Does July 15 Ad Woman of the Year luncheon signal end of an era?

Burnett attorney Carla Michelotti is the 2003 Advertising Woman of the Year.

The Ad Woman of the Year has come a long way, baby. When Leo Burnett’s Carla Michelotti receives recognition as the 2003 Advertising Woman of the Year on July 15, it will mark the first time an attorney has been honored by the 86-year old Women’s Advertising Club of Chicago.

Michelotti, VP/general counsel and director of government affairs, is the fourth Burnetter in 10 years to be named Ad Woman of the Year. Previous recent Burnett honorees were Cheryl Berman, Renetta McCann and Linda Wolf.

Creative executives, yes, management, an occasional media maven and even women in film (your editor being one of the only two) have been spotlighted, but over the past two decades, the category shift has been to half creative and have account management, notes long-time WACC president Jennifer Fondrevay, herself a VP/account executive at Noble-BBDS.

The shift also signals how women continue to push the glass ceiling in power positions that the founding ladies of 1917 WACC could not even imagine.

The Ad Woman of the Year luncheon is the club’s highest profile event and is, alas, WACC’s only remaining function. Gone since the late ’90s are the lively monthly meetings, and the one or two luncheons a year where a capacity crowd could be up close and personal with advertising and publishing legends from New York.

Like so many once-thriving organizations, WACC has hit the wall.

Membership has declined in all kinds of social/fraternal and professional organizations, states Helen Schubert, a former Ad Club president, programming chair for several years and herself an Ad Woman of the Year, “or the clubs have simply disappeared.”

Gone are the local chapters of Women in Film and Women in Communications, and the American Advertising Federation and their local Addy Awards have disappeared, too. The Chicago Ad

Federation and the 4As are having problems, as they, too, attempt to adapt and revitalize for a new kind of audience.

Fondrevay and Schubert, however, are optimistic about WACC’s future. They believe it can be meaningfully revived ? but not without a lot of help.

For one, a paid executive director is essential.

Partnerships, or alliances with other organizations, could provide the momentum to keep going, Schubert and Fondrevay agree. A partnership could be struck with the Broadcast Ad Club, for instance, says Schubert, noting that the recent Fox commentator Bill Reilly speech would have appealed to adwomen as well.

Schubert also mentions the always-lively Fashion Group, the Publicity Club, which she cites as a model organization, and the more youthfully-skewed CAF as partner potentials.

Earlier WACC programs ran the gamut from breakfast meetings, which Schubert favors as being time efficient and least expensive, Tuesday teas and mentoring evenings, and services offered from financial planners to chiropractors.

“But the manpower to put those into place was significant and became a full time job,” says Fondrevay. “Without people taking the initiative, the programs can’t come about.” And good programs always pull an audience.

Tickets for the sell-out Ad Woman of the Year luncheon are $75 each. At the Drake Hotel; 11:30 a.m. cocktails (aka networking time), 12:15 p.m. lunch. To reserve, call WACC executive secretary Betty Melton (who, incidentally, has been with WACC for 30 years) at 630/241-2363.

If you’d like to share survival ideas with Fondrevay, call her at 312/670-2900, or Email Reach Helen Schubert 312/337-5076.