The New Clios? Awards Show Seeks a Rejuvenation

NEW YORK The Clio Festival is being shined up—again. Over the past two decades, the show’s various owners have tried to re-ignite the cache and glamour the awards show once held in the ’80s. This year, its 48th, the show’s new producer, Recognition Media, believes it has the winning formula.

Just don’t expect to see too radical a difference yet, as the company says most changes won’t be noticeable until 24 months down the line. That’s when it hopes the Clios will have shed its insular, somewhat dowdy image, and will fully emerge as a more modern, pop-culture-aware brand. “Our changes aren’t going to be dramatic,” explains Neil Vogel, co-executive producer of the Clio Awards and CEO at Recognition Media, a New York-based company that produces the Webby Awards, among other industry shows. “Nothing is broken … [but] just as media has evolved, the Clios will evolve. You’ll see more of an evolution than you normally [would] in a two-year period.”

The Clios (owned by Adweek parent company The Nielsen Company), was once broadcast on TV—in 1974, from 1986 to 1990 and then again from 1994 to 1996. But it has somewhat lost its pop-culture currency over the years due to a variety of factors. (They include a debacle in 1991 that literally ended the show with audience members storming the stage.) According to Vogel, the producers plan to leverage its pop-culture history to grow the festival. “What we want to do is stay true to its history, but look towards the future and embrace the broader media world,” says Vogel. “[We feel the] Clios will have paramount interest not only to the advertising market, but to people who do things in other media.”

This year, he says, the approximately 1,000 expected attendees gathering in South Beach, Fla. will see show productions, seminars and social events that are a little slicker and a little tighter than before. “What we are good at is adding a little bit of excitement and a little bit of an eye towards the mainstream,” Vogel notes. Last year’s Webby Awards honored Prince for his use of the Internet; the artist, who performed at the event, released his 1997 album Crystal Ball exclusively on the Web.

Tony Gulisano, Clio managing director, has been with the festival for 25 years. He says this year they’re concentrating on tightening up the overall flow of the program, from the opening cocktail party poolside at the Ritz-Carlton to the final gala at the Jackie Gleason Theater Saturday night. “At the end of the day, it’s about the whole experience of the three-day festival,” he says.

The biggest addition is the “Saatchi & Saatchi Hero Show,” a seminar from Bob Isherwood, worldwide cd of Saatchi & Saatchi, who’s known in Cannes as the man behind the popular and always theatrical “New Directors’ Showcase.” The Saturday event is bringing creative star power to the festival with its focus on creative luminaries. “Advertising industry creative pioneers, gurus, renegades, mold breakers, mischief makers, visionaries, genii and legends will all be candidates,” said Isherwood when the event was announced last month.

Featured this year: Oliviero Toscani, creator of the Benetton campaign and co-founder of Colors magazine. His recent campaign for men’s clothing brand Ra-Re featured men in homoerotic poses. “Love it or hate it, you make an emotional connection to his work,” says the Saatchi creative chief.

Isherwood, who has put Tony Kaye in a coffin and hung giant eyeballs from a theater ceiling at Cannes, won’t reveal any details about the session, other than to say he asked Toscani to be himself. “He is a very outspoken, controversial speaker and a giant,” says the spikey-haired Miami resident. “I’m really looking forward to hearing what he has to say.”

In addition to the main attractions—including the awards being presented Friday for Content & Contact, Interactive, Print, Design & Innovative Media, and the Television and Radio Awards Gala on Saturday—the program includes seminar discussions at the Miami Convention Center, with topics including the convergence of the entertainment industries, user-generated content and “the Swedish digital phenomenon.” Also, Steve Hayden, vice chairman of Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, where he has been brand steward of the global IBM account since 1994, will present an hour-long session called “The BigIdeal” on Friday.

The work continues to be the core of the festival program. Included is a day-after deconstruction of the winners of the Content & Contact competition, which honors the marriage of execution and its distribution, and a roundtable with six jury chairs: Leo Burnett’s Mark Tutssel (TV); Crispin Porter + Bogusky’s Andrew Keller (Content & Contact); JWT Singapore’s Tay Guan Hin (Print & Poster); DDB’s Mark Gross (Radio); DDB Brazil’s Mauricio Mazzariol Williams (Interactive); and Murray Hamm’s Fiona Curran (Design).

Most of the 19,300 entries in the show (up from 19,000 last year) are from outside the United States; approximately 35 percent of the entries are from the U.S. The youngest competitions in the awards show program, Interactive, Integrated and Content & Content, received the greatest growth in entries: Interactive is up 45 percent over last year, Integrated is up 32 percent, and Content & Contact is up 30 percent.

Given that integrated campaigns are in great demand, that work is expected to be among the show’s highlights, and has given additional buzz to the nascent categories of Content & Contact and Innovative Media.

In Integrated, says juror Icaro Doria, cd at Saatchi & Saatchi in New York, “the winners were clear winners. … Some of the campaigns had very good TV and terrible print, or good print that didn’t talk to TV, or an Internet portion that was just a Web site. All those things have to work together, and [then] if they are separated, still are good.”

Andrew Keller, ecd at Crispin, Porter + Bogusky, was jury president of the Content & Contact awards. “As a judge, you are hoping the things that you are liking have an impact,” he says. “We’re advertisers, after all—we know how to make something sing.”

While the Content & Contact category received more entries last year, the number of awards remains about the same. “We awarded more bronzes than anything,” says Robert Rasmussen, cd at JWT in New York and a C&C judge. “There was good stuff that wasn’t all the way there, but overall it was good to see so many brands and companies pushing boundaries.”

Mark Tutssel, worldwide cd of Leo Burnett in Chicago, was chair of this year’s TV jury, but says, “This year Content & Contact is the section I’m most interested in. … That is the future of the industry. I’m just hoping that they’ve unearthed some amazing work that will be inspiration for the industry.”