Agencies fight tooth and nail to win an industry award recognising the quality of their work, but 2016 showed that some creatives would stop at nothing to win these accolades, even if it included resorting to scam ads.
To inform The Drum’s virtuous readers who are likely fully unaware of the unprincipled ads sullying the industry's most glamorous awards shows, scam ads are ads that never run, but are entered into awards under the pretense that they did. Or maybe they were placed in such an obscure corner of some agency's ad inventory that they might as well not have ran.
Scammy ads can also be fraudulent work that didn't deliver on its premise, and they can also be stolen work.
They steal the spotlight from legitimate ads – work that did forge a connection with the public. So while the industry boos and hisses at the scammers, The Drum’s Chip Shop Awards has positioned itself as the home of irreverent, inventive work no client would be brave or stupid enough to put their name to.
To celebrate its return, (more info at the bottom of this piece), we’ve rounded-up the most controversial scam ads of 2016.
3. At Cannes Lions, an award-winning aspirin ad created by Brazilian agency AlmapBBDO for pharmaceutical firm Bayer attracted controversy for its sexist overtones. Seemingly inspired by revenge porn, the ad featured the line ‘Don’t worry babe, I’m not filming this.mov’. This prompted a barrage of criticism for the campaign on social media. But more importantly, the ad was also exposed as a scam. Bayer distanced itself from the work, claiming it had been created specifically by the agency to be entered at Cannes Lions.
Even BBDO chairman David Lubars voiced his criticism on stage at Cannes. “I learned last night that one of our very own agencies had a pretty scammy ad in the festival, and it won a Lion. I told them to return it. Because I don’t want that kind of Lion. BBDO doesn’t want that kind of Lion.”
2. Next is a unique type of scam ad, one that does not deliver on its premise and, similarly to the above entry, a Cannes Lion award was returned.
Grey Singapore's ‘I SEA’ app was applauded for being able to detect refugees stranded in the middle of the Mediterranean. But there was one issue: it couldn’t deliver. Having been removed from the App Store around the same time the award was issued, the agency quickly came under pressure.
Grey Singapore quickly went on the defensive after returning the award. It issued a statement that appeared to blame the app’s critics: “We won over 90 Cannes Lions this year alone so there is no need for scam projects. However, given the unwarranted, unfair, unrelenting attacks by unnamed bloggers, we are putting an end to this and returning the Bronze Lion so there is not even the hint of impropriety or a question of our integrity. The saying no good deed goes unpunished is apt in this case.”
I Sea appears to be a highly ambitious product, requiring satellites, mobile connectivity, and humans dedicated to operating it judging by the step-by-step guide below.
How I SEA works
1. Over in Malaysia, Dentsu Utama was disqualified from the 4As Kancil Awards after after winning work for WWF was found to have been plagiarised from UK-based artist Tom Anders.
— Tom Anders Watkins (@TomAnders_) December 29, 2015
The agency released a statement: “It has come to our attention that one of our “Anti-Poaching” WWF (World Wildlife Fund) ad campaign which went on to win awards at the Kancil Awards 2015 has been highlighted for plagiarising the art-work of UK-based designer named Tom Anders.”
Hopefully we've given you some inspiration, because, in short, The Drum Chip Shop Awards are the industry home of scam ads, and will give your work the recognition it deserves, even if it doesn't run.
We'll even raise a glass to the scammiest ad of the year with our Cannes Lying category - which was launched last year.
The awards take place at London's Electric Brixton on 7 June in the evening at some time. Wear clothes, at least to begin with. To enter, or purchase a ticket to gaze upon the work too good, too bad or too ugly to run, hit this link.