Last week's Gramia awards showcased the advertising and marketing sector's determination not to let the recession hamper creativity. Alex Black reports

"The show must go on," cried Adam Leyland, the editor of The Grocer, as he took to the stage last Thursday to open the Gramia 2009 ceremony.

His call to arms came within hours of Thresher owner First Quench entering into administration, but Leyland said a spirit of defiance had typified this year's Grocery Advertising & Marketing Industry Awards entries. "We've seen some of the industry's best work in years," he told the 370-strong audience at the Landmark Hotel. "It's as if recession has stripped marketers of the oppressive burden of regulation. Instead of seeking to tick boxes, everyone has said: 'Let's have some fun'."

In the spirit of the occasion, Leyland introduced proceedings as a circus ringmaster. The rest of the audience stuck to black tie, including the Honey Monster, who turned up as a guest on Frank PR's table. The hairy yellow cereal promoter was in the running for the top prize in the consumer PR creative campaign category, but lost out to Richmond Towers Communications' 'man flu' campaign for Fisherman's Friend. However, he got to bask in Frank PR's reflected glory later in the evening, as it won the consumer PR agency award thanks to a strong overall performance.

In the battle of the ad agencies, marketing and communication heavyweight JWT pipped BBH to be crowned the consumer agency winner. Both had scooped two Diamond awards, with JWT winning the consumer press category for its Andrex Shea Butter campaign and in the radio section for its 'public apology' spot promoting Kellogg's Crunchy Nut. BBH topped the online section with its Save Tango campaign, and scooped the outdoor award for Lynx Bullet's 'pocket pulling power' series of ads.

Chaiman of the judges, Charity Charity, described the year so far as one in which the sector had "worried about service, and the truth of our offerings". "Wise brands have focused themselves around what they do best, but the wisest focused themselves on what their customers love best. It is when we are most loved that we are most valued," the Saatchi & Saatchi global creative director, Head & Shoulders, said.

Creative judges included Adam Buxton of Digitas; Guy Blackden of Mindshare; Lindsey Clay of Thinkbox TV; Barry Stephenson of Clarity Production; Jenny Bond of Leo Burnett; Lorraine Hendle and Jonathan Daniels of The Grocer; Sharon Martin of WJP Floyd; Gordon Torr of The Unfactory; and Sav Evangelou of Digitas. PR judges included Alex Beckett and Alex Black of The Grocer, Serena De Morgan of Ketchum PR, Laura Mahon of Iris PR, Russell Minihan of 3 Monkeys; and Margot Raggett of Lexis PR. Entertainment was provided by comedians Bob Mills, the MC, and Jon Richardson.

Judging by the deafening cheers that greeted each Diamond award and the celebratory atmosphere, the teams behind the industry's best campaigns are having fun, and loving it. With the last stragglers not leaving til 3.30am, it was clear some of the guests did not want the show to end.