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Greg Coleman

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The Ad Council Dinner: The Super Bowl Of Marketing Events

Posted: 11/19/09 01:30 AM ET

Every year in mid-November, a special advertising event is held at the Waldorf Astoria to celebrate the great work of the Ad Council.

For those of you who don't immediately know what the Ad Council is, just think of the group that has created iconic advertising campaigns like "Friends don't let friends drink and drive," "Smokey Bear says only you can prevent forest fires," and hundreds of other campaigns designed to help improve the American way of life and call to action better ways to move our country forward. (Check out some of the Council's best work from the last year.)

Many of us have just sat at home watching these commercials for years without ever thinking about who makes them and how the ideas for ad campaigns are created, executed and delivered to our TV sets, laptops, magazines and radios. I can promise you that these ads are not created by elves; there is a huge effort behind these important messages.

It's 11:45pm and I have just gotten home from this amazing event, which featured a full celebration of the work that the Ad Council has created, and the audience of 1,000 was treated to powerful entertainment from our hostess for the evening, Tina Fey ("30 Rock" and SNL), The People's Chorus of NYC and other guest speakers.

As I reflect on this evening, it is without a doubt the Super Bowl of marketing events. The room at the Waldorf is filled with who's who in the media, marketing and agency worlds, and in one night you can literally see hundreds of the movers and shakers in the industry -- the networking is beyond compare, and that is simply the icing on the cake. This is an event that you cannot miss if you are in the ad business, and attendees come from all over the country.

This group of advertising and media executives are there to celebrate the great creative work that the Ad Council has produced in the past year. It is truly remarkable to understand that dozens of campaigns are selected each year by the Ad Council, which is lead by President and CEO Peggy Conlon. These ad campaigns are produced pro bono by some of the best advertising agencies in the world. This year the media companies donated $1.8 billion in space and time to showcase these commercials. We were treated to about 15 different advertisements over the course of the evening. The creative work is a spectacular coordination of advertising executives getting together to make this county a better place to live and the inspiration provided by the creative touched everyone in attendance.

When Brian Perkins, who runs all advertising and marketing for Johnson & Johnson (this year's Chairman of the advertising council) got up to make his remarks, the room listened intently as he spoke of the "personal passion" that everyone who was involved with this organization had demonstrated. It is just breathtaking to think that every year, the energy to create this body of work continues without any wavering. The passion was in the room.

I spoke to a few people that had never attended this event in the past and they were completely surprised at how proud they were that this organization was inspiring the room and millions of Americans with its great advertising. We all gasped when we heard that 49 million people in this great country go hungry every day. That blew everyone away. There were many others campaigns that made us all sit back and realize how good it feels to donate time and effort to good causes.

The evening also raised $2.5 million dollars (another record), which go a long way to help with the Ad Council's budget. I have been on the board of directors for 15 years and each year I am very proud to be a part of this great team and I am always amazed at how the passion grows every year.

The next time you see an ad from the Ad Council, just think about how incredible it is that there is a team dedicated to this mission and that they can change thoughts and actions of this country for the better.