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Indianapolis AdClub gets major overhaul

December 22, 2008
The Indianapolis AdClub is getting another face-lift, and this time some heavy hitters are coming in to make the changes.

Hirons & Co. CEO Tom Hirons last month took over as AdClub president, replacing John Scofield, owner of Scofield Editorial, who had served as president for two years.

Hirons on Dec. 16 named five new members to the 15-member board, including Publicis Indianapolis President Tom Hirschauer and Hetrick Communications owner Bruce Hetrick. Other additions are Ian David, Radio One sales director; Patrick Sean Kelley, Miller Brooks executive creative director; and Tim McNamara, WXIN-TV Channel 59 and WTTV-TV Channel 4 sales director.

Hirons has already outlined aggressive plans to reinvigorate the local AdClub, including launching The Indianapolis Portfolio, a collection of the market's best work that agencies can use to lure new talent and, ultimately, snag more national accounts. The club is also planning The 24 Hours of Pro Bono, an annual one-day philanthropic marathon to offer creative services to not-for-profits.

"This is not something you do just for your own agency," Hirons said. "It's something those of us who are successful need to do to have a strong industry and help take this market to the next level.

"We need to show this is a market with a lot of energy, and The Indianapolis Portfolio is a big part of that," he added. "Top talent wants to work in a market with creative vitality."

Hirons' vision involves creating a national profile for Indianapolis as a market for advertising, marketing and creative excellence.

"We're a tier-two market, quickly becoming a tier-one market," Hirons said. "We have the educational institutions and curriculum in place, a growing number of leaders in new media. Now [the agencies] have to come together in a meaningful way to help lift our status nationally."

It's time local industry leaders take a bigger leadership role in attracting young talent and helping all firms grow, Publicis' Hirschauer said.

"The AdClub needs to be more than a social organization, which it has tended to be over the years," Hirschauer said. "We have to provide continuing education opportunities, especially for our younger members, and promote the professional marketers in this community in a way that hasn't been done before."

This isn't the first attempt to reinvigorate the 107-year-old club. In 2004, a new leadership regime scrapped the local version of the Addy Awards, a program affiliated with the American Advertising Federation that recognized outstanding local work. A decline in the number of local Addy entries spurred AdClub officials to abolish the well-known competition and replace it with The Brass Ring Awards. But interest from some of the biggest local firms was tepid, and the effort fizzled.

Participation in the Addys had declined from around 1,100 in 2000 to about 500 in 2004. Brass Ring entries the last two years were 278 and 340, respectively.

Now, Hirons plans to scrap The Brass Ring Awards. The local AdClub will not have any awards program in 2009 (for 2008 work) and will relaunch the Addys in 2010. Hirons is already busy working with national AAF officials to develop a way for entries to be submitted and judged electronically.

Hirons said the AdClub will focus on composing The Indianapolis Portfolio this year as opposed to holding a contest. The club's membership will determine which work goes into the portfolio.

"Our objective is to let our members select their very best work and exhibit as much as possible," Hirons said.

The rules for submissions to The Indianapolis Portfolio have been drafted, Hirons said, and will be finalized and sent to members the first week of January. Hirons is planning a gala to celebrate work selected to be part of The Indianapolis Portfolio Feb. 26 in the Artsgarden at Circle Centre.

Hirons is also launching an all-out assault to increase membership from 300 people to 1,000. Memberships are also available for both small and large agencies.

Ben Carlson, a past Indianapolis AdClub president and chief strategy officer for Bradley and Montgomery, applauds Hirons' efforts, but thinks revitalizing the organization will be difficult.

"This organization is trying to find a place of relevancy," said Carlson, who added that the idea of making the city an advertising mecca is an outdated notion.

"While I think some ideas [AdClub officials] have are good, with the technology we have today, it's not about geography anymore. It's about the work each agency does."

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