L.A. Fetes LePlae as Adman of the Year

LOS ANGELES The president of Omnicom’s TBWA\Chiat\Day was celebrated—and roasted—as leader of the year by the Los Angeles Advertising Agencies Association last night in Beverly Hills.

Robert LePlae accepted the annual award before an industry gathering of more than 800 at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel.

TBWA\C\D ecd Rob Schwartz hosted the event, a “LePlae-apalooza” during which, recalling the mantra of earlier agency life at Chiat\Day, “the beatings will continue until morale improves.”

“We wanted to make it both a toast and a roast,” said Schwartz, after the event. “Robert has been behind the scenes on so many things, we wanted to shamelessly expose him, in a good way.”

Schwartz began the festivities with humorous graphics, tracing the lineage of LePlae’s name to his Belgian, versus French, heritage. Jed Connelly, svp of sales and marketing, Nissan North America, the agency’s largest client, followed with a caustic-comic tribute, saying he would have bought tables for the event “but couldn’t afford the charge back and the markup.” Connelly chided Chiat CCO Lee Clow for choosing to be at Apple founder Steve Jobs’ birthday party, and only sending a video tribute: “Talk about Jobs’ bagman, holy smokes!”

A film with congratulations and ribbing from around the TBWA world included fictitious references to Yakusa hit men still hunting LePlae long after his stint in Tokyo for Nissan; vice president of TBWA Worldwide Tom Carroll, represented by a speaker phone, per Charlie’s Angels; and TBWA president and CEO Jean-Marie Dru’s still image, faked in the manner of Conan O’Brien’s satellite “interviews” with live, superimposed eyes and mouth and an exaggerated Schwartz impersonation.

The evening’s entertainment climaxed with a “Hip-Hopera” music video biography of LePlae’s life, titled “From the Mailroom to the Boardroom.” The video features LePlae’s life story in rap (by Jay-Q) and vignettes, and stars students from the local Birmingham High School as the on-camera talent. “The magic of the kids really works,” said Schwartz. “And we found a kid who was dead ringer for Robert.”

Adam Forstadt and Matt Kalish of Studio B, C\D’s in-house editorial wing, created the video. Schwartz said they drew from the “Eminem influence of LePlae’s Detroit origins” in depicting the young subject moving up in the Ross Roy mailroom (which a teenaged LePlae has mistaken for a Roy Rogers restaurant), arriving in California with a mullet haircut and a period boat-like convertible, moving to Toyko for Nissan, and fighting a black-robed foe “Bad Advertising” (a cross between Chewbacca and Death in Bergman’s Seventh Seal) to the song “Beat It.”

LePlae then gratefully accepted the award from LAAAA chair Colleen Kelly, calling upon the California ad community to “shed the advertising conventions of the last century and become pioneers again.”