The Clio Awards is an annual award program that recognizes innovation and creative excellence in advertising, design and communication, as judged by an international panel of advertising professionals. Time magazine described the event as the world's most recognizable international advertising awards.
The awards, founded by Wallace A. Ross in 1959, are named for the Greek goddess Clio, the mythological Muse known as "the proclaimer, glorifier and celebrator of history, great deeds and accomplishments".
The Clios were first given in 1960, for excellence in television advertising, by the American TV and Radio Commercials Festival. Each winner received a gold Georg Olden–designed statuette. The competition was expanded to include work on international television and movies in 1966, and then radio ads, in the United States, in 1967.
The Clio Awards were acquired by Bill Evans in 1972 for $150,000 and the Clios became a profitable "for profit" company. At one point, the company's income was $2.5 million per year, being derived primarily from Clio nomination fees, of $70 to $100 per entry.
Evans expanded competition by including: U.S. Print advertising in 1971; International Print advertising in 1972; International Radio advertising in 1974; U.S. Packaging design in 1976; International Packaging design; and U.S. Specialty advertising in 1977.
In 1983, Evans continued to expand by acquiring U.S. Cable advertising in 1983.
The rules for the 1984 award required that a given entry appear publicly during the calendar year in 1983. In order to be eligible, Chiat/Day needed to run Apple Computer's 1984 commercial for the Macintosh computer prior to Super Bowl XVIII. In December 1983, Apple purchased time on KMVT in Twin Falls, Idaho, after the normal sign-off, and recorded the broadcast in order to qualify.
In 1984, the following year, a nearly identical situation occurred when Ziebart's ad agency, Doyle Dane Bernbach, purchased time on a Detroit channel carrying the inaugural Cherry Bowl college football game in December, 1984 in order for that commercial to be eligible for the 1985 awards. The move paid off as Ziebart's "Friend of the Family (Rust in Peace)" commercial garnered the Clio Award in 1985.
In 1987, Evans acquired Hispanic advertising.
Attendees of the 1991 Clio Awards who had paid the US$125 admission price did not have tickets waiting at the door, as promised. Also missing were any Clio officials and Clio President Bill Evans. The event did not start on time; in fact, people stood around drinking, schmoozing, and trading rumors about Evans and the Clio organization for more than two hours. Finally, the lights dimmed and the band started playing. A man walked up to the microphone and began to speak. He identified himself as the caterer and announced that the master of ceremonies was a no-show, but that he would give it a shot. It started out well but, after being informed that there was no script and no winners list, he gave up and walked off. A second man walked onstage and began talking, but he was not a polished speaker and it was obvious that we he was inebriated. Print ads were the first awards; transparencies of the winning entries were displayed. As each image appeared on screen, the owner of the work was asked to come to the stage, pick up their Clio, and identify themselves and their agency. When the last award in the category was dispensed, the band began playing an interlude and the emcee began singing. The audience began booing and throwing dinner rolls, and the man staggered offstage. Several minutes passed, but no one took his place. As the people began to leave, one man mounted the stage, strode to the table of remaining statuettes, snatched one up, and waved it as he left the stage. Two other individuals claimed their own awards; then suddenly, the stage was stampeded by advertising executives, intent on the Clios that remained.
On March 17, 1992, Clio Enterprises Inc., filed for bankruptcy, claiming $1.8 million in debts and indeterminate assets of at least US$1 million. Chicago publisher Ruth Ratny purchased the Clio name for an undisclosed figure. Evans had wanted $2 million, and trade publications reported a sale price of $10,000, which Ratny called low. Ratny reorganized the event as the New Clio Awards, and combined what had previously been two events into a single presentation, which was delayed from June until September 1992. Advertising Age magazine reported 6,000 entries, less than one quarter of the 1990 total. As a concession to the 1991 winners who had not yet received the trophies, their entry fee was waived. The 1990 award show at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts drew 1,800, while only 500 paid for the 1992 show at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, which was hosted by Tony Randall. A total of 86 awards in 73 categories were handed out. Another major change with the "New" Clios was direct competition between U.S. and foreign firms, which resulted in Swiss agency Comsult/Advico Young & Rubicam being named the winner of the best Television campaign.
A bankruptcy court ruled that the creditors of the 1991 Clio Awards should be paid. At the time, Ratny lacked the financial resources to settle the US$600,000 debt. Another Chicagoan, James M. Smyth a former film editor, put up the money and became sole owner of the Clio Awards. On New Year's Eve of 1992, he began working on the 1993 Clio awards show. The award ceremony was again delayed until September, and Jay Chiat of TBWA\Chiat\Day, Rick Fizdale from Leo Burnett Worldwide and Keith Reinhard at DDB Worldwide joined the Clio Executive Committee.
In 1997, the Clios were sold to Dutch-owned company VNU Media.
In 2010, Nicole Purcell was appointed Executive Director of Clio and Brooke Levy was hired to run marketing for the organization. Together they have been credited with reestablishing Clio as a best-in-class creative program. In 2015, Nicole Purcell was promoted to President.
Clio is currently part of MediaBistro Holdings, a group that also includes Adweek and The Film Expo Group, and is owned by Guggeinheim Partners.
In 2014, Clio assembled a 50/50 male-female jury made up of more than 70% international (non-US) judges. 2014 was also the year Clio began holding judging sessions internationally. The 2014 judging session took place in Malta, and the 2015 session will take place in Tenerife, Spain.
According to the Clio Awards website, more than 80% of submissions are eliminated within the first two rounds. Juries then determine whether a work deserves to be included on the Shortlist, or receive a Bronze, Silver, or Gold medal. One work in each media type may be awarded the Grand Clio, the highest honor.
Clio stated, in 2007, that the competition received more than 19,000 entries from all over the world and enlisted a jury of more than 110 judges from 62 countries. Nearly two-thirds of the submissions came from outside the United States.