On December 5th, the Ad Council, America’s leading organization dedicated to using communications to drive social change, held its Annual Public Service Award Dinner. Emmy-nominated actress, author and comedian Ellie Kemper emceed the event, which featured a live performance from the Abyssinian Baptist Church Choir. The event honored Alex Gorsky, Chairman and CEO of Johnson & Johnson, for his longstanding dedication to public service, including supporting nurses and veterans’ issues. The Ad Council’s Annual Dinner was held at the New York Hilton and raised over $5.8 million to support the organization and its social impact campaigns.
Attended by more than 1,500 prominent executives from the media, marketing, advertising and technology industries, the Annual Public Service Award Dinner recognizes the organizations and individuals who support the Ad Council and its national public engagement campaigns. This year’s dinner was chaired by David Fischer, Chief Revenue Officer of Facebook and Chair of the Ad Council’s Board of Directors. Platinum sponsors included Adobe, Facebook, Google, Verizon and Verizon Media Group. Gold sponsors included Deloitte, Johnson & Johnson, SJR and WPP, and Silver sponsors included Diageo, Medialink and Publicis Groupe. Audio storytelling was sponsored by iHeart Media.
“Each year, the Annual Dinner is an uplifting and unforgettable evening that truly celebrates the power of purpose,” said Lisa Sherman, President and CEO of the Ad Council. “The toughest issues facing our communities today are too big to tackle alone. When we come together, our voices create a fortified rallying cry that is too loud, too strong to be ignored. When we unite around purpose, we change lives.”
Alex Gorsky was presented with this year’s Public Service Award for his longstanding dedication to diversity, inclusion and veterans’ issues. Throughout his tenure, Johnson & Johnson has spent over $1 billion annually to support women- and minority-owned businesses as part of the Billion Dollar Roundtable. In the last year, the company donated more than $1.6 billion in cash and products to philanthropic causes worldwide. To support nurses, the company created The Johnson & Johnson Nurse Innovation Fellowship, a two-year program that offers education, mentoring and leadership opportunities. Under Gorsky’s direction, Johnson & Johnson has been a generous Ad Council supporter, serving as a partner on the Love Has No Labels and Bullying Prevention campaigns.
The event highlighted personal stories and featured appearances from people who have been personally impacted by Ad Council campaigns, including:
- Carissa Anderson (Finish Your Diploma): Carissa grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan. When she was outed by a former girlfriend, Carissa felt unaccepted and ostracized, and she eventually left her high school. She met her mentor Maria, who encouraged her to complete her high school diploma to set an example for her son. After receiving her diploma and associate degree, Carissa was accepted to California State University in Northridge, where she will pursue her dream of becoming a counselor or social worker.
- Richard Barry & Carlos Soto (Love Has No Labels): Rich, a retired orthopedic surgeon, became a search-and-rescue volunteer to give back to his community. His first assignment was the Camp Fire in Paradise, California, where he met fellow volunteer and former sheet metal worker Carlos. Although the two men came from different backgrounds, their long days searching for survivors amongst the devastation bonded them for life. As representatives of the Love Has No Labels campaign, Rich and Carlos asked, “Why does it take a disaster to bring us together?”
- Larry, Phoebe & Bridget Lin (Autism Awareness): When Bridget was a toddler, her mother noticed that she often “put her fingers in her ears” – a sign of sensory sensitivity. An evaluation led to an autism diagnosis when Bridget was just three years old. Now eleven years old, Bridget enjoys math and playing games with her sister. She has made tremendous progress in speech therapy and loves to sing. Larry and Phoebe are thankful they received Bridget’s autism diagnosis early on, as it opened up a world of possibilities for their daughter.
Ellie Kemper is an Emmy-award nominated actress, author and comedian. She is known for the role of Erin Hannon on the American version of “The Office” and the starring role in the Netflix comedy “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.” She also voiced the character Crackle in the Disney animated series “Sofia the First.” In October 2018, she released her memoir My Squirrel Days, a hilarious and inspiring collection of essays about her life and career. With her signature wit and optimism, she inspires people to keep a positive outlook and not to give up on their dreams.
The Abyssinian Baptist Church Choir is part of one of the oldest African-American Baptist churches in the nation and the first in New York state, and was founded in 1808. Comprised of mixed voices, its repertoire encompasses a wide range of sacred music including oratorios, cantatas, anthems, hymns, gospel music and other sacred selections.
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 advertising events of the year.