Tongal honors their best and brightest at the first annual Tongie awards


The 2014 Tongie awards might just be remembered as the moment when “Commercial Contests” broke away from the rest of the ad world and became a full-fledged, independent industry.  Over the years, a few crowdsourcing sites (most notably, Mofilm) have thrown some pretty amazing parties for their members.  But Tongal’s first annual award ceremony was completely over-the-top and totally unprecedented.  It wasn’t just a party.  It was a statement.  The black tie event was held at the historic El Rey theater in the heart of Los Angeles.  Tongal flew in dozens of filmmakers from across North America and a few international members came all the way from Germany, Sweden, Argentina and Malaysia.  Close to 250 people were treated to dinner and drinks and the evening ended with a surprise performance by the Pointer Sisters. (They blew the roof off the place.)  But the awards ceremony itself was the main attraction.  The company honored the best Tongal videos of 2013 and awarded Tongies in 13 categories such as Best Comedy, Best Broadcast Spot, Best Animation and the Video of The Year.

The Tongies
A pair of (temporarily) abandoned Tongies

The message in all of this was pretty clear; the “independent” ad industry is real and successful and ready for the big time.  As a filmmaker, I’ve been invited to some really cool events but I can honestly say that The Tongie Awards was the best party I’ve ever been to.  (It just barely beats out my E.T.-themed 8th birthday party)  Anyone who walked past the El Rey theater that night must have thought we were all “professionals” from big name ad agencies.  But as far as I could see, there wasn’t a single “pro” in the house….at least not in the traditional sense.  The theater was filled with a new kind of creative; independent ad makers.  Tongal members earned more than five million dollars in 2013 and some Tongie nominees have “won” more than $100,000 each.  A few of them have seen their commercials broadcast on TV and one Tongler’s ad actually aired during the 2013 Super Bowl.  When I had a chance to mingle, I asked some of these producers if they had an agent or if they had applied to work for any big, established production companies or agencies.  I heard the same response over and over and over; “I don’t need to.”  The general sentiment was that “Tongal always has projects running so I don’t need an agent to find me work.  And I don’t need to work for someone else because my teammates and I can do everything ourselves.”

That attitude marks an extraordinary sea change.  Filmmakers used to spend decades paying their dues in the hopes that they could get an agent or a steady job.  But thanks to sites like Tongal, filmmakers can now skip those steps.  If you have decent equipment and a decent amount of talent, you can start earning money NOW.  Commercials created by independent ad makers, crowdsourcers, video contest filmmakers, spec producers, etc. have gotten so good that most viewers would never realize they were watching something that was shot by a group of friends for a few hundred bucks.  Here, check out these two TV commercials:

Both of those were created for Tongal contests and both have aired on TV.  The Oral-B promo won the Tongie for “Video of the Year” and the Hasbro ad won for “Best Broadcast Spot.”  And believe it not, the Hasbro ad was actually created by a teenager from a small town in Massachusetts.  The kid is barely out of high school but thanks to Tongal he already has a TV commercial under his belt.

Those two videos are just the tip of the iceberg.  If you’re in the mood two watch a bunch of really entertaining ads today, head here to see all the 2014 Tongie winners:  And if you weren’t able to attend the event yourself, scroll down to see what you missed.  Below are a bunch of cell phone pics I took plus a few official photos from Tongal….

photo courtesy of Tongal
Photo courtesy of Tongal
The presenter of the "Best Original Song Award" Gene Simmons (!) poses with Tongal's co-founders Mark Burell, James De Jullio and Rob Salvatore
The presenter of the “Best Original Song Award” Gene Simmons (!) poses with Tongal’s co-founders Mark Burell, James De Jullio and Rob Salvatore
I finally got to meet Justin and Marissa, the folks behind my favorite website,!  And the guy on the left is Jordan from the team, Side of Fries.
Tongie nominees Lucas Ridley and a a member of the North of Now team
Photo courtesy of Tongal
Photo courtesy of Tongal
Tongie winners, The Snap Brothers
My table-mates were a super cool brother and sister team, Tiffany and Armani.  Armani’s not scowling; I caught him mid-chew.
Tongal had their own carpets made for this event. That’s a baller move, son.
Tongie nominee Mean Low came all the way from Malaysia!
The teenage director of the Hasbro ad I posted, Charles Frank and
one of Tongal’s many friendly staff members.
That happy, bearded  guy in the middle is Tongal’s Senior VP of Product and the mastermind behind the Tongies, Caleb Light-Wills
The man with the Tongie might just be the best independent ad maker in the game, David Brasher.  I’ve been posting his work on VCN for years
The Pointer Sisters close out the show
Happy people getting their faces rocked off

And so that’s the story of the first annual Tongie awards.  Man, I’m glad I was there because if I had missed it I would have felt like a total idiot.  To my friends at Tongal I’ve got to say thank you for inviting me and congratulations on a job well done!