ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, June 03, 2007
Vol. 42 - No 01
Financial Times  

Calls for more transparency from the industry

A major difference of opinion is brewing over the way the recent award winners were selected at The Chillies with allegations made that too many scam ads were offered and considered.

In our email poll additional comments were also invited, some of which (edited due to space constraints) are given below under each question:

1. Do you approve of "scam ads" which have been created specifically to win awards and not run as a genuine campaign of the client being entered for The Chillies?
* The synonyms of the word scam are interesting to note - rip-off, cheat, trick, dodge, swindle and fiddle. How can one condone let alone approve of cheating, swindling or outright ripping-off ‘strategies’ employed. Isn’t it also obvious that these agencies cannot win with their legitimate work?
* Purely because many clients don’t accept creative concepts, it’s not the fault of the agency – if they can think of the creative ‘award winning’ concept – they shouldn’t be penalized just because clients don’t want to accept the campaign.
*The ad industry is there to produce world class ads to promote products and services to consumers and if they can't successfully do this by marrying creativity with marketing strategy they don't deserve to win. If these awards are just about creativity it should be an art competition.
* Creative awards are fine but then it should be titled a talent award show- like an art competition, poetry competition or literacy competition. Advertising has a specific job- it needs to appeal to the target audience. Either sell a product if that is the objective or move the person if that is the objective. - It is a ludicrous attempt on the part of the advertising agencies to hoodwink the industry. No, I certainly do not approve of the blatant misuse of the creative license.

2. Do you believe that it is okay to create scam ads to win awards because it is practised in other countries as well?
* A global industry practice is no license to mindlessly apply it locally. There are many global industry practices (not just in advertising) which are not healthy – we need to have the ‘guts’ to question what is right in the local context and not blindly ape other markets (the herd instinct).
* This practice does happen in some other countries. But these are certainly not the countries we should benchmark with. In the more developed advertising markets, this practice is frowned upon and not tolerated.
* Advertising should strive to win awards regardless of what the client brief is and what the budgets are. Most advertising agencies hide behind the excuse that a good campaign needs large budgets and that financial constraints curtail creativity. This has led a significant number of companies to adopt cheaper alternatives – including doing the creatives for the advertisement themselves or opting for PR initiatives. Unfortunately, their effort fails to make the mark due to the lack of professional input. Having said that, advertising agencies also sometimes fail to advice the client on how and why a particular creative will work for their business or fail to identify the client’s requirements and dish out material that is irrelevant for the client’s business. The education process from advertising agency as the professional in their fields to the client is grossly lacking. Advertising agencies give in to client pressure for fear of losing the client to a more obliging agency.

3. As alleged by some sections of the industry, were there a significant number of scam ads entered for The Chillies this year and have in fact won awards?
* Some of the material that was presented I haven’t seen or heard in the last year. Only advertisements that have made it to the public arena should be presented with a separate category for internal advertising – which is a PR exercise and not advertising.
*Normally the audience who comes for the award show has seen the ads that won- this year I would say 70% of the ads that won were scams and I think that is ridicules.
*Significant number of entries, but not a significant number of winners.

4. How many?
* Unaware of the exact number but two CEOs of agencies have told me how they produced scam ads in a bid to win something at the awards.
* Unofficial numbers - 25% Radio, 40% Print, 30% Integrated, 100% Gold awards.
*Less than 30% of all entries
*The vast majority - half, if not more. The other point that does not seem to have surfaced is plagiarism. A large number of winning ads were blatant copies of international advertisements.

5. Do you believe that clients collude to approve scam ads because they too like their brands to win awards?
* In some instances not always.
* Of course, the client must approve an artwork before it is advertised.
* I do not know. However in the industry we work in we want an ad to work for the target consumer. We love to win awards but if we go that way there’ll be no place for true advertising. As we market consumer products we might as well not take part or enter our work.

6. Is there action that is needed to rectify this?
* Integrity has to come from within – in the first place
*Depends on the client. If the client feels the agency is proposing a scam ad, it should then not endorse same.
* Self governance
* Not at the Chillies
* We need to go over the basics and ask ourselves what this show is all about. If it is an advertising show we need to know and understand what advertising is; what is the objective of advertising and see that the judging criteria fits that objective. Creativity is only one of the criteria.
* It is important to ensure this does not happen in the future. And discussions must begin on these lines. In this respect, the industry is grateful to The Sunday Times FT for conducting this poll which would hopefully bell the cat.

7) If so from whom?
(1) The Trustees of Advertising Awards
(2)The Advertising Agencies
(3) The Clients
(4) All of them
* Everyone has a role to play and more importantly a responsibility to fulfill, but we are told the 4 A's and IAA are jointly pursuing this matter
* The clients
*The Trustees

Under a category of general com ments, this is what was received:
*Nothing divides an industry like an awards event, and the advertising industry has been particularly susceptible. Every year, the advertising awards have led to bitter disputes. If the industry cannot agree on how to judge good advertising, why bother with an awards scheme? Do the advertising awards interest the consumers at all? It's only the advertising fraternity, a small segment of the business sector and the media that gets anything out of it.

* The objective of the Chillies it is to raise our advertising to international standards so we could win at Cannes and the judging which happens for Chillies are judged in the same level... naturally the advertisements we do for our local audiences will not connect with a sophisticated judge whose bench marks are quite different.

Therefore there is a need to develop scam ads to appeal to the judges.

This is a problem which is common to all advertising festivals not just the chillies and most people have decided to live with it as a necessary evil because it’s impossible to spot a scam advertisement as it meets all the criteria which is required to qualify as an entry.

If the purpose of Chillies was to celebrate world class creativity it still achieves its purpose as whatever the scam ads which won were brilliant ads produced by the local advertising industry. Therefore it is a good barometer of the creative standards of a particular agency.

To me the bigger problem is not scam but plagarism which is also rampant in the ad industry today.

*The Chillies was born out of a need to celebrate creativity in advertising. However, the ad agencies and the organizers have been utterly irresponsible in letting this get completely out of hand. Creativity is not the realm of a few. It cannot be quantified and measured. Instead, it can be celebrated and enjoyed. However, effectiveness is what brings home the butter. This year’s Chillies has rendered the industry limp and in dire need of Viagra.

Adrian Ferdinands says: “There was advertising material which in most people’s minds were really good and made a difference to the life of the brand but, was not even worthy of nomination at The Chillies.

On the other, you had advertising that was so obviously done for the sake of winning an award rather than in the best interest of the brand, which went on to win big at The Chillies.

How does this “raise the bar” in advertising? Isn’t great advertising supposed to build brands? Isn’t it supposed to help carve market share? Isn’t it supposed to enhance the image of a brand? Isn’t it supposed to be based on a “big idea”? It is my undying passion towards advertising and commitment towards building brands that compelled me to share an insightful perspective into this much hyped awards night.

I trust the Steering Committee of the Chillies and my fellow colleagues in advertising will not fault me for these hands on heart comments.”



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