May 23, 2013
Thought I’d reflect on my 15 minutes of fame hosting the Obie awards Tuesday night in Los Angeles. For those unawares, the Obie’s are the oldest advertising awards show in the world (seriously!), representing the best work in out-of-home media. The Obie’s are a big part of the Outdoor Advertising Association of America’s (OAAA) annual convention.
I have been a friend of the Obie’s & OAAA for many years and am a proud member of its Hall of Fame, for my “Curiously Strong” Altoids campaign. At the Obie’s in 1996, Altoids won its first of many creative prizes in our industry, thus beginning my long relationship with the show. That was a long time ago. Unfortunately, I recall being pie-eyed at the ceremony and little else. I gave a horrifying acceptance speech. Thank God You Tube was not invented yet.
Fortunately, I was clear-eyed and present this time around. Good thing as I had a job to do. While my primary purpose was to help steer the show along I was also given ten minutes to talk about some of my favorites subjects: signs, propaganda and their many roles in popular culture. I’ll likely post that content soon enough so I won’t go into it now. I will say that unlike any other media, outdoor advertising transcends time, technology and culture. ‘Signs’ are innately human and part of our collected DNA. Since early man first scribbled on cave walls several thousand years ago we have been using signage to communicate and advertise. By comparison broadcast is a moment in time and digital a blip.
Some highlights from the event are as follows:
Best of Show went to Droga5’s touching work for Prudential Financial, celebrating retirement on a very personal level. Part of an integrated campaign, billboards elegantly used quotes from various retirees.
This year’s Hall of Fame award went to ESPN for its long history of creating amazing advertising. No question ESPN deserves the award. Frankly, for creating great advertising in general. However, I have to say it was awkward reading about massive layoffs at the network on the very same day.
A personal highlight was witnessing art director Ed Odyniec, receiving a Gold Obie for his terrific OOH execution of the Allstate’s “Mayhem” campaign from Leo Burnett. Ed worked for me at LBWorks. Heartfelt congratulations to both he and his creative partner, Christopher Warmenen. Below is a video they created especially for the show. That’s Ed brilliantly cast as a nerdy lab scientist.
The day before the Obie awards Governor Jerry Brown made an impromptu visit to the convention. He gave a short but entertaining speech, where he extolled the virtues of outdoor advertising. His one piece of advice: Keep it simple. “Vote Jerry Brown… It worked for me.”
It must be gratifying to the OAAA and all the outdoor media purveyors, suppliers and vendor just how healthy their coral reef actually is. One need only look at the Obie winner’s list to see the robust mix of big brands and edgy new comers from both the client and agency side.
The Obie’s may not be in the same league as Cannes or The One Show in terms of prestige but no other medium is as exciting, versatile and vigorous as OOH. Period. And few awards shows are as meticulously planned and plain fun.
I wish I talked a little less. There’s something masculine and right about a man of few words. And given my propensity to self-disclose and/or take another person’s inventory, I’m pretty sure I’d be a better man if I spoke less and listened more.
Likely we all would.
Fortunately, I happen to be a halfway decent speaker, at least in the context of talking about ideas. Pitching them and so on. After twenty plus years in advertising I’d better be.
A tangent of talking too much is “thinking out loud.” Speaking about an idea while you’re forming it, if that makes sense. I can get caught up in an idea or rather an idea gets caught up in me. I need to untangle it. Let it out, knots and all.
Like writing, an idea seems to get better (for me) while it is being conjured… expressed. It’s like I’m pitching the idea (to myself) and editing it at the same time. Unfortunately, this means wrong turns and a fair amount of backtracking. It can also be perceived as rambling. And there are few things as annoying as a rambler.
What to do? Well, sometimes I like to remind my audience that I am indeed thinking out loud. Begging their pardon if you will. Then I shut up and listen. Try to anyway. Listening is so important and yet so hard to do, especially if you’re an insecure creative person with a big ego, like me.
When I’m excited or nervous I tend to talk more than listen. Many of us experience that. I’ve seen it in others. Especially in a big meeting. Or facing an audience. For me, I’m pretty sure the tendency for oral extremis harkens back to the concrete schoolyards in Chicago. Being a pudgy white nerd, I was seemingly always in the crosshairs of tougher, faster hombres. Therefore, I leaned on my wits to get out of ass-kickings and the like. For me talking a good game became a matter of self-preservation. Bullies like having a wiseass around.
Given my acute awareness of these defects, and my sensitivity to them, I’ve gotten better at self-censoring and paying attention to others. Still, there are times I wish I would just shut up.
I won’t lie. Today was not a banner day at the office. I’ve been struggling with a couple super tough briefs. (I guess that’s why they call it work.) I’ve no doubt we’ll crack it. I have never missed turning in a homework assignment and I’m not about to now. But until I do: pain.
My workload has necessarily interfered with my ability to create a fresh post for this blog. That is rare for me. I beg your pardon.
Sometimes, when I’m feeling especially frustrated I make a gratitude list. I know it sounds corny but it really works. In times of stress I can forget how good I’ve got it: a healthy family that loves me, a good job in a fantastic city, a clear head and fit body and on and on. So many blessings! I feel better already. You should try it.
On that note, last week I rode my bicycle to work. I live in Mill Valley, which is about 15 miles from my office in San Francisco. The trip isn’t easy but it’s well worth the effort. The hilly ride comprises some of the most breathtaking (literally) scenery in the world. Coming home that evening I stopped along the iconic Golden Gate bridge and took these photographs.
And so how can I not feel like the luckiest man in the world?