Two of advertising's most important creative directors, John Boiler of 72andSunny (works for Samsung) and Susan Credle of Leo Burnett (works for Sprint), told Ad Age what everyone has known but refused to say aloud for years: That the ad business is filled with people who lie about their work and cheat to get ahead.
The admission came after Business Insider extracted an apology from Ford and its agency, JWT India, for publishing an ad that showed cartoons of women, bound and gagged, in the trunk of a Ford Figo. The CEO and managing partner of the agency were fired. Then it emerged that the agency had entered the ads into India's premier ad creativity awards contest, Goafest, even though they had never actually run in paid media.
They were cheating to make themselves look good, in other words.
This practice — creating a fake ad that never actually runs (usually because clients are creatively conservative) to juice your chances in awards shows — has been going on for years.
Back in 2011, for instance, I exposed the fact that a Kia campaign had won two Cannes Lions even though Kia's chief marketing officer told me he never commissioned the ads and, in fact, thought they were terrible. In a first, the Cannes festival removed the Lions from the agency that made the ads, Brazil's Moma Propaganda.
Previously, when agencies entered fake ads to award shows, not much was done about it. Only in 2009 did Cannes and lesser awards shows begin banning fake ads or requiring proof that ads actually ran in paid media on behalf of real clients.
So Ad Age's gathering of quotes from senior creatives who admit, on the record, that their competitors and colleagues are cheating when it comes to bogus award show ads, is highly refreshing.
72andSunny's Boiler said:
I can't think of a punishment too severe for agencies who promote scam ads and pollute shows with them. It's the most disgusting manifestation of ego in our industry. Hurts clients' and agencies' reputations. And the ones awarded ultimately deserve, and will likely receive, the legacy of Lance Armstrong.
Leo Burnett's Credle said:
... every once in a while, we create work that can damage the world. We need to take what we do seriously. Sometimes, we are so consumed with winning awards that we forget how public our work is. ... I don't really understand scam ads. The most exciting part of being in the business of advertising for me is watching work become a part of our culture. This is impossible to have happen with scam ads.
And Deacon Webster, of Walrus, a small New York agency, said:
Scam ads have been around forever — you can spot them pretty easily. For instance, if it's supposedly a "magazine spread" and yet you notice that the vital part of the image and 90% of the type runs right up the middle of the page, where the gutter should be, it's probably fake. Real spreads avoid the gutter like the plague.
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