Crystal Awards get new life at Phoenix

In the radio broadcast business, the greatest sin is to bore people.But that is exactly what the medium's annual function acknowledging advertising excellence had begun to do.Over the past five years, the Radio Marketing Bureau has staged The Crystal Awards in...

In the radio broadcast business, the greatest sin is to bore people.

But that is exactly what the medium’s annual function acknowledging advertising excellence had begun to do.

Over the past five years, the Radio Marketing Bureau has staged The Crystal Awards in the formal atmosphere of Toronto’s Roy Thomson Hall.

A world renowned recital hall, Roy Thomson is highly rated for its acoustics, making it an appropriate environment for an awards show honoring radio advertising.

But few people would rank it high on their list of great places to throw a party, particularly when the party is going to be heavily attended by agency creatives.

This year, in a refreshing change of venue, the Crystals will be held at a downtown Toronto nightclub, Phoenix Concert Theatre.

Phoenix, which often hosts live bands and is said to have one of the city’s best sound systems for dance music, opened in the mid-1980s as the Diamond Club.

Last year, after a brief closure and a change in ownership, it reopened as Phoenix.

Brian Jones, president and chief executive officer of the Radio Marketing Bureau, says the 1992 version of the Crystals, scheduled to take place Nov. 26, will depart sharply from past incarnations during its 20-year history.

Jones says the show is being staged as a party, rather than a ‘typical’ awards presentation and industry dinner, and he says the bureau is pulling out all the stops to ‘make it a do-not-miss event.’

Unlike Crystals shows held in recent years that put little emphasis on live entertainment, this year’s show will feature performances by the Juno award-winning Canadian country band Prairie Oyster, up-and-coming a cappella group Moxy Fruvous, and blues band Big Sugar featuring well-known Toronto jazz singer Molly Johnson.

As well, Quebecois comedian Andre-Philippe Gagnon will appear at about 8:30 for a 20-minute after-dinner performance preceding the actual awards presentation.

The host for the evening will be Ted Woloshyn, who is an on-air personality with Toronto radio station The Mix 99.9.

The staging of the awards presentation and live entertainment is being handled by Chart Toppers, a Toronto company specializing in concerts and other shows.

‘What we are doing is completely repositioning the show from previous years,’ Jones says. ‘We want to make sure that people know they have been to a party.’

Jones declines to discuss costs, but he says the Radio Marketing Bureau asked its members to come up with more funding this year to help cover the additional costs associated with the live entertainment.

He concedes the buzz in the ad community in recent years was that the Crystals had lost their sparkle.

He says people had been telling him they do not enjoy overly long awards presentations, and that they want to have plenty of time to mingle, talk to friends and meet other people in the industry.

Those two important criteria were not being met adequately at Roy Thomson Hall.

While Jones praises Roy Thomson Hall’s acoustics, he says it was the very quality of the sound that led, inadvertently, to one of the biggest complaints associated with the venue.

According to Jones, show organizers, in an effort to take advantage of the sound quality, were given to scheduling long presentations during which the bronze, silver and gold winners would all be played for the listening audience.

As a result, the presentations tended to run long – between an hour and a half and two hours, leading people to lose interest.

This year at Phoenix, only the gold winners will be played for the audience and the presentations will be over in just 30 minutes.

According to Jones, another common complaint was about the dinner setting.

Dinner would be served at tables set up in the foyer encircling the Roy Thomson auditorium. Because of the curved layout of the dining area, guests could see other tables for only a limiteddistance in either direction before the tables disappeared from view.

Unfortunately, says Jones, the floor plan did not create an atmosphere conducive to mingling and meeting people.

And he says that because the awards presentation preceded the dinner, people did not finish eating until after 10 p.m., at which time they tended to be more interested in going home than in walking around and talking to people.

He points out the Crystals draw enough people – between 800 and 1,000 in recent years – to jam Phoenix, which has a maximum capacity of about 600.

By way of contrast, he says if you put 1,000 people in Roy Thomson Hall, which is a much larger venue, it appears as though the turnout has been poor.

In another major development for the Cyrstals, this year marks the first time the Broadcast Executives Society has signed on as a sponsor.

Previously, the society, which consists of professionals from the tv and radio industries, has lent moral support to the Crystals, but has not given the show its official imprimatur by becoming a sponsor.

Jones says he would like to think the presence of the Broadcast Executives Society will add prestige to the Crystals, thereby giving people in the creative community more reason to want to win a Crystals award.

‘After all, the whole objective at the end of the day is to encourage the writing of better and better radio commercials,’ he says.