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"Scam ads" hurt both brands and ad agencies says Wheaton - Exactly.

So Ken Wheaton in Adage concludes that scam ads hurts not only brands, but also agencies in this day and age. Yes, indeed!

We're talking of course of the recent JWT Ford India ads with Berlusconi /Hilton & Schumacher binding and gagging their "worries" a.k.a half naked ladies in the trunk. Yes spec work going around the web as real ads are bad, but is there any way to stop them? In this day and age where a badly photoshopped imgurl is considered a valid source to some without any attempts to verify, impossible billboards and photoshopped google pics may tour the web as real ads rather than clever spec work. We can't blame the creatives hungry for great jobs for getting their portfolio out there. And some creatives might even work for agencies that encourage creating controversial work like the KIA Pedophile ad and the 911 WWF ad just to score high on the international award boards. In several cases scam ads for another agencies client has won awards, which exposes the scam ad right quick. The One Show and D&AD have put rules in place that will discourage scam ad creators - they'll be banned for years if they enter into these awards. In Israel they created a competition brief for anti-Ghost ads, as an outlet for bored creatives to test their skills and win something on.

Your corporate name is on the line. So marketers should be paying attention to stories mentioning ghost ads or scam ads or spec creative. They should definitely be paying attention to award shows that reward such ads -- and to the judges who judge such ads. Look over the names and agencies involved. Then send an email or pick up the phone. The message can be as simple as, "Your chances of ever working with us just went from slim to none." And let your own agency know you won't put up with them or staffers trashing other brands with such attempts. You might not want to sound like a buzzkill, but better a buzzkill than having half a continent protesting you over some junior creative's attempt at self-aggrandizement. Better that than a public-apology tour and thousands spent on crisis PR.

I understand Ken's point here, I do, but I have to protest. Yes a brand name needs to be taken care of and yes, the brand themselves should be proactive. But when ads in the United Kingdom are pulled off the air because people in the United states found them a little too "gay", we start rolling down that famed slippery slope. Sure, the western world recoils at the thought of photoshopping women out of the Ikea catalogue in Saudi, but in Saudi women and men don't share the same bathroom so that makes cultural sense to them. Just like placating the opposing teams fans by sharing some chicken has no racist connotations in Australia, but it upset Americans. In a global world, with global brand, and on a globally connected internet, our local idiosyncrasies don't stand much of a chance do they?

There is no such thing as universal culture, not even a universal brand culture.

Meanwhile in India, the CCO and CD from JWT India resigned over Ford ad controversy, and I give them props for that. In a digital world where fake hacks, and staged stunts are the way we advertise, even the most unbelievable hoax ad may have some people fooled. I told you viral marketings worst nightmare is hoax ads, didn't I? Far too often after a real scam ad scandal we hear that "an intern sent the ad out", an excuse that agitates us here, so I do respect that Bobby Pawar said:

What happened is unfortunate. But no matter what the circumstances, it did happen on my watch."

To a lot of people, scam ads are like concept cars in auto shows for the ad agencies and creatives who do them. It shows what we can do. Perhaps what we need to do is make scam ads for brands like Lägo®, and Play-Duh and maybe even Amnesty.com (oops, we already did that and lost a Lion on it)...

In the end, brands may guard their trademarks like hawks and quell work done by budding ad-students in a faraway Behance portfolio, read award credits until their eyes bleed looking for who faked that play-doh stuff, and they'll soon realize that it's someone within their own organisation, just in a faraway country that gave the go ahead. Somewhere the world wide web needs to also realize that the world is a very different place depending on where you are viewing it from. In the United states right now, people are fighting for and against the right for gay people to marry. Meanwhile the Prime Minister of Belgium is openly gay, and in Pakistan Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head for being a girl in school. One brand may be perceived very differently in all of these places too. It's not Hasbro®'s job to police creative teams in Mumbai.

We'll fight the scam ads the way we always had, with common sense. And while I do agree with Ken that the brands need to get involved in policing their biggest asset apart from the product itself, I don't think they can do it alone. And why should they? Award shows and trade sites need to clearly mark the difference between spec work and real work too.

Related - "In a digitally-connected world, ‘Scam’ ads hurt brands." and examples of scam ads found here: India: Hanes (Scam), VW suicide bomber (Spec work from creative team), WWF 9/11 that entered the One Show award and was shortlisted, a fun spoof of southern comfort, selling a singer, AUDI "suicide", Sprite "blow job", Guinness Good Times "share one with a friend" orgy, wonderbra "spiral", and what the hey top ten spec ads that went viral in the past ten years.....

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