Scamnesty For All

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At the risk of using up Steve's bandwidth, let's talk scam, the "other" four-letter word blowing up big this week. So there's a TV spot to go with the real fake WWF ad (After the jump.) Read the reactions here, here, here, here and here. Even Brazil lobbed one back.

Rather than rehash the same points (too much), consider a few other things at work.

What's happened is an advertising Perfect Storm with several issues colliding at once: Scam work for award shows, the use of 9/11 as an ad theme, unaware clients, a 24/7 interweb that knows everything you do, and even how brands respond to negative PR.

There's two points there that matter the most for me.

1) Scam Happens. It's been going on for a long time. Usually, a few ad bloggers complain, followed by scammers or their supporters commenting anonymously about the "haters" who called them on it. Normally, nothing gets done and this blows over in a day.

Unless you use the nuclear option like 9/11.

That aside, there's something wrong about profiting from work that never ran--or would never run--especially when plenty of other creatives bust their ass on legit client work without the glory.

Still others say "fake" work is fine because it's about the ideas, not whether they ran or not.

I understand that in theory. Scriptwriters in Hollywood write fake episodes of major shows all the time to show they can write for a particular series, even if that episode never runs. Even they have to watch what they write in terms of language and subject matter though.

(Ironic that one industry criticizes the practice while another lauds it.)

Another factor that helps perpetuate the problem is the creative director mindset that wants to see work that wows, not work the client would approve. What you get then is a culture where anything goes as long as it gets noticed.

Clients though live in the real world. They may say they want something new, but what they really want is what's worked before.

Still, hard to argue the intent behind this. The last thing you want to do is limit the exploration of new ideas by your agency's creatives.

So what about solutions? Any answer that doesn't start with changing the awards shows' approach to how and what gets in will fail. It's also too easy to single out any one award show when it's so pervasive. And that's everyone in the award show ecosystem. The sponsors, the agencies and especially the judges.

What does it also say where you take an ad rejected by the client and run it anyway. Shouldn't the client be the final judge of the work and not an award show?

There's a few other suggestions in one comment on the Ad Age follow-up piece, in addition to Dog & Pony Show's response.

I have a different one, naive as it may be: What if from this point everyone declared Scamnesty?

The deal is, we don't care if you did it in the past, it stops now. Delete all the files of work that didn't run. Turn in your presentation boards of pitch work that the client rejected. Stop working entry fees into client budgets. Stop running ads one time and late at night to qualify.

Then there's the 800 lb gorilla.

2) 9/11. It's why we're talking about this. If that's not part of this execution, we're probably ignoring the topic of scam and I'm posting a Bud spot instead. Whether 9/11 is a creative no-fly zone or not is another post, but I have one question.

Since DDB Brazil doesn't exist unless DDB is founded in NYC, how do you show such little respect for the heritage of your agency? Showing ignorance of the significance of world events like 9/11 can be expected if you live in a cave. But this is like running an ad in Japan using mushroom cloud footage.

See, if I were thinking of executions, I might do a comparison using stats too. Maybe something like...

2008 billings for DDB Worldwide Communications: $1.43 billion
Cost of DART tsunami early warning system: $30 million

(If, you know, I was going to use stats.)

Or maybe show the real human toll instead of using one tragedy to built support for another.

(If, you know, I was going to exploit something.)

Still, having said all that, when's the last time you talked this much about the WWF or something DDB Brazil did?

by Bill Green    Sep- 3-09   Click to Comment   
Topic: Creative Commentary   

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