by Sarah Druhan, OOH TODAY Journalist
The recent closure of the nomination window for 2023’s OAAA Industry Awards has ensured that this tradition is on everyone’s minds. But how much do we really know about these awards? We’ve heard their names. We know that receiving one can be a game changer for any OOHer’s career.
But as for their history? The specific criteria involved? The actual selection process? We’ve got to admit—even we’re coming up clueless.
But this industry has never been one for secrets, and these awards are no exception. And with the upcoming convention in Nashville feeling like it’s right around the corner, there’s no time like the present to ask every question we’ve ever had about these all-important accolades. Let’s sit down with OAAA Executive Vice President of Operations Marci Werlinich and dive right into the awards that, arguably, define everything we do.
1. To start off, it would be interesting to learn more about the history of the OAAA industry awards. How long has each award been around? Do you know if there was a certain person behind the origin of each one, and what their reasons/goals were for coming up with these awards?
MW: Like so many industry trade groups, OAAA understands member contributions are vital to the ongoing success and longevity of an association. The OAAA Industry Awards recognize individuals who have unselfishly given their time, talent, and treasure for the purpose of advancing the out of home industry through support of its trade association.
The OAAA Industry Awards are presented every two-years at the annual industry conference. Before OAAA and Geopath combined conference programs in 2010, the OAAA Convention (now Conference) occurred every two-years which is why these awards are presented biennially.
The Myles Standish Award or Distinguished Achievement Award of Excellence was established first in 1954 by the OAAA Board of Directors. In 1979 the L. Ray Venue Award or Marketing Award of Merit was created. The Hall of Fame Award was established in 1991and the Rising Star Award was recently introduced in 2019.
2. How have you seen the awards change over the years? Has the criteria or anything about the process changed at all? I know the Rising Star Award is the most recently added, what was the thinking behind deciding something like that was needed?
MW: The basic criteria for the awards have remained the same over time. While the Industry Awards typically recognize individuals who have contributed to the industry over many years, the Rising Star Award was created to celebrate younger professionals (under the age of 40) who are already making important contributions to the industry through their work with OAAA. These are the future leaders of the industry.
3. As for the names of some of the awards, where exactly did they come from? More specifically thinking of the Myles Standish Award and also the L. Ray Vahue award, what were the reasons behind giving these honors those specific names?
MW: Myles Standish was a long-time member of the OAAA Board of Directors and its chairman. He was a decisive and influential leader throughout the early part of the twentieth century. L. Ray Vehue was a very important leader within the Texas out of home community. His colleagues established an award in his name to honor his memory and legacy.
OAAA realizes most if its members today don’t remember the contributions of Myles Standish and L. Ray Venue. That’s why the award names were changed a few years ago to the Myles Standish Distinguished Achievement Award of Excellence and L. Ray Venue Marketing Award of Merit. The modified names are intended to better describe the intent behind each award.
4. Speaking of the Myles Standish award, your website says this honor recognizes an individual who has made a lasting and outstanding contribution to the outdoor advertising industry. What does a ‘lasting and outstanding contribution’ mean to you? What differentiates this kind of award from a Lifetime Achievement, or differentiates it from anyone in the Hall of Fame who did not receive this award?
MW: The Myles Standish Award is presented to an individual who has made important contributions to the industry over many years. The award is often presented to past OAAA Board of Directors members and chairs like Kevin Reilly, Jr. or industry stalwarts like Wally Kelly, or important advocates like Senator Harry Reid.
There is another award rarely presented and that is the Lifetime Achievement Award. It is presented as a special citation to an individual whose contributions to OAAA and the industry have been so profound and lasting that a special designation is warranted. This award has only been presented three times to Karl Eller, John Kluge, and RO Naegele, Sr.
While the impact of past OAAA Board members, chairs and senators is evident, there are many unsung heroes in the out of home industry who also deserve recognition for their contributions. That is why the Hall of Fame Awards were introduced. The Hall of Fame honors individuals from across the industry with varied backgrounds, members who have contributed to the success of the industry often in unique ways.
5. The L. Ray Vahue award recognizes an individual who best embodies the marketing aims of the out of home advertising industry. What are the specific marketing aims of this industry? How can OAAA tell when an individual has embodied this award?
MW: A central function of any trade association is to promote and celebrate the industry it serves. The L. Ray Venue Award is present to sales and marketing professionals who have enthusiastically evangelized the medium through leadership and example. Many of the past recipients have been active contributors through their work on the OAAA Marketing Committee or other related committees.
6. Obviously, the awards are a huge prestige, and bigger than just personal benefits. But just out of curiosity, are there any cash awards or physical awards (plaques, etc) that come with them, or any other benefits in the industry like free attendance to a conference/other similar opportunities?
MW: Each winner is honored with a physical award. For the Myles Standish Award and L. Ray Vehue Awards, a set of custom minted coins are presented within a commemorative wooden box. Hall of Fame and Rising Star recipients are given trophies. The Lifetime Achievement Award is a Steuben Crystal Eagle.
7. Could you walk me through how the selection process works? Once the window closes for nominations, what happens next? Is there a certain committee from OAAA that looks them over, or a voting process of any kind?
MW: A Selection Committee comprised of past Industry Awards winners review the nominations and selects the winners. The OAAA chair serves as the chair of the Selection Committee and invites past winners to serve on the committee.
8. Since all your members are able to nominate, you must get a lot of submissions every year. Are you physically able to look through all of them/do you have them in front of you when you’re making these decisions?
MW: The Selection Committee carefully reviews every nomination submitted.
9. Have there been times that someone who was not nominated got selected, or times that OAAA really felt like someone who did not get nominated deserved a specific award? What did you do in that case?
MW: A person must be nominated for consideration to receive an award. OAAA staff does not influence the decisions made by the Selection Committee.
10. To get into logistics, what if the voting committee is split even? Would a certain person cast the tie breaking vote in that case?
MW: The Selection Committee debates the nominations submitted until winners are determined.
To learn more about the 2023 OAAA Industry Awards, click here.