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Wednesday, July 17, 2024

NC trend: A Queen City CEO immerses himself in the red-carpet world of award shows

During law school, David Moritz had a friend who considered starting a promotional products business. After attending a trade show, Moritz told the friend he was surprised by the dearth of high-end offerings.

There were pens, keychains and koozies as far as the eye could see. But there were few other products.

Moritz, an NYU alum who planned to be an entertainment lawyer, thought about the iconic statues presented at black-tie awards shows. Were executives browsing tchotchke showrooms? Didn’t they deserve a more sophisticated way to source sought-after awards?

The founder and CEO of Charlotte-based Society Awards says high-end awards manufacturers didn’t exist until he created the category.

Moritz aspires for the brand to be known among the award recipients themselves. Yes, that means Meryl Streep, Beyoncé, Garth Brooks and the like.

“A lot of award winners are already aware of us,” he says. “If you’re in advertising, you know about the industry’s Clio Awards, and you probably read in the trades that Society Awards is producing them now. Even in the entertainment industry, some people know us.”

When Steven Spielberg accepted the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the 2009 Golden Globes, he held it up and said, “Look; it’s been redesigned and everything. It’s beautiful.” 

Society didn’t just redesign the DeMille Award. Over nearly two years, the company redesigned the iconic Golden Globe, too. The globe sits on a marble base, weighs 5.5 pounds and stands 10.75 inches high. Each is presented, with a certificate of authenticity, in a red velvet-lined, leather-bound chest with the Hollywood Foreign Press Association logo stamped in gold.

Moritz understands: Presentation matters.

White gloves, red carpets

Founded in 2007 in New York, Society Awards offers what the company calls “white-glove concierge services.” The company employs about a dozen concierges who are assigned to a client from initial meeting through delivery. They act, Moritz says, as “the client’s command center. They review materials, design options and logistics. They handle quality control and delivery. The concierge makes everything happen.”        

Many of the awards are made in China and finished (plaques affixed, polished, shipped) in the company’s Grove, Oklahoma, facility. It employs about 60 people in Charlotte and Oklahoma.

Moritz and his family moved the headquarters to Charlotte in 2020 seeking “a better quality of life.” He and his wife Charlotte have two children – ages 9 and 6 – and appreciate “the grass, the green space and the weather” in their adopted hometown.

The company maintains two offices in South End, one in Atherton Mill and the other in The Line, a 16-story, mixed-use complex. Atherton Mill offers visibility and is ideal for client meetings, while the larger Line space is more conducive to company meetings.

More than 150 Society Awards designs will be displayed in an exhibit opening Dec. 1 at the Mint Museum in Charlotte.

Starting at the top

Moritz says he started the business at the top. “We were creating a better product than already existed and felt confident going after notable accounts,” he says.

The company’s reach goes beyond show biz to encompass sports, social media, cars and more.

“Within every field of endeavor, there’s a world-class champion,” Moritz says. Whether being honored for acting in a Hollywood movie or for selling more carpet than their colleagues, these champions deserve more than a standard-issue trophy,  he stresses. 

Moritz’s first foray into the awards world was an acrylic memento. The award was small but the client, Billboard magazine, and the honoree, Neil Diamond, are known globally. Society Awards’ client roster now includes the Video Music Awards, the Emmy Awards, the Academy of Country Music Awards, NAACP Image Awards, NBC’s “The Voice” and ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars.”

Impressive, but one award is conspicuously absent: the Oscar. Surely, Moritz wants to manufacture that golden statuette? Nope. 

“We’re already the supplier for the  most prestigious awards show – the YouTube Creators Awards,” he says. “If you have 100 million subscribers to your YouTube channel, you’re eligible for the Red Diamond Award – made of red Baccarat crystal.”

The secret weapons

What made Moritz think he could convince Hollywood honchos to buy his product? It may have been his high-end suits.

“I was exceptionally polished,” he says. “I know what I’m doing. I had a law degree and had read manufacturing textbooks. I interviewed professional artists. I understood the assignment – replicating a series of miniatures that must be identical. It’s an artisan process. Our awards are akin to a high-end, limited-edition piece of art.”

From the beginning, Moritz knew he had to sell more than an award. He had to make the buying, production and delivery process smooth – and even enjoyable.

His self-confidence and swagger are probably his secret weapons:

Business NC: Who are your competitors?

Moritz: They’re all out of business.

BNC: OK, then. Who were your competitors?

Moritz: [Starts to answer, before stopping himself.] No, no. I’m not going to mention them. If they can’t get press on their own, I’m not getting it for them.

Getting in the door

There’s nothing easy about uncovering the person in an organization responsible for buying awards. “It’s often a CEO or someone else in the C-suite,” he says. “But it can be someone in the marketing department who happens to love awards shows.”

Along with Vicky Fotopoulou, the company’s co-creative director of 3-D design, Moritz helps create the awards. Those designs include creative wonders like the MTV Movie Award – a popcorn box replica with golden popcorn piled high and spilling out onto the base of the statue.

Moritz’s design sensibility might be the dictum often attributed to German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe: “Less is more.”

An award “needs to be simple,” he says. “If you try to complicate the design, you end up with something fussy.” 

Moritz’s process for creating an award is meant to be painless for the client. There are no thumbnail sketches to review. “If you’re not a sculptor, do you really want to sit around reviewing sketches for sculpture?” Moritz asked rhetorically.

Instead, the team begins with a creative brief, gets buy-in from the client and comes back with what Moritz calls a “Pixar-level photo/illustration” for the client to approve.

The costs for the company’s white-glove treatment varies. Moritz says clients can generally get something impressive in the “ready-to-award” category for between $150 and $1,000 per unit.  A custom award usually starts at $10,000.

“It’s got to be good,” Moritz says. “And it is. What we show up with is a literal work of art.”

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