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Counselor Senior Editor Michele Bell's slanted view of the world.

ASI’s 2012 Power Summit: The Late (Late) Show

Filed under: Fun, Travel

Happy Pre-Thanksgiving, Everyone!

I’m just back from ASI’s 6th annual Power Summit, held this year at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort in Naples, FL, and hoo boy, was it a time.

There will be comprehensive coverage of the entire three day conference in December’s Counselor, but what I’m going to cover — through the vast photo array below — is what happened after hours. Because, like True Blood vampires (sans the gratuitous nudity and Trucker hats), my ilk and I really shine when the sun goes down.

But first, two shout-outs: 1) Anyone who’s ever been on a panel discussion in front of 230 people knows how wickedly nerve-wracking it can be. Because of that, big kudos to all the industry people who did the prep work and brought their A game as panelists, especially the four brave folks who agreed (read: succumbed to my nagging) to be on the Marketing Smackdown panel. Brown & Bigelow’s Cindy Jorgenson, MadeToOrder Sandy Gonzalez, Axis Promotions’ Larry Cohen and BrandFuel’s Danny Rosin had to take the stage and each present a cohesive, comprehensive marketing plan for a mock promotional scenario that they were given only an hour beforehand. And while the audience chose the winner — Danny Rosin — through text voting (so exciting to watch the live tallies come in in real time!), everyone in attendance was in awe of all four participants, and their ability to be so creative, so quickly.

2) If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know I like to give out an MVP Award for best performance at industry events. Sunrise Identity’s Mitch Mounger (All Hail Mitch!) won at PPAI’s North American Leadership Conference (NALC) in August, and though he was in hil-arious form at the Power Summit, I’m giving the All Star MVP award to Jill Albers from the Dayton, OH-based distributor Shumsky. Why?

* Because it’s interesting to watch people in the industry who don’t know her underestimate her — whether it’s because she’s young, blonde or eternally fun — until she starts talking about the industry, her business and the promos she creates for her clients. And then they realize fast that my girl’s got it all going on. She knows her stuff cold and I’d put her talent, creativity and professionalism right up there with the best in the industry.

* Because even though she parties late-night, she’s up at the crack of dawn, e-mailing clients and Skyping her kids.

* Because, despite coming down with a cold, she networked like a rock star, and endured me pacing around our hotel room all night long, having kittens about moderating my presentation the following morning. Just calm down, she told me reassuringly.

* Because as much as people think I’m her handler, she’s mine as well.

So, without further delay, enjoy the photos and captions from the not-so-business end of the Power Summit, the late-night antics.

Cheers, and more soon! See you all at the 2013 shows!

– M

The wildly charismatic Tom Savio (left), president of Counselor Top 40 distributor Caliendo Savio Enterprises (CSE), shown here with ASI’s president & CEO, Tim Andrews. Funny story: When I saw Tom sitting at the bar at the Ritz, I had my librarian-girl glasses on and my hair up. I sidled up to him and said, “Hey there, Sailor. Lookin’ for a good time?” To say he was stunned is putting it mildly, and I know that for about five seconds, he had no idea who I was until I took my glasses off and let my hair down. At which point he burst out laughing and shrieked, “Michele!!!” Not sure why, but I always seem to be the lone brunette amongst the bevy of blondes! Here’s my girl Jill Albers (left), business development executive for the Dayton, OH-based distributor Shumsky, shown here with the beautiful Brittany David, sales rep extraordinaire for SnugZ/USA Inc.
ASI’s vice president of supplier sales and my “work husband,” Ron Ball (left), with his industry BFF Trevor Gnesin, owner and president of Counselor Top 40 supplier Logomark. True story: Once upon a time, these two rode a tandem bike together (I’ll pause for a moment while that image permeates your brain) through the streets of Newport Beach, CA, until Ron — exhausted from pedaling up a hill — begged to lie down on someone’s lawn while Trev-ah (as I call him) harangued him to “get the eff up.” “I told him, ‘Ron, there’s no way in hell I’m performing CPR on you!.’ “ The night before the Power Summit officially started, Ron Ball and I took a raucous group of crazies to a super-cool restaurant in Naples called Baleen. Here’s part of our group (from left): Alistair Mylchreest, CEO of the U.K.-based Sourcing City, with whom ASI and PSI are in the global media, marketing and education group PromoAlliance (www.promoalliance.com); Brian Padian, vice president of sales for Logomark; Trevor Gnesin and Frank Murphy, head of the UK-based distributor company BTC Group. Those of us in North America are quite familiar with Trevor’s considerable skills as a raconteur, but the Brits — who had just met him that evening — howled with laughter as they were regaled with Trev-ah’s tales.
Trevor and Jilly, enjoying some fine wine at Baleen in Naples, FL. (Clockwise from bottom left): Another friend who made the trek “across the pond” from the U.K. to come to ASI’s Power Summit, Sibby Khan, head of the Manchester-based distributor Logo X; Bonni Sandy, president of Dard Design; Jilly Albers and Alistair Mylchreest. A word now about my pal Bonni: We’ve been friends for years, but the more time I spend with her, the more I stand in awe of her creativity, her expertise and her ability to remain gracious and unflappable despite the cast of crazies in the industry who vie for her attention. She’s one of the best.
Two of my favorite people, Jilly Albers and the one and only Mitch Mounger, CEO of Bellevue, WA-based Sunrise Identity. Poor Mitch… He had just arrived at the Ritz-Carlton in Naples at about 11:00 p.m. when we metaphorically threw a net over him and dragged him to come hang out with us. Three hours and innumerable bottles of wine and vodka later, the fabulous Mr. Mounger was sucked into our vortex of excess. As Jilly so correctly said: “His photos don’t do him justice… He is AWESOME.” The golfers in attendance at the Power Summit went crazy over the Ritz’s course, as evidenced by these three weapons-grade wacky industry celebs (from left): CSE’s Tom Savio; my old pal Michael Bistocchi, senior vice president of CleggPromo; and the industry’s Frank Sinatra — the chairman of the board and the straw that stirs the cocktail — BIC/Norwood’s Dave Saracino.
Now, while I typically get weak-kneed over bad boys with long hair, these three — “the baldies,” as Counselor editor Andy Cohen (left, with Mitch Mounger and Tom Savio), calls them — all have a special place in my heart. I didn’t plan this when I snapped the photo, but I just love having a Grease-inspired shot of Danny (Rosin, president and co-owner of the NC and VA-based BrandFuel) and Sandy (Gonzalez, senior sales partner for the CA-based distributor MadeToOrder).
Here’s ASI’s creative director for our marketing department (and one of my fave colleagues), Jake — “Jakey” to you and I — Krolick (left) with his BFF Danny Rosin. I told both of them to look “gangsta” for the photo. The problem? They’re both so cute, harmless and loveable, they just look like mischievous little muppets. My boys! Here’s Rich Carollo (aka The Lizard King), vice president of the Chicago, IL-based supplier Lion Circle, and Ira Neaman (aka Yoda), owner of Counselor Top 40 supplier Vantage. If you know me, you know that all my favorite people get nicknames. For example, Rich is The Lizard King because when we met at the SAAC Show this past August, our introductory bender was epic, a la Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison. And then there’s Ira… When I was a new editor in the industry 15+ years ago, I had to write an article about imprinting methods on apparel. So, knowing less than nothing on the topic, I called Ira, who patiently and painstakingly went through every process in detail with me, taking the time to give me my own personal tutorial. Truly, he is the Yoda of Apparel: knows everything about wearables, he does.
Love, love, love this photo. (From left): Larry Cohen, owner of Counselor Top 40 distributor Axis Promotions; Cindy Jorgenson, vice president of sales for Counselor Top 40 distributor Brown & Bigelow; Scott Pearson, vice president of marketing and merchandising for Counselor Top 40 supplier Sweda and the lovely Kellie Claudio, vice president of sales for Sweda. A word now about my friend Cindy Jorgenson: One night many years ago at the ASI Chicago Show, I was standing outside of Shenanigan’s (of course) when this stunning blonde makes a beeline over to me and says, “You’re Michele Bell, right? I have to see your shoes!” She then proceeded to tell me how we have mutual friends in the industry, that she worships at the altar of stilettos and had heard mine, like hers, were to die for. Now, if it were only that memorable introduction, I would have wanted to be friends with her. But as I got to know Cinful (see, again with the nicknames), I grew to adore her for her whip-smart mind, her sassy sense of humor and her ability to deliver a withering retort with the skill of Chelsea Handler. Except Cindy has better shoes. Hand to God, she is my cocktailing sole sister. For the first night’s dinner at the Power Summit, I collected quite the Rogue’s Gallery to sit at my table: Bonni Sandy, Jill Albers, Rich Carollo, Ira Neaman, Larry Cohen, Cindy Jorgensen, Kellie Claudio, Danny Rosin and Scott Pearson. I’m fairly certain that ours was the only table serviced with multiple rounds of shots (tequila and lemon drops, because we don’t fool around…) and consecutive trays of vodka cocktails being delivered at 20 minute intervals. Moderation and Restraint were not welcome at our table that evening…
Good Lord, take a gander at Sweda’s Scott Pearson, or “Giggles” as I call him (seriously: Have you ever heard him laugh? It’s infectious, I tell ya!). At one point, I had to step away from our dinner table and gave Scott control of the camera. I didn’t see this gem until later, when I downloaded the images and LOL’d all over the place at his expression. Logomark’s Trevor Gnesin and Jonathan Isaacson, owner of Counselor Top 40 supplier Gemline. Between the two of them, their knowledge of international business is formidable, and they’re part of my brain trust of people who I can call when I need a quick tutorial on light and breezy topics like “the macroeconomic impact of the floating yuan and the collapsing Eurozone on the North American promotional products industry.” (Brain, cramping…)
(Clockwise from bottom left): ASI’s Jakey Krolick, someone who is medically incapable of being a conformist; Danny Rosin (with finger in Jake’s ear); ASI’s supplier marketing manager Colin Graf (or, “El Diablo,” as I’m fond of calling him, due to his ability to lead all those around him down the rabbit hole of rockstar-esque partying); Henrik Johansson, COO of Counselor Top 40 distributor Boundless Network and a new friend; and the incomparable Melinda Ligos, ASI’s senior vice president of professional development and the editor-in-chief of our magazines. Rich Carollo and Jilly Albers on their way to the fantastic beach barbecue at the Ritz-Carlton’s palatial beach resort. Can I just tell you that I love Rich Carollo’s face? It’s so LOL expressive, he’s like a cartoon character.
Jilly Albers (left) and SnugZ’s Brittany David on the shuttle to the Ritz-Carlton Beach Resort for the alfresco dinner on the second night of ASI’s Power Summit. My dear, dear friend (and first female mentor in the industry) Jo-an Lantz, executive vice president of Counselor Top 40 distributor Geiger, shown here with the charming Larry Cohen, owner of Axis Promotions in NYC.
The keynote speaker for the Power Summit was Cindy Gallop, who’s given presentations at the famed TED Conference, where she delved into the topic “Make Love, Not Porn.” Her keynote for our industry was entitled “The Future of Brand Promotion: Why Everything Has Changed and Why That’s Good News for You.” Most people loved her, and for others, well, she wasn’t their cup of vodka. (Mainly due to a phrase she uttered about five times from the stage that — as everyone kept repeating it for the duration of the conference — made this Catholic schoolgirl blush….) Cindy joined us for dinner on the beach and couldn’t have been more delightful and lovely. Here she is with Jilly Albers and Rich Carollo.  
Oy. I cringed when I saw these photos of myself and wondered why in the hell I looked so swollen — like a soaked sponge. And then I remembered the 500 Grey Goose & club sodas I’d consumed over the previous three days that may have had something to do with it. Normally, I’d never post such God-awful photos of myself, except… for the person next to me. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Robert Stillman, CEO of the Boca Raton, FL-based distributor FarFromBoring Promotions. And WOWZA, does he live up to that name. Never having met him before, I reached out to him about two months ago and asked him to be on the “Delivering Customer Service Brilliance” panel I was going to moderate at the Power Summit. Again, if you know me, you know I love and adore the idiosyncratic, eccentric and iconoclastic. Robert is all of those things, in the best sense of the words. In the signature line of every one of his e-mails, and on his business card, it says the following: “Robert Stillman, Founder/CEO/Handsome Bastard.” Kid. You. Not. I worship at the altar of his irreverence and am a smitten kitten with his sublimely enigmatic personality.  
(From left): Enjoying cocktails on the beach with a calypso band playing in the background are Clegg’s Michael Bistocchi, BIC/Norwood’s Dave Saracino, CSE’s Tom Savio, Shumsky’s Jilly Albers and Vantage’s Ira Neaman. Robert “The Handsome Bastard” Stillman with the ever-gregarious Brett Hersh, president of Admints/Zagabor.
Tim Andrews, shown here with the Power Summit keynote speaker, Cindy Gallop. People often ask me what Tim is like as a boss. I invite you to contemplate that he deals with me on a daily basis. Say it with me now: “Patience. Of. Job.” After dinner on the beach, Jakey Krolick and I took a select group of crazies (affectionately known as The Merry Band of Tipsy Gypsies) to a small bar in Naples with the tres elegant name of Jack’s Bait Shack. Let me end the suspense for you: It won’t be making it to Travel + Leisure’s list of the Swankiest Spots in Florida, but it was a dive and our group loved it. As I surveyed the cast of characters in attendance, Keith Richards’ (all hail His Wasted Grace!) quote about the Stones in their halcyon heyday of the ’70s seemed particularly apt: “When the craziness starts, it’s like an avalanche… it’s best just to get out of the way.” Indeed. Starting this slideshow of mayhem, we have Brett Hersh and Danny Rosin. The next morning, Danny sent an e-mail thanking me for “letting the short kid partake in the shenanigans.” As someone who’s only 5′ 1″, I say this to you, Mr. Rosin: I’d party with you in the Shire anytime!
(From left): Jason Emery, vice president of sales for Counselor Top 40 supplier Dard Design; Brittany David; Larry Cohen; and Jake Krolick. Do you know Jason? Of course you do. He’s usually the one conspicuous voice of reason amidst the swirl of silliness. Let’s just say he had his hands full this evening at Jack’s Bait Shack! Jason Emery (left) and Dave Saracino, who just slays me for a multitude of reasons, not the least of which is that in quite a few cities across the U.S., legions of bartenders know how to make “a Saracino” and, when it’s going to be a particularly rowdy night, he lets you know with this battle cry: “Buckle Up — We’re Comin’ in Hot!”
(From left): Brittany David, Mitch Mounger, Jilly Albers and Larry Cohen. Have I mentioned how much I love Mitch Mounger? Let me count the ways: 1) Check out his company’s website (www.sunriseid.com). Under the “Who We Are” link, the pet dogs who hang out in the office have their own subhed; 2) So dry is Mitch’s wit, it should be indigenous to the Sahara. Exhibit A: On the cab ride home, Jilly — who was wearing an adorable backless halter top — announced that one of her pasties had fallen off and was stuck to her ass. Mitch’s deadpan retort? “That happens to me all the time.” (From left): Mitch Mounger, BIC/Norwood’s gorgeous Jill Stirnkorb and Dave Saracino.
Mitch Mounger and the lovely and talented Bonni Sandy. (From left): Dave Saracino, Jilly Albers, Rich Carollo and Brett Hersh.
(From left): Adorable Brittany David, me, Rich Carollo, Jilly Albers and Larry Cohen. (From left): Dave Saracino, Mitch Mounger and Larry Cohen. Some words now, about Larry Cohen. Larry and I have only really gotten to know each other in the past year, and there’s nothing about him I don’t find fascinating. Let’s start with the fact that he surrounds himself at his NYC office with a staff comprised predominately of women — all insanely smart and talented, so much so that Axis won ASI’s award for Best Client Promotion this year and is a mainstay on Counselor’s Best Places to Work list. Or how about that he was accepted into med school at Duke University and for a hot minute pondered being a medical examiner, actually assisting on an autopsy? Or that he graduated from University of Penn’s law school and could have done anything, but chose this industry because of his love of creative marketing? All of that makes him the bee’s knees. But what I love most is his omnipresent sardonic smirk. Some girls swoon over hearts and flowers… Not me. Sassy sarcasm is my first love and let me tell ya, Larry is one of the funniest zinger slingers out there. Next time we hang out, Sweetie, the mushroom pizza is on me.
 
So, you’ll look at this photo and think, “what the hell is going on here?” Let me explain: As we were leaving the bar (long past last call), eight of us piled into a cab that could only reasonably seat five. What happened next goes in the pantheon of Legendary Nights Out: Dave Saracino rode on Mitch Mounger’s lap; the cab driver got lost, subjecting us to what seemed like a five-hour ride; and people’s bodies were so intertwined it was like a game of Twister on acid. When we finally made it back to the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort, the valet opened the door so quickly, poor Brett Hersh spilled out. I’m here to tell ya: Gingerly and delicately removing all eight people from that cab was like playing Jenga. And somewhere, between Jack’s Bait Shack and the lobby of the Ritz-Carlton, Dave Saracino lost a shoe, causing him to sashay through the lobby with one barefoot and pant-leg hiked up, looking like — as Mitch Mounger said — “Tom Hanks in Cast Away.” And that, my friends, is how you end an evening in Naples, Florida — tanned and barefoot at 3:00 a.m., with a cocktail in your hand.