The biggest news at Tuesday night's Clio Awards ceremony--often dubbed the Oscars of advertising--is what didn't happen:
* For the first time, the United States didn't win the top prize--the coveted Clio for the best national TV campaign. That was picked up by Migros, a giant Swiss department store chain and its Swiss ad agency, Comsult/Advico Young & Rubicam.
The slapstick series of winning ads features hard-luck consumers--such as one who unwittingly rips his jeans when he tries to light a match on them. "Better buy jeans at Migros," is the warning immediately flashed on the TV screen.
* Unlike last year's ceremony, which was canceled at the last minute when the former Clio owner failed to pay his bills, this one at New York's Waldorf-Astoria hotel didn't even start late.
But with many big agencies sitting out this ceremony--following the bad press from last year's Clio debacle--some executives say the results may be virtually meaningless.
The Clio's new Chicago-based owner won't say how many entries were received this year, but Advertising Age has reported that there were fewer than 6,000, compared to the 27,000 entries of just two years ago. Attendance was also way down, with fewer than 500 attending Tuesday night's ceremony, compared to the 1,800 executives who attended the ceremony three years ago.
But Ruth Ratny, the owner of Screen magazine who bought the Clios last year and renamed it the New Clios, said the recession is also to blame for this year's poor showing in both entries and attendance. She also blamed the media. "The press has been incredibly negative about the Clios," she said.
And so have many in the industry, which did not go unnoticed by Tuesday's winners.
"I'm surprised by all of the ad executives who say the Clios have become a joke," said Heylayne Spivak, creative director at Young & Rubicam's New York office. "They certainly didn't consider it a joke all those years they went up to collect their own awards."
American and foreign agencies competed head-to-head in the same categories for the first time this year. That's how the Swiss were able to run off with the top award--although the agency that created the humorous spots is owned by New York-based Young & Rubicam.
For sheer numbers of awards, Boston-based Doyle Advertising and Design Group did best by picking up seven Clios--mostly for print ads for client Dunham Boots. The San Francisco agency Goodby, Berlin & Silverstein won four Clios for various TV spots.
Los Angeles ad agencies didn't fair very well in the competition--although DDB Needham/LA won two Clios--including one for its Bugle Boy jeans TV ad that features pictures of sexy women along with a written warning to male viewers to buy the jeans or face an end to such racy commercials.
Team One Advertising of El Segundo also won Clios for two print ads for Lexus.