Consumers get to add 2 icons to ad world's walk of fame

— -- Can Progressive's perky Flo make mincemeat out of the Jolly Green Giant? For that matter, can the Old Spice dude clean Mr. Clean's clock?

That may be up to you.

For the first time, social media will become the consumer voting focal point in the eighth annual online competition to select the nation's top two ad icons — and top two ad slogans. The winners will be hoisted as permanent banners on the ad industry's version of Hollywood & Vine: New York's Madison Avenue Advertising Walk of Fame.

With Facebook, Twitter and YouTube platforms expected to attract a record vote and a younger audience, Madison Avenue's newer ad icons are about to seriously test the staying power of the ad world's older icons. Some 20 icons are in the running — from the Energizer Bunny to Subway's Jared — but only two will be enshrined on Oct. 4 during Advertising Week 2011 in New York City.

"It's the ultimate seal of approval from consumers," says Matt Scheckner, executive director of Advertising Week, an organization of corporate and media partners that sponsors the competition. To ensure social-media buzz, the group's hired BuzzFeed, the online tracker of consumer Web obsessions.

But Advertising Age columnist Bob Garfield says it's particularly ironic that Madison Avenue is turning to the very digital world that had enabled consumers to tune out ad messages.

"It's pitiful to see Madison Avenue imagining itself as beloved, when it's barely relevant to the public at large, " he says.

Garfield insists that, given a choice, most consumers will fast-forward through ads. He adds, that people particularly detest seeing unwanted ads on their digital devices. "Madison Avenue can have all the parades and celebrations it wants," he says. "The best thing you can say about this is that it's self-delusional."

Or not.

Scheckner says he expects a record 1 million consumers, or more, to vote. "This will become viral," he says.

Voting begins today at and ends at midnight Sept. 30. Winners will join past winners whose banners already are flying, including Tony the Tiger, Mr. Peanut and the Budweiser Clydesdales. Online voters will be able to vote only once.

Garfield says he isn't planning on voting. But he admits being partial to Progressive's Flo.

"But how do we all know Flo?" Garfield asks. "It's because she's on TV every three seconds, and we can't get out the DVR fast enough to fast-forward past her."