For a show taking place just hours after Halloween, featuring the largest ever turnout for horror-related content, hosted in a downtown L.A. venue believed to be haunted (did you hear the children’s laughter, too?), the 2017 Clio Entertainment Awards ended up with a surprisingly miniscule body count in the end. And, no, despite the internet rumors, host Jeffrey Tambor did not reveal himself to be a tentacled demon clown from our deepest nightmares as his closer (he did momentarily send the room into a panic when he claimed that Apple had purchased Disney minutes before the show….only to later reveal it to be a delayed punchline for a “fake news” gag). Tambor’s signature bone-dry wit set the tone for an evening celebrating the best the movie, television, and gaming industries have to offer, with only subtle references to the increasingly distressing real news. From cross-country tour buses filled with moving violations to zombie Christmases to one last twirl through La La Land, the Clio Entertainment Awards lit up the Ace Hotel Theater with boundless creative energy and a mandate to keep pushing forward.
Perhaps no one better encapsulated the night than FX Network executive vice president of marketing and on-air Stephanie Gibbons, who took the stage twice to accept both her network’s groundbreaking Integrated Campaign work on Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story season six and, near the close of the evening, the prestigious Television/Streaming Network of the Year.
After candidly admitting that American Horror Story’s unique approach—building mystery and anticipation without using a single frame of actual show footage—was born out of budget concerns, Gibbons delivered a rousing creative call to action that reverberated throughout the Ace Hotel Theater, building on a sense of hope and optimism that had been a strong undercurrent to the topical jokes that informed most of Tambor’s funniest lines (“This year, a video game manufacturer came under fire for glamorizing the extermination of Nazis because nothing makes sense anymore.)
Gibbons thanked the creative community for remaining positive in light of long hours and increasingly unreasonable demands, joking that network calls come “on your great-grandfather’s 100th birthday where you were going to ask your future wife to marry you and she was going to confess that she was pregnant with triplets…and we’re like, ‘Hey! How you are doing? We need to do this whole campaign on menopause by Monday’ and you have to remain positive. Because that’s the way it goes, and your lives are a pile of dead sand in your hands.” Kidding aside, she went on to say this willingness to pour heart and soul into project after project is what gives her, and the rest of the industry, hope.
“In the age of algorithms, which are very useful….but they’re not our souls, they’re not our hearts, they’re not our minds. They can tell us what you might think you want based on what already exists” said Gibbons. “But you guys create what has yet to exist. All of the images that imprint our souls and our minds and our subconscious, helped us figure out when we were growing up who we were and what the world was about…and made us love life. That is what we live for, and you guys create those images for the next generation. You are those people now. Helping those people looking for meaning and passion and to connect to humanity. In an age when there is so much raw shit coming up from the sewer, into our minds and hearts and souls, you guys make life beautiful. Art is our conscious and art is our future.”
Sentiments similar to Gibbons’ had bubbled up throughout the show, with both Globo and Bond Street Film representatives stressing the need for humanity and art in the face of “dark times.”
Amazon’s Grand Clio-winning efforts to create a living, breathing dystopia around Man in the High Castle and Globo’s incorporation of social good activation with mindblowing science fiction-level technology with their “Powered by Respect” campaign also had enormous impact, proving once again that fans want to physical inhabit and interact with their world of choice—in ways that, like Man in the High Castle’s “Resistance Radio,” feel organic and true—and that the more people come together around their chosen form of entertainment, the greater the need for visible inclusion.
Legendary film producer Joel Silver, whose credits read like a blockbuster hall of fame, took the stage to pay tribute to someone, like himself, who made a home on the Warner Bros. lot and left an indelible mark. Silver was on hand to introduce a tribute to the late Ron Michaelson, who was one of the founders of creative agency Concept Arts and a 20 year veteran of the Warner Bros. marketing department. Michaelson was a pioneer in print advertising, helping lift the studio out of a creative malaise that featured, in Silver’s words, movie posters that were nothing more than “giant heads” and making the flowing lines of green code an instantly iconic part of the Matrix universe when he used them as the basis for a series of teaser posters—something that wasn’t as expected a part of a film’s rollout back in 1998. Michaelson, as the cliché goes, was one of those people whose name might not be recognizable, but his work most certainly is—from Ace Ventura to V For Vendetta, the man simply made striking, indelible posters.
The “Of the Year” accolades put a button on the evening, reinforcing the varied tastes of this year’s jurors while clearly illustrating their collective desire to put forward the work that pushes each industry in more innovative and more creative directions. Throughout the judging process, the idea of “it’s good, but does it move the needle?” was a near constant refrain, as judges sought to reward only those pieces that could honestly answer “yes.” A terrifying clown and a clever use of striking imagery culled from Stephen King’s terrifyingly descriptive language—alongside heavy hitting films like Wonder Woman, Dunkirk, Kong: Skull Island and The LEGO Batman Movie—helped boost Warner Bros. to Studio of the Year. Microsoft’s efforts to create a lifestyle around the Xbox, with campaigns and activations that welcome in the hardcore gamers as well as the casual button-mashers, propelled it to Game Publisher of the Year, while the relatively small creative agency LA – Lindeman and Associates took home Agency of the Year for giving film and television fans more than just eye-popping posters and instead created deep-dive creative content that went above and beyond the screen experience. For an agency that has only existed since 2015, this evening was something of a grand coming out party.
At the close, Tambor went gleefully off-script to drive home what had usurped horror as the theme of the night: Hope. Hope that creative work will save us all.
“I get up every morning, and I watch MSNBC and I worry,” he told the crowd. “But being here tonight has so inspired me. We’re gonna be fine. Because people like you are going to save the day.”
With the glint of Clio gold still bright, the guests exited with statues in their hands and a whole new list of things to do come Monday morning. The bar has been raised once again…
See the complete list of winners right here.