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.
Since first launching in 2015, the Ad Council’s impactful Love Has No Labels campaign has shifted people’s attitudes and behaviors around diversity and inclusion, and the videos have garnered over 350 million views in 240 countries around the world. The campaign’s latest iteration, Rising, is a powerfully moving short film directed by Game of Thrones’ David Nutter and co-written by Lena Waithe, creator of Showtime’s The Chi and an Emmy-winning writer for Netflix’s Master of None, and Azia Squire, writer and producer of We, the Band. The dramatic piece was created pro bono by R/GA with Great Guns Production. Featuring gripping visuals and evocative music, the film highlights the tale of a diverse community -- people of different races, religions, abilities, sexual orientations, political ideoloies, etc. -- coming together in the immediate aftermath of a massive storm and challenging viewers to think about why it takes a disaster to bring us together.
For 75 years, the Ad Council has been a staunch communications partner to brands and organizations, sparking significant social change in America. There was Smokey Bear in 1944 with “Only you can prevent forest fires” and 1983’s famous "Friends don’t let friends drive drunk.” Whether the cause was safety, health or education, the Ad Council was there. With the constantly changing media landscape, including technological innovation, content clutter and waning attention spans, even the Ad Council is evolving. This includes an expansion in how it works with corporate brands, the broadening of its content creation model and a major rebrand that includes a new visual identity (see image below).