The annual American Advertising Federation Hall of Fame dinner this year was as earnest as it was funny, as inductees spoke as passionately about their families as their peers.
In all, eight people and one corporation (PepsiCo) were honored at the event, which took place Monday night at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York. Some 975 people attended, and the AAF raised around $2 million for college scholarships, student ad competitions and diversity initiatives.
Here are five of the best lines of the night, showing the range of jokes, insights and reflections shared by honorees:
- Spike Lee, filmmaker, CEO of Spike DDB and force behind the Mars Blackmon Air Jordan ads with Michael Jordan in the late 1980s and early 1990s, said he owed his entrance into advertising to Nike agency Wieden + Kennedy and Nike's "visionary" founder Phil Knight. "People told him that having Michael Jordan as the face of your company will be detrimental to your business, to have a black man as the face of your company would be death," Lee said. "But thank god Phil Knight did not listen to those stupid motherfuckers—excuse my language."
- Lee Clow, director of media arts at TBWA, thanked the ad leaders who inspired and trusted him—including George Lois, Bill Bernbach, Jay Chiat, Steve Jobs, John Wren and Jean-Marie Dru—adding that he has had an "amazingly special" advertising life. "And I'd also like to speak about real life: my wife, Eileen, [of] 45 years," Clow said. "Last couple of weeks I realized that being loved by her is all that really has mattered. So, thank you tonight."
- John Adams, chairman of The Martin Agency, said he was overcome by deer ticks while clearing brush on the outer banks of North Carolina last weekend. "So, I started to pull them off, thinking about how boorish it would be to go to New York, to sit in a ballroom with these distinguished advertising people, covered with these blood-sucking parasites," Adams said. "But then I thought, wait a minute …"
- Linda Kaplan Thaler, chairman of Publicis Kaplan Thaler, had tears in her eyes when she took the stage after watching a video tribute created in her honor. The video ended with her husband, son and daughter singing the Toys 'R Us jingle ("I want to be a Toys R Us kid.") that she helped create at JWT. "First time I'm seeing this," she explained. "I'm so glad I splurged for the waterproof mascara at Duane Reade."
- Chuck Porter, chairman of Crispin Porter + Bogusky, was clearly a bit freaked out by the honor of being inducted into the Hall of Fame. But rather than talk about himself, he reflected on the best ads that his agency and the industry has produced. "People—they care about being informed, being entertained, being engaged, and mostly I think they care about being inspired," Porter said. "If you remember those things from the start when you do what we do, you can do magic."
The other honorees were iHeartMedia CEO Bob Pittman, Radio One founder Catherine Hughes and actor Michael J. Fox, who received the President's Award for his contributions to advertising, including his fundraising efforts to combat Parkinson's disease.
Finally, the tribute videos for each Hall of Famer ranged from sentimental (like Clow's, which George Lois made) and straight-up congratulatory to goofy. Adams' video had fun comparing the agency leader from Virginia to America's second president: