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AdClub's Brass Ring Awards get new luster: Growth in competition pumps up membership

February 26, 2007

The Indianapolis AdClub's annual awards competition-which some firms think is an important showcase for the local ad industry-is regaining its footing after years of decline. But some of the city's largest agencies are still steering clear.

AdClub, which saw participation plummet in recent years, this year restored the connection between its contest and the national Addy Awards given by the American Advertising Federation.

It also tweaked its contest and revamped its awards event, changes that reversed a downward slide in entries.

Entries grew from 200 last year to 330 this year. Entries started to fall six years ago, plummeting from 1,053 in 2000 to last year's low.

The Brass Ring Awards are not only the AdClub's largest fund-raiser, they're also an important coming together of the market's advertising work, said AdClub's president-elect, John Scofield. Scofield this year took over production of the contest and an associated evening gala.

While Scofield's changes show signs of working, earlier attempts to revitalize the contest failed.

In 2004 and 2005, AdClub officials overhauled the awards, changing the name from Addy Awards and discontinuing the contest's relationship with the three-tier Addy Awards program sponsored by the AAF. Despite those changes, and dramatic shortening of the awards ceremony, entries continued to fall from 485 in 2004 to 250 in 2005.

AdClub officials said the changes backfired, confusing the advertising community. Adjusting contest categories also added to the competition's decline, AdClub officials said. Perhaps worse, AAF officials in 2005 began marketing directly to local agencies to sidestep the local ad club's awards and join the district Addy competitions directly.

This year, the relationship with AAF and the national competition was restored. As part of the local prize package, the AdClub will pay to enter the top Brass Ring Award winners in the district and national Addy competitions.

Scofield, president of locally based Scofield Editorial, and AdClub President Randy Kron, principal of local ad firm Kron & Associates, also beefed up marketing of the contest and restored some of the eliminated award categories.

Scofield, who is known in the local advertising and marketing community for his video production work, compiled a video presentation of the Brass Ring Award winners. He also is creating a Web site to showcase the work globally.

The buzz created by the changes helped sell out the awards banquet for the first time in several years, Kron said, as 330 people packed the Indiana State Museum Feb. 15. Scofield's video display played on the Imax Theater big screen.

"The Brass Rings are showing a healthy return," Kron said. "They're gaining a lot of attention now, especially with new and young advertising and marketing firms."

With entries at $60 for AdClub members and $80 for non-members, an important revenue stream has been restored to the local organization. But AdClub officials have been mindful to keep entries affordable for all local firms, Scofield said.

Scofield lengthened the presentation of award winners to just less than an hour, but acceptance speeches were scrapped in favor of Scofield's video presentation.

"This year, the show was awesome," said Brian Coles, account manager for Coles Public Relations. "The production for this show put on by John [Scofield] was like nothing I've ever seen before in conjunction with a contest. It really sparked a lot of attention in the industry."

Mark LeClerc, principal at the Foundry ad agency, said the presentation was a good event to showcase work to clients. "I think they've got it right now. This is a very important showcase of work for the local ad community."

The renewed interest in The Brass Rings is also helping grow AdClub membership. With 200 paid voting members, and more than 300 associate members, Kron said AdClub membership is as high as it's been in a decade.

But not everyone is returning to the AdClub's annual awards. Indianapolis' largest ad agency, Young & Laramore, continues to stay away, with company officials saying they prefer to focus on larger, more prestigious national shows.

Bradley and Montgomery Advertising, whose officials were instrumental in the initial Brass Rings overhaul, also decided not to enter this year.

"It just wasn't in the cards for us this year," said Ben Carlson, an executive with Bradley and Montgomery and AdClub past president. "We're very busy and have had a good year, and that's where our focus is."

Scofield thinks The Brass Ring Awards will be an important tool for a growing number of agencies.

"When the best work in this market comes together collectively, the depth and breadth of the quality work done here truly becomes evident. That's an important showcase for corporate entities to see locally as well as nationally."
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