Shriver Survives Industry Roast

NEW YORK Bobby Shriver, chairman of (Product) Red, a program that donates a portion of the sales from designated products to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS in Africa, was the subject of a roast on Monday.

The New York Advertising Club named Shriver its Advertising Person of the Year at the event.

For the most part the jabs were gentle and loving and rated G. The exception was Russell Simmons, chairman of Rush Communications, who worked with Shriver on the Very Special Christmas album he produced several years ago.

Simmons set the tone when after taking the podium he looked down at his BlackBerry and jokingly said, “I’ve got one minute to do this shit, then I’ve got to break out.”

After talking about how Shriver’s friends all poke fun at him, Simmons noted that he had recently started a program called the Green Bracelet, part of whose proceeds will go to communities in need in Africa. “He inspired me to start the green campaign. You call Bobby and he’ll say, ‘I’m working to help the poor people. What the fuck are you doing,'” Simmons said to laughter.

(Product) Red works with companies such as the Gap, American Express and Converse. Dave Maddocks, former CMO of the North Andover, Mass.-based Converse, represented the company on the dais, as he was instrumental in getting Converse involved in (Product) Red.

Maddocks chose to focus on what brands like Converse get out of working with the organization. “The primary insight of Red is that consumers want something new,” he said. “The idea that companies can make profits while making donations is something that not everyone gets.”

A running theme, slightly exaggerated for effect, throughout the event was that Shriver is not particularly modest about his accomplishments. “Bobby is under the impression that he is here for the Nobel Prize,” said Richard Plepler, co-president of HBO. “I once heard Bobby name drop Henry Kissinger’s name to Henry Kissinger.”

There was also some star power at the event. In addition to a video tribute from Bono, who works with Shriver on (Product) Red, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Governor of California, and brother-in-law to Shriver, made an appearance before dashing off.

Since it was a roast, Shriver did get a chance to respond to the gentle barbs. True to form, he told a self-deprecating story about being with his sister Maria in Texas and being mistaken for a Kennedy. He ended on a serous note. “The idea that people are bored and cynical is not true. They want to do the right thing,” Shriver said.