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Thursday, Nov 30, 2023

Letter Malamed


The Belding bowl: It’s not just an award, it’s an engraved cereal dish. Put one on your head, and you look like a shining Celtic warrior.

Just don’t use one to try to get a job.

Myra, the bogus headhunter created by BBDO West to promote the Ad Club of L.A.’s annual Belding awards, contended that winning a Belding bowl could increase a creative type’s annual salary by $50,000. But local ad execs disagree.

Actually, few people outside of Los Angeles seem to know that Belding is anything other than the name that comes after Foote and Cone.

At the April 1 awards show, BBDO chief David Lubars spent several minutes at the podium complaining about the limited nature of the Belding show. Lubars urged local advertising executives to work toward creating a much larger event that would allow agencies up and down the West Coast which really just means in L.A., San Francisco and Portland to compete with each other.

It sounded like a rerun of comments made by TBWA Chiat/Day Inc. creative director Lee Clow at the previous year’s event. In fact, after winning this year’s Sweepstakes award, Clow got up and reiterated Lubars’ comments.

“I think that because (the ad clubs in L.A., San Francisco and Portland) each do these little local shows, that are pretty provincial. I don’t think this part of the country is getting the attention it deserves,” Clow told the Business Journal last week.

A West Coast awards show would attract more publicity than the Beldings and bring more prestige to the winners, he said.

But even though many of the most important ad execs in Los Angeles have been stumping on this issue for over a year, the sound and fury has had little effect.

Ad Club of Los Angeles President Bonnie Barush-Barnes promised Clow that she would work on merging the three West Coast award shows as soon as she took office. Her efforts were concentrated on the Advertising Club of San Francisco, which is holding its awards event, the San Francisco Show, on April 24.

They turned her down. Not only did they reject the idea of merging their event with L.A.’s, they also opposed Barush-Barne’s suggestion of creating a satellite hookup so that the two shows could go on simultaneously in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

“I said, ‘It’s a shame you’re so afraid of the competition,'” Barush-Barnes said.

That’s not quite the way Greg Stern, president of Butler, Shine & Stern and also president of the Ad Club of San Francisco, sees it.

“I can see what (merging the shows) does for Los Angeles, and I can see what it does for Portland. But what does it do for San Francisco?” Stern asks.

Unlike Los Angeles, which Stern contends is dominated by two or three giant agencies, San Francisco “has a greater distribution of creative talent,” Stern said.

So, you mean San Francisco agencies are too small to take on the L.A. powerhouses?

Not at all, Stern said. San Francisco agencies are already so creative and competitive that they don’t need additional competition from Los Angeles and Portland in order for the local show to be meaningful, he contends. Further, if San Francisco agencies want to compete with L.A. and Portland, they can do so in national awards competitions such as the Addys, the American Advertising Federation awards, he said.

“The point is, we feel like we have a strong entry pool of creative work. It’s not like we need it enhanced,” Stern said.

Hmm. Can you say poulet? El pollo?

Actually, Barush-Barnes thinks San Francisco’s Ad Club just doesn’t want to lose the income it takes in from its annual show.

In Los Angeles, the Belding awards don’t represent a large percentage of the Ad Club’s annual income, club officials say. Ad Club treasurer Richard Zien won’t say how much money the show takes in, but considering that the club sold 850 tickets at $125 a seat for members and $140 for non-members, you can do the math although Zien says there are so many expenses involved that most of the profits are eaten away.

Stern also declines to reveal income figures for the San Francisco Show, but he denied that money is a factor. The club would likely take in just as much if the shows were merged, especially if it were done via satellite, he said.

Stern still doesn’t rule out the possibility that San Francisco might eventually merge its show with L.A.’s. The idea was simply presented too late to change plans for this year’s show, he said.

Meanwhile, farther north, the folks in Portland say they’d be happy to consider combining their show with L.A. and San Francisco, but no one has approached them with the idea.

“Portland, I think, would certainly stand to gain from something like that,” said Kim Schwabauer, executive director of the Portland Advertising Federation, which puts on the Rosey Awards (so-named because Portland calls itself the City of Roses) every September.

Her only concern would be maintaining a local show for Portland’s smaller agencies, she said, but there’s no reason the large shops like Wieden & Kennedy couldn’t participate in two West Coast shows.

Clow says a merged show will only become a reality if he and other local executives work harder to make it happen. Even so, he’s afraid that too many agencies both in San Francisco and here at home are afraid of the idea.

“I’m beginning to think it’s all futile, because (the L.A. and San Francisco ad clubs) are both so provincial and political,” Clow said.

Dan Turner is a staff reporter for the Los Angeles Business Journal who covers the marketing, entertainment and media industries.

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