince Cullers Group (1924-2003), for starting America's first African-American-owned full-service ad agency and essentially launching the multicultural marketing movement;
-Roquel "Billy" Davis, former music director & SVP, McCann Erickson (1932-2004), for creating song-form commercials including classics such as "I'd Like to Buy the World a Coke," "It's the Real Thing," and "If You've Got the Time, We've Got the Beer";
-Bruce Gordon, former president, retail markets, Verizon, for establishing one of the most recognized brands in America, and generating $23 billion in annual revenues;
-Arthur Ochs "Punch" Sulzberger, chairman emeritus, The New York Times Company, for his unwavering commitment to quality journalism and thereby providing an effective and attractive environment for readers and advertisers;
-Stuart B. Upson, chairman emeritus, Saatchi & Saatchi, for perpetually building blue-chip brands including Toyota, Duracell and Wendy's, as well as creating pro bono campaigns such as McGruff the Crime DogĻ for the National Crime Prevention Council;
-Bob Wehling, former global marketing and government relations officer, the Procter & Gamble Company, for building iconic brands such as Crest, Head & Shoulders, Scope and Secret while impacting the industry and society through family-friendly programming, children's issues and education.

from left to right, Wallace S. Snyder, president & CEO, American Advertising Federation; Joseph D. Abruzzese, Chair, Advertising Hall of Fame, president, advertising sales, Discovery Communications; Shawn Davis, accepted award for Roquel "Billy" Davis (1932-2004), former music director & SVP, McCann Erickson; Robert L. Wehling, former global marketing & government relations officer, The Procter & Gamble Company; Jeffery B. Cullers, president, Vince Cullers Group accepted award for Vincent T. Cullers (1924-2003), former president & CEO, Vince Cullers Group; David Bell, chairman emeritus, Interpublic Group; Bruce Gordon, former president - Retail Markets, Verizon; Stuart B. Upson, chairman emeritus, Saatchi & Saatchi; Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., chairman, The New York Times Company; publisher, The New York Times accepted award for Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, chairman emeritus, The New York Times Company; Andy Jung, Senior Director of Advertising & Media Services, Kellogg Company & AAF Chairman of the Board

Check back soon for a link to the webcast of the event.

* * *