International Advertising Awards

WHAT, another award for creativity in advertising? Yes, but this new one has some old hands at the helm.

Nancy Ross, who for 16 years helped run the Clio Awards, is teaming with two experienced French and British executives to create a global awards competition called the Crestas, Cresta being a telescoped version of creative standards.

And to bolster the fledging award, the Cresta organization has won the support of the International Advertising Association, the worldwide federation representing agencies, advertisers and media in 85 countries.

The association's imprimatur is intended to assure potential participants of the new award's viability in the same fashion that the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval is intended to assure shoppers buying bleach or bedding. That a nascent honor would seek such support is not surprising, given that the organizations bestowing ad awards have been suffering through more turmoil than one of those model stomachs in an old Bufferin commercial.

The trouble stems from the debacle that devastated the Clios in 1991, when those awards, arguably once the most prestigious in advertising, collapsed amid the chaos of disrupted and canceled ceremonies. Seeking to capitalize on Clio's questioned credibility, entrepreneurs have begun making additional forays into the already-crowded realm of ad awards, while organizers of some existing awards have tried to broaden their scope by adding categories or expanding into additional countries.

"Our aim is not to be just another awards show," Ms. Ross said yesterday during an interview in midtown Manhattan. She left the Clios in May 1991 in a dispute with Bill Evans, the longtime owner whose financial difficulties at Clio Enterprises Inc., as manifested by the troubled ceremonies, eventually forced the Clios into bankruptcy.

"This sounded appealing to me, and exciting to me," she added, "and I came to the realization that advertising awards were still in my life." The Cresta partners, under the name Creative Standards International, expect to spend in excess of $100,000 to get the awards under way, she said.

One of Ms. Ross's partners in the Crestas, Alain Weill, the founder and former director of the Musee de la Publicite in Paris, said: "One point that all people in this industry think is extremely important is reliability. They need and want an award that's reliable."

The other partner is Andrew Rawlins, an Englishman who is the founder and president of Epica, an organization based in the Paris suburb of Suresnes that honors advertising creativity in Europe. Ms. Ross and Mr. Weill said that Epica would continue as a separate organization.

Norman Vale, director general at the International Advertising Association, said that in exchange for his group's endorsement of the Crestas, it would receive an annual income, which he declined to quantify, from entry fees, which were set at $100 per entry or $200 per two- to three-item campaign. He added that the funds would be applied toward the Campaign for Advertising, the association's worldwide campaign explaining to consumers the benefits of advertising, which began last fall.

The deadline for Cresta entries is May 31; an awards ceremony is planned sometime in October. More information may be obtained by writing to an office Cresta is scheduled to open on Monday, at 432 Park Avenue South, suite 602, New York, N.Y. 10016.

The formation of the Crestas is yet another daunting challenge to attempts to revive the Clios being undertaken by James M. Smyth, a veteran commercial production executive who bought rights to that award earlier this month from Ruth L. Ratny, a Chicago trade publisher who organized a Clio ceremony last year to mixed reaction.

Despite the ever-lengthening list of competitive honors, "I don't have any animosity for any of them," Mr. Smyth said in a telephone interview from Chicago.

"Clio should be saved," he added, "because it is still a very well-known, and well-respected, award. And anyone who knows me says this is the guy who should be the steward of the Clios." He said he would spend $1 million to scour off the tarnish befouling the award "by the time I'm finished," which he estimated would take three years.

Mr. Smyth has set a Clio entry deadline for March 8, and has tentatively scheduled an awards ceremony for June 28 in New York. He has also moved Clio headquarters from Chicago back to New York, at 400 Madison Avenue, suite 1208, New York, N.Y. 10017.

Despite the problems faced by Clio, which has set some industry executives to rethink the value of honors, Mr. Smyth said that restoring it was a worthwhile task: "Awards are important in advertising, in that sometimes the paycheck doesn't do it."