The Ad Council, America’s leading non-profit organization dedicated to using communications to drive social change, held its 65th Annual Public Service Award Dinner honoring Ginni Rometty, Chairman, President and CEO of IBM. Trevor Noah, host of Emmy and Peabody Award-winning “The Daily Show,” along with correspondents Desi Lydic and Michael Kosta, emceed the event, which featured a live performance from Shine MSD Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students from Parkland, Florida, and Applause, a performing arts program in New York City. The event was held at the New York Hilton and raised an unprecedented $5.3 million to support the organization and its social good campaigns.
Attended by more than 1,500 prominent executives from the media, advertising, technology and corporate communities, the Annual Public Service Award Dinner recognizes the industries and individuals who support the Ad Council and its national public service campaigns. This year’s dinner was chaired by Linda Boff, Chief Marketing Officer of GE and Chair of the Ad Council’s Board of Directors. Platinum sponsors included Adobe, Facebook and Google and Silver sponsors included AT&T, Deloitte, IBM, iHeart Media & Clear Channel Outdoor, SJR and Xandr.
“This year’s dinner was an uplifting and unforgettable evening that served as a reminder of the progress we make when our industry unites for social good,” said Lisa Sherman, President and CEO, the Ad Council. “The Ad Council is where our shared desires for a better society transform into good ideas, ideas that confront the toughest issues facing our communities. When we come together around purpose, we continue to prove that good works.”
Rometty was presented with this year’s Public Service Award for her longstanding dedication to social change and progress. Throughout Rometty’s tenure at IBM, the company has developed technologies and programs that support community needs as much as they assist business needs. Recent initiatives support building a pipeline of talent to fill the nearly 16 million “new collar” jobs to be added in the U.S. by 2024 – jobs that require in-demand skills but not always a bachelor’s degree. Rometty has also empowered her teams to embrace social causes and public service at every level of the organization through volunteer opportunities, the IBM Corporate Service Corps, and impact grants. Under Rometty’s leadership, IBM co-founded She Can STEM, a new Ad Council campaign designed to encourage young females to pursue their interests in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), which launched in September 2018. Rometty also serves on the Council on Foreign Relations, Northwestern University’s Board of Trustees and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center’s Board of Overseers and Board of Managers.
The event highlighted personal stories (and featured appearances) from people who have been personally impacted by Ad Council campaign issues, including:
- Tiarra Barrera-Hammond (Job Training & Employment/Bring Good Home): After leaving an abusive relationship and becoming homeless, living in a car with her newborn, Tiarra was approached by a Goodwill recruitment specialist about taking a career assessment test. That test changed her life forever. She went through Goodwill’s free CNA training program, attended college and became a registered nurse in the emergency wing of St. Mary’s Hospital in Long Beach, California. Now a wife and mother of four, Tiarra benefited from Goodwill’s job training and employment services to find success in both her career and life. Last year Goodwill helped prepare more than 288,000 people like Tiarra for new jobs or career advancement.
- Hector Adames (Gun Safety/End Family Fire): When Hector’s nephew, Joshua, was in eighth grade, he was playing at his friend Billy’s house when Billy found his father’s handgun in the basement. He removed the magazine, pointed the gun at Joshua and pulled the trigger, thinking it was unloaded. Hector lives with the constant pain that he will never again get to hug Joshua or tell him how much he loves him. In the U.S., 4.6 million kids live in a home with an unlocked, loaded gun. Most are intended to provide security, but in the wrong hands, they can bring tragedy. It’s why Hector is now a passionate advocate for gun safety.
- Nikia Hammonds-Blakely (Breast Cancer Risk Education/Know Your Girls): At just 16 years old, Nikia got a diagnosis that would forever change her life: breast cancer. Prior to her diagnosis, Nikia was an average student. But once she beat her cancer and decided to make the most of her life, she earned straight A’s and became the first person in her family to go to college. Nikia soon learned a startling and alarming fact—that black women are dying of breast cancer at a rate 40% higher than white women. It was after she joined with Susan G. Komen to become an advocate for breast health that Nikia learned her cancer was back. This time she had the support and knowledge to better face it head-on. Nikia is an author, singer, songwriter and motivational speaker who focuses her message on receiving physical and emotional healing.
- Karri Mack (STEM for Girls/She Can STEM): Karri Mack, a ten-year-old from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, has a genuine passion for science. She dreams of becoming a pediatrician who will one day cure cancer. In September of 2018, Karri starred in Ad Council’s new She Can STEM campaign, empowering young girls to pursue their interests in science technology and math.
- Jimmie & Mindy Beall (LGBT Acceptance/Beyond I Do): Jimmie Beall was unexpectedly fired from her job as a teacher when the principal and board members of her school had questions about her sexuality. Most Americans don’t realize that it’s still legal to be fired, evicted or denied some government services for being gay in 30 states in the U.S. After finding another job and moving to Columbus, Ohio, Jimmie and Mindy would visit the courthouse every Valentine’s Day in hopes of getting a marriage license. In 2015, when same-sex marriage was legalized, Jimmie and Mindy were the first same-sex couple in their county to marry and today are passionate advocates for LGBT rights.
Trevor Noah is the host of the Emmy and Peabody Award-winning “The Daily Show” on Comedy Central. “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah” recently received a 2018 Emmy Award Nomination for Outstanding Variety Talk Series. The show has also won a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Talk Episode and received nominations for a Writers Guild Award (Comedy/Variety Series), as well as two NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding Talk Series and Outstanding Host in a Talk or News/Information Show. Since Noah joined “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” in 2014, he has won Best Host at the 2017 MTV Movie & TV Awards, as well as a Creative Arts Emmy Award for Outstanding Short Form Variety Series for his hosting role on “The Daily Show – Between The Scenes.” Beyond his role as host of “The Daily Show,” Noah is the award-winning author of the New York Times bestseller “Born a Crime” and is a stand-up comedian. Much of his work focuses on the story of his upbringing and remarkable career in post-apartheid South Africa.
Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School students from Parkland, Florida joined the evening to perform an original song, “Shine,” written just days after the tragedy. The students are members of Shine MSD, a non-profit organization founded to raise relief funds for victims of the Parkland shooting and their families. The group was joined by students from Applause, a performing arts program in New York City. Written by two Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School drama students, Sawyer Garrity and Andrea Peña, the song “Shine” has evolved from a personal healing journey into an anthem that has been met with an overwhelming response from Parkland and around the world.
The Ad Council has been honoring corporate leaders for their contributions to public service since 1953. The Public Service Award Dinner is the organization’s largest fundraising event. The event is annually ranked by BizBash as one of the top 100 events in New York City and as one of the top three advertising events of the year.