Yes, Boston, The Hatch Awards Did Occur Last Night Amid That Party
Last night The Ad Club of Boston held its 47th Annual Hatch Awards high atop the Boston skyline at State Room, a grand event space with two story, floor to ceiling windows offering beautiful vistas of the city. Cocktails began at 5:30PM and at about 9:30PM the Best of Show Award was presented to Arnold, along with Crispin Porter + Bogusky for their Singing Cowboy commercial, part of the American Legacy Foundation's truth campaign.
The event was well attended and there was some nice work acknowledged. This year, in response to comments on the structure of last year's event which was held at the Back Bay Events Center with a more traditional auditorium-style awards presentation far from the food and drink, the event was moved to the State Room where the food, drink and mingling along with the award presentation became one. Results were mixed at best.
The trouble with advertising people and advertising awards shows in general, especially when alcohol is involved, is that no one cares who wins unless it's themselves. So The Ad Club President Kathy Kiely and Master of Ceremonies John Verret had a tough time commanding attention from the crowd who were seemingly oblivious to the presentation ceremony and more concerned with socializing and drinking than paying respect to their peers who had won awards.
Winners didn't even come to the stage to pick up their rewards because they were too involved in conversation, too busy drinking or too far from the stage to work their way through the crowd to get their award. Verret accepted awards on behalf of the missing more than half the time. In fact, the crowd was so oblivious and disrespectful of the presenters that when it came time for Kiely to present Best of Show, it was as if she were herding cats. No one listened. No one cared. No one showed any sign of respect to their peers or the presenters on stage. Kiely even had to sssshhh the crowd to gain even the tiniest bit of attention.
OK, so no one wants to sit down in an auditorium for several hours and listen to award after award after award being ticked off when they could be drinking instead. This is the ad industry after all. We'll do anything to get to the open bar and even pay when it closes. This year, The Ad Club said "fine." We'll let you drink for the entire length of the event. We won't make you sit in a stuffy auditorium. We won't even present the Bronze awards which were relegated to back room status and given a single "Bronze winners can pick up their bowls in the back room" pat on the back. The overall result? It was like trying to give a PowerPoint presentation at 1AM in the middle of a nightclub.
Apart from a few other events, the Hatch Awards are the only time the Boston ad community can gather as one so rampant socializing is to be expected. But it's the only time the ad community gathers to pay respects to the accomplishments of peers. Acknowledging that, one might assume that once, just once - because it is only once each year, the Boston ad community could shut up for two hours and allow their peers to bask in the glory of success. Or at least allow those trying to present that respect a chance to do so.
Yes, no one wants to go back to the more formal auditorium-style presentation (although, perhaps, that's the only thing that might force people to command respect), there's certainly a hybrid solution that could work. In fact, the wheel likely doesn't have to be reinvented as cities across the nation and world do this sort of thing all the time. Someone's got to have it nailed down by now.
If, in fact, the formal auditorium thing isn't going to work, a modification last night's all-in-one version might be improved if the venue where simply shaped differently. Last April, ad:tech held an award show event in San Francisco. The awards were presented at the very same time food and drink were being served. It worked. The room was a basic rectangle shape. The stage was much bigger. There were rows of seats placed in front of the stage and the back of the room was where the food and drink were being served. Cirque du Soliel performed. People paid attention. Perhaps it was because the presenters were more animated. Perhaps it was because the mics were louder. Perhaps it was because people who wanted to watch the ceremony could do so and those that didn't could move to the back without either crowd bothering the other.
There's no perfect solution but last night wasn't it. While the actual presentaion of the awards may have been difficult, last night, all in all, was a great time. It was fun. Familiar faces were everywhere. From Wallwork Curry McKenna President Rick McKenna to Boston Business Journal's Rebecca Sullivan and Lisa van der Pool to Barbarian Group's Eva McClosky and Benjamin Palmer to RDW Group's Guy Shaffer and Steve Panicci to Conroy Public Relations' Steve Conroy to MMB's Mike (damn, I forgot your last name) to Conover Tuttle Pace's Jason Howarth, there was no shortage people to catch up with. But as an event at which the accomplishments of a city's ad industry were to be praised with respect and dignity, it was not so great.
It's not The Ad Club's fault. People wanted to drink and not be tied to their seats. The Ad Club listened and delivered. We imagine in the days of Mad Men, the tone of an event like this would have been very different. Sure, everyone would have been drunk on martinis but they would have also displayed a bit of common courtesy to the presenters and their peers who had won awards.
It's not necessarily the fault of attendees either. While Mad Men types may have behaved differently and would have assuredly had their asses firmly planted in an old-school, red velvet auditorium seat with full attention directed to the stage whether or not they wanted to be there, today's ad crowd can't be faulted for behaving casually and loudly in an environment where casual and loud is assumed by nature of the venue. Even if a stage is firmly planted in the middle of the party.
No doubt, next year's party will be very different. And we'll be there to tell you all about it.