LOS ANGELES — Against the glittering backdrop of West Hollywood’s nightscape, in the luxurious grand ballroom of the Andaz hotel, the 2018 Exec Awards honored top online industry players, at an intimate dinner event.
After attendees had a chance to get their wine and dine on, Van Halen’s “Jump” blasted out from the speakers, heralding the commencement of the ceremony.
“Oh yeah!” roared XBIZ founder and publisher Alec Helmy, with a rocker’s gravelly voice. “That’s my kind of music! It’s only … like … 40 years old.” Laughter followed. “So, I told Moe this would be a tradition, before we start the Exec Awards, every year, we’re going to play this song.” More laughter ensued. “I don’t know about you guys, but some of these new school kids, they like Kanye West or The Weeknd, all that lame stuff. I’m into Van Halen, Motley Crue, the rock stuff. Anyways, how’s everyone doing?” The crowd went wild.
Adopting a more serious tone, Helmy said, “So, in many ways, this is a very special night for us, because we are recognizing the talent that is behind the products, the websites, the companies that are highly successful in our business. As you knows, we have many founders here, but the founders would not be here if it wasn’t for their team. I wouldn’t be standing here if it wasn’t for Moe, for Leah, and a lot of times I think founders get a lot more credit than they deserve."
XBIZ events director Moe Helmy hopped up on stage then, exclaiming, “Alright guys, welcome to the 2018 XBIZ Exec Awards! Great to have you. Let’s start the show!”
Leah Mahi, director of marketing and advertising for XBIZ, took the mic then, announcing that the first category of the evening would be Account Executive of the Year. “This category’s a first for us, but certainly not the last,” she said. “Account execs play a key role in the success of any business. And the nominees are…”
As the names flashed silently on screen, the audience clamored for each to be read out aloud. Moe obliged, jovially protesting, “Unbelievable, you guys are making me work right now!” He then read each name off the screen to the sound of supportive clapping, whoops and shoutouts. This back-and-forth between the MCs, with Mahi introducing each category and Helmy listing the names, would continue throughout the night.
Marissa Ataliotis from ImLive scored the Account Exec trophy, bounding on stage in a lovely black dress with floral patterns on it. “Thank you guys so much,” she said. “Thank you to everyone that voted for me and everyone I work with. I seriously love you all! Thank you ImLive for getting me on board and allowing me to have this opportunity. Thank you to XBIZ, because if we didn’t have these shows to network, what would we do?”
Next up was Business Development Executive of the Year, which went to Karll Cloutier of Bang.com. Dressed in jeans and a suit jacket, Cloutier accepted the trophy, saying, “Thank you very much. I’m very surprised. I’d like to first thank Bang.com for giving me the opportunity to work with them. Great team. Thank you very much to XBIZ for putting this together, to everyone that’s working with me, and to everybody that isn’t working with us yet, let’s get some business done!”
Mahi then announced Marketing Executive of the Year as the upcoming award, and while Moe listed off the nominees, he came upon Studio 20 publicist Andra Chirnogeanu’s surname. “Andra, don’t kill me,” pleaded Helmy, before attempting her last name. And, she turned out to be the winner! “Thank you guys so much,” she said, outfitted in a sparkling silver dress. “Thank you Studio 20 for making this dream possible, thank you to everyone that’s working with us, to everyone that has been voting for me, and what I can promise you guys is … you’re all going to learn how to pronounce Chirnogeanu!” Everyone laughed good-naturedly.
The Progressive Leadership Award went to JuicyAds maestro Juicy Jay, who sauntered to the front of the room in business casual attire topped off with an orange fedora … the very same color of his company logo. “I didn’t expect this,” he said. “I didn’t have anything written, or ready to say. I probably still have steak in my teeth. So, I don’t know where to go with this! I appreciate everybody who voted for me. I’m sure I know at least half of you in the room and I’ve enjoyed the 18 years I’ve had with all of you. I’ve enjoyed traveling the world with you, doing everything we do. I didn’t expect this so I don’t know what to say, thank you!”
Afterwards, Community Figure of the Year was awarded to AVSecure’s Steve Winyard. “Oh that’s nice,” he offered, before wryly grinning. “I don’t know how that happened, because I voted for Brad.” Someone shouted, “Show us your tits!” to which Winyard replied, “I’m not showing you my tits again.” As the crowd settled down, Winyard continued, “Thanks guys, I really appreciate that. I remember seven years ago, being the guy at the Phoenix Forum — which is the first show I went to — being this evil bastard from dot-triple-X, left at the bar on my own like a loner, and now … still, nobody likes me really.” The room cackled. “But, as Frank Sinatra once said, ‘I did it my wayyy!’” he sang with baritone glee.
Brand Ambassador of the Year then went to Jim Austin of Stripchat, who stated, “Okay, I hate to be cliché, but I really did not expect this award today. Thank you so much to everyone who voted for me. To be in this room with the same people on that screen of nominees is an honor in itself. I was just happy to be nominated, so to win this, is fantastic. This is the best industry I could have ever hoped for. About five years ago, I thought my life was going to wind up boring, with some mundane job, and then I found adult like probably everybody else, by accident, and it’s been a fantastic ride. Thank you very much.”
Gary Jackson landed the Senior Leadership Award trophy, prompting the always elegantly dressed executive to declare, “Wow … just to be clear, senior leadership award is not about age.” Everyone laughed. “Thank you to XBIZ and everyone who voted for us, and I just wanted to take a moment to acknowledge XBIZ and what they do for our community. I think if you look at what they do from a portal and a news and a media standpoint, to the shows to the awards to the ASACP and FSC, all the things that they’ve brought to our community are simply phenomenal, and they’ve brought us together. So, kudos to XBIZ for this.
“I want to give thanks to Ron Cadwell and the Cadwell family, they’ve been very good to me and I thank them for this,” he continued. “Also, I don’t think any senior leadership — whatever that means, besides being old — can happen without a team. I truly believe it’s about the team that you hire, that makes you a better person and a better leader and all you do is really guide them down the path. And I really have a phenomenal team. Thank you to everybody, I really appreciate it.”
For the prestigious Chief Executive of the Year trophy, Vendo’s very own Mitch Platt was crowned the winner. “Wow, I’m definitely surprised,” he said, suited up in a sleek ensemble. “I think I’m just going to parrot what Alec said, that it’s really about what my team did, and I’m going to accept this award for them. You know, everybody back in Barcelona and my business partners. I couldn’t do it without them. This is really cool. Thank you very much!”
Businesswoman of the Year went to Carmen from BitterStrawberry, who was unable to attend, and Businessman of the Year was awarded to Jack Avalanche of Traffic Pimps. “Thank you very much for this award,” he said. “Thank you Alec and Moe and Leah, I really appreciate it. I think back to 16 years ago, when I was in real estate, and I said to myself I want to do something fucking fun. Here I am with a beard and a mohawk now, so I want to thank everybody here and everyone in this business.”
Then, it was time for the Industry Legacy award, which Colin Rowntree accepted with dignity and grace. “Thank you to XBIZ,” he began. “I started in this industry 24 years ago, coming out of being an opera conductor of all goddamn things. I just want to thank all of you, so many dear friends and so many great allies. I thank XBIZ and … I really like this trophy, it’s black!”
Then, Mahi captivated the audience as she presented the Women in Adult (WIA) trophy for the Woman of the Year. “So, this next award is our WIA award,” she said. “It’s very special to me. As women in adult … we have different organizations at these events and we all come together to empower each other and embrace each other. And also do business with one another. The woman that we are recognizing today is amazing. She is a powerhouse. She is at every show as well as being a mom. The next Woman of the Year is … Megan Stokes!”
The NMG Management maven graciously accepted. “I would like to thank XBIZ very much," she said. "Women in Adult is very important to me too. I just want to thank you all so much, and I’m so happy to be the recipient.”
Moe Helmy took the microphone again, announcing, “And for the last awards of the night, we’ve got Mr. Tim Henning from ASACP coming up on stage!” The executive director of the Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection walked forth, standing beside two trophies etched with “ASACP.”
“So, every year we give an award, a very special award, a service recognition award,” he said. “There’s been a lot of talk about teams tonight and ASACP is no different. There are people who work behind-the-scenes tirelessly as volunteers and really get no recognition for what they’ve done. So tonight, I want to change that a bit, with two people that are in the room that join the ranks of some pretty elite people that have received this award every year. Without further ado, I would like Gary Jackson and Brad Mitchell to come up on stage.”
Jackson and MojoHost’s Mitchell shook hands with Henning, taking their trophies with reverence. “Neither one of us expected to win this,” Mitchell admitted. “I just try to do my part for the benefit of all of us as a community.”
As for Jackson, he imparted, “I think the ASACP has always been close to our hearts and when my team asks what the importance of the ASACP is, I explain that this is a group whose sole mission is to protect children from exploitation, from accessing content they shouldn’t. How can anyone in the world possibly stand up against that? So it’s a very important initiative and organization, which is somewhat unsung, because it’s so vital to everything we do as an industry. Thank you Tim for what you contribute to the community."
Basking in the warmth of their hard-won accolades, the 2018 XBIZ Exec Awards winners exchanged kind words with their peers, clinking glasses and supping on delicious steaks. Already, their minds and hearts were hard at work with plans and dreams for the coming year. Many fruitful business deals would follow in the days to come at the XBIZ L.A. show, built in part, on the goodwill fostered from so genuine a community spirit.
The 2018 XBIZ Exec Awards winners are:
Account Executive of the Year
Marissa Ataliotis, ImLive
Business Development Executive of the Year
Karll Cloutier, Bang.com
Marketing Executive of the Year
Andra Chirnogeanu, Studio 20
Progressive Leadership Award
Juicy Jay, JuicyAds
Community Figure of the Year
Steve Winyard, Community Figure of the Year
Brand Ambassador of the Year
Jim Austin, Stripchat
Senior Leadership Award
Gary Jackson, CCBill
Chief Executive of the Year
Mitch Platt, Vendo
Businesswoman of the Year
Businessman of the Year
Jack Avalanche, Traffic Pimps