afaqs!

To scam or not to scam: industry stalwarts mull the problem

By , agencyfaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | April 22, 2008
In the light of the Hanes-McCann controversy, one can't help but question whether young creative minds are getting blinded by the prospect of a trophy - blinded enough to gloss over the need for obtaining client approval on entries

And here's & #BANNER1 & # presenting yet another episode of a client being kept in the dark about ads created on his brands for the sake of awards. While the truth behind the latest Hanes-McCann-Erickson controversy is not known yet, Prasoon Joshi of McCann-Erickson is believed to have commented on the state of India's regular work, which doesn't fetch too many metals abroad because, apparently, juries there fail to understand India's sensibilities and nuances. This, if seen in a different light, could explain why creative people in the country resort to scams.

agencyfaqs! spoke to some industry stalwarts to get their views on this Scamfest, and check whether client approval is a mere paper formality, which needn't even be fulfilled any more…

Subhash Kamath, CEO, Bates David Enterprise

Subhash Kamath
The entire business of scams is spoiling the credibility of our industry. I have always been against scams and continue to be so. While scams were few and far between earlier, it has almost turned into a sophisticated game now. The exception has become the norm.

I can understand pushing the envelope of creativity. But I really think it is unfortunate the way scams have affected our industry. It isn't just McCann; every agency is involved - it's just that McCann got caught.

Frankly, I'm a bit surprised that Prasoon made a statement that regular work doesn't tend to win abroad, leading to scams. One of the pieces of regular work that I admire most - Happydent Palace - is Prasoon's handiwork, which won practically everywhere.

To an extent, Prasoon is correct: Regular work is more client-agenda oriented, but that doesn't mean it can't win.

The best thing, to me, is to eradicate the norm of establishing the legitimacy of the ad's release. Why not have separate arrangements for unreleased work getting recognition? Why don't we do away with the hypocrisy of the ad having appeared in some medium?

All said, I will still advocate strongly that the client's blessing for the entry of ads in awards shows is a must; it's his brand name on your ad, guys. That is, unless we're talking of a 'fictitious' brand, which is sought/ created for the sake of awards, be it a Luxor or some Jungle Lodge.

While the rest of the world laughs at our industry, we are grappling with the desperation to seek recognition, which is leading to these scams. These things cannot be policed; only self-restraint and self-discipline can solve this mess.

Arvind Sharma, chairman and CEO, Leo Burnett India

Arvind Sharma
I wouldn't agree with Prasoon if he has implied that regular work doesn't win internationally, and therefore, scams emerge.

Firstly, we're talking of creative awards, not the Effies. The latter is explicitly for ad effectiveness, while the former deals with searching for breakthroughs. In my experience and estimation, around the world, almost 90 per cent of the ads that win awards are either one insertion or two insertions old. And trust me, clients are fully aware of the fact that awards that win at these shows may not have enjoyed a longish stint in the media.

Unfortunately, the advertising of the yesteryears isn't working today. And enlightened clients know this; in fact, clients such as P&G encourage agencies to try for creative breakthroughs. In fact, these clients even turn up at ad award shows. These ads are like experiments for clients - they test the waters, how far they can go with consumers. It is almost like test marketing. You could say the case is similar to that of a man or a woman interested in marriage prospects, who evaluates several candidates before deciding on one.

The amount of monies spent on an ad to have appeared sufficiently is not a great parameter for giving an award. Whether it has appeared once, or a $100 million were spent on it, is of no relevance - a great ad is a great ad. Look at the Levi's Slim Jeans campaign, which enjoyed little presence in the media, but went on to make the brand bigger and better.

I'll give you an example close to me: In 1999, the AAAI awards committee threw out a Complan print campaign (the 'Mama Bear, Papa Bear' one) because it was a 'single release' one. The campaign went on to win several awards globally. What's more, it was converted into a regular campaign by the client who ran it for the next four years, backing it totally.

That having been said, the Hanes case is unacceptable. We have faced instances where the client has disliked our idea for such ads, and the thought is buried quietly. But to go ahead with the ad without client endorsement is unethical.

We shouldn't be ashamed of our creativity, but at the same time, we should be tougher with agencies that take too much liberty in this regard.

Bobby Pawar, chief creative officer, Mudra

Bobby Pawar
What I would like to clarify here is that the entire world isn't into scams, which is what we tend to believe to justify our own. I have worked on the other side of the world, and I can tell you for sure that almost all the work that comes out of the US isn't scam. The client there will fire you if you so much as think of creating a scam on his brand. The UK and the US tend to win the most Grand Prixes at Cannes, and this is all big work on big brands. We should aspire to be like that.

I personally don't support scams. We should win on the basis of our regular, mainstream work, which I agree is the harder road to tread. It is difficult to convince international juries about our nuances, consumer psyches and our markets. But hey, who says we need to win international awards then? Maybe we ought to celebrate creativity in our own country - which understands it - rather than trying to please a jury abroad that doesn't understand.

Like I said, in the US, agencies do work that works in the market and are proud of it. I wish we had the same arrogance. We're in the business of creativity, not in the business of awards. It is a great thing to celebrate and applaud people who get it right. But only genuine work deserves to be applauded.

I must confess that at some point, I, too, was infatuated with this rush of getting international acclaim; obsession with awards is not a bad thing per se - it pushes people to do better. It just needs to be channelled correctly.