If there’s a way to equalize the power in a room of high-powered celebrities, one way to do it is by giving everyone only five words to say what they have to say. And so it went at the 14th Annual Webby Awards, hosted by actor B.J. Novak, at which all award recipients from a group of crooning grade-schoolers to Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon, were limited to five words for their acceptance speeches — brevity that puts Twitter’s 140 characters to shame. This tactic was aimed in part to speedily marshal the audience through the awards, which spanned over one hundred categories with such titles as “Online Guerilla & Innovation,” “Best Use of Animation or Motion Graphics,” “Integrated Mobile Experience” and “Weird.” And while it had the secondary effect of leveling the playing field by forcing a specific kind of creativity across the roster of winners, the individuality of the awarded came through clearly.
So, what did our illustrious webby winners do in five words? Some were socially and/or politically minded like Arianna Huffington’s “Goldman Sachs shorted my speech,” (Winner in Blog – Political) some were same with double entendre, like Isabella Rossellini’s “I say plug the hole” (Winner Best Individual Performance); others drew on historic quotes like Roger Ebert’s “Vieni vidi vici” (Webby Person of the Year); some were a combo poignant/witty like the New York Times‘s “All the news that’s fit” (Winner Best Copy/Writing); some were nostalgic like Pandora’s “Didn’t kill the radio star” (Winner for Music); some were expected like Twitter co-founder Biz Stone’s “Every character counts”; and some were just wacky, like when Gilbert Godfried carried a live duck on stage — the Aflac duck — and said “Who needs five words. Aflac.” (Winner Insurance); and Buzz Aldrin’s memorable words with parting piece signs held up to the audience, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”
In the cavernous hall of Cipriani’s Wall Street restaurant, everyone gathered by the bar to sip Bellinis and nibble on blini with dollops of caviar or prosciutto-wrapped melon. And while the award-winners had already been announced many of the event’s judges were in attendance. Judges Alex Giordano (of Ninjalab.it) and Luca Magnoni (of Hydrogen-code.com), the Italian ambassadors for the Webbys, jetted in from Italy for the occasion. The backdrop behind the two men, along with all the illustrations for the event and the set design were created by street artist Shepard Fairey.