As a dovetail to Ed Martin's choice for Program of the Year, I offer a new category for an annual accolade: My choice for Industry Event of the Year was the Ad Council annual dinner. This year -- the 65th Annual Public Service Award night -- had more than 1,500 media, marketing, ad and tech execs milling around in their finery. But the outfits did not out-wow the humbling appearances by honorees, creators and the "real people" featured in the always-moving Ad Council campaigns. Of those, I found Shine, a non-profit featuring students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, particularly moving.
It's impossible to ascribe a greater or lesser value to any of the causes heralded by The Ad Council and its constituent advertising and marketing agencies -- and seeing the people featured in some of the very campaigns we have covered in MediaVillage articles amplified the empathy. But the plaintive singing of students outfitted in simple black t-shirts, teenage hands thrust awkwardly in jeans pockets yet showing the mettle we saw in that CNN coverage, for example, which secured their place in our hearts, just shook me.
They were there, flesh and blood 15- or 16-year-olds, alive and standing side by side, but for the grace of God. It could have been any one of them lost to the killer of their classmates. But they survived, and their voices raised our awareness of and concerns about gun violence.
It's easy to see a mass of marketers and ad execs holding cocktails, scanning the room for contacts, and brush it off as another fundraiser, another chance to network. But the 10-year-old girl on stage who spoke up about her love of science and math, or the woman who survived breast cancer, or the gay couple facing down discrimination from our health care system made it a real, in-your-face series of moments that brought the night's theme of "Good Works" home. The fundraiser worked, too, bringing more than five million dollars in support of the organization's social good campaigns.
In addition to the words of the evening's honoree Ginni Rometty, Chairman/CEO of IBM and a women-in-STEM role model, who pointed out that '"Diversity is nothing without inclusivity at the same time," Ad Council CEO Lisa Sherman's speech, in cautioning and encouraging the attendees was, to me, illustrative of just how moving this event was.
"Look at these faces, listen to these voices," Sherman said. "Is there any doubt that we will make progress? But I have to tell you: no one is coming to save us. For good to prevail, for good to work, we must lead the way. Is that a scary thought? It certainly can be. We might fear rejection of our ideas. We might fear obstacles. We might fear failure. But do you know what we need to fear the most? Regret, when we had a chance to act and didn't.
"Good only works when we work it," she said. "Progress takes time, but it is happening. We have everything we need to do more together, to create exponential impact. We have hope, and we have purpose. Together we have extraordinary abilities to change people's hearts, minds and destinies through your talents and your efforts. And best of all, we have each other. Look around. These are the good people you've been looking for, right here, right now. Ready to join us to prove again and again and again that when we act together, good works and good wins."
Photo credit: E.B. Moss
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