Mostly Positive Reviews As Advertising Week Wraps

Only compaints involve too many events, focus on past

Katie Couric declared her love for the Pillsbury Doughboy. Christie Brinkley rubbed shoulders with Michael Bloomberg. And David Bell closed the New York Stock Exchange with Mr. Peanut.

Advertising Week in New York drew about 60,000 attendees to more than 100 events over five days and, according to the New York City Department of Economic Development, contributed $55 million in visitor spending to city coffers. Ken Kaess, the event’s chairman (and worldwide president and CEO of DDB), said reports of a financial loss for the week were “totally premature. … There’s still money coming in.” The planning committee has already judged the event to be a success and plans to hold another Advertising Week next year, Kaess said.

That marks a positive end to a week that was initially met with skepticism from many ad executives who wondered not only about how such a mammoth event would go off, but also if one of its key goals—to enhance the industry’s image among the general public—could be achieved.

On Monday evening, more than 500 people mingled on the lawn behind Gracie Mansion. “It felt very celebratory and very cohesive,” said consultant Joanne Davis.

And while well-attended panels drew a mix of staffers, students, freelancers and consultants, many complained that there were too many events scattered across too many venues, making the event difficult to navigate.

Panels reflected a changing industry, with even the old guard hailing the benefits of agency consolidation at the “Legends of Madison Avenue” discussion. A panel on media convergence discussed how rapidly changing technology like DVRs, broadband and mobile phones influence the planning discipline. And twentysomethings enjoyed late-night festivities. “The young people in our agency saw this as a chance to meet other young people,” said Avi Dan, managing partner at WPP Group’s Berlin Cameron/ Red Cell. “There are very few opportunities to network at the junior level of our industry. Advertising Week provided that.”

Still, some felt that events orchestrated for the public eye—such as the popular-icon poll, which the M&M buddies won with 22 percent of 700,000 votes cast online—leaned too much on nostalgia. Exhibits in Grand Central Station also focused on advertising’s past, as did the Walk of Fame and Parade of Icons. “It just seemed so old-school, like we’re talking about the past,” said one executive.

Ron Berger, CEO of Euro RSCG New York and chairman of the American Association of Advertising Agencies, emphasized that the main goal “was to engage and emphasize the importance of the industry to our own people, who don’t seem to understand how great the industry can be.”

Berger, who appeared on NBC’s Today show to promote the event, said the week did accomplish the other goal of showcasing the fun and spirit of advertising to the public.

The most common complaint, Berger acknowledged, was that a packed agenda meant some panels overlapped. While Berger stopped short of saying the organization would pull back next year, TBWA Worldwide vice chairman Tom Carroll, a member of the organizing committee, suggested that fewer venues and “maybe a few less panels, but bigger,” would improve next year’s event.