ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday December 16, 2007
Vol. 42 - No 29
Financial Times  

Scams beware – Big Brother is watching

Scam ads beware – big brother is watching out for such advertisements at the 2008 Chillies –The Sri Lanka Advertising Awards-scheduled to be held in February next year under the theme ‘Change’.

But what if ‘big brother’ itself is involved? “We have set up a committee that will name the culprits and enforce a 12-month ban on taking part in the next awards event,” noted Micheal Holsinger, CEO, LOWE LDB and a member of the Chillies 2008 Steering Committee, at this week’s launch of the event.

Holsinger said the issue of scams at the 2007 Chillies was blown out of proportion and led to a long, debate in the industry and subsequently some safeguards at the forthcoming event to ensure such ads are minimized. “Our clients will not respect us if we are all involved in scams,” he said. Other members of the steering committee said however scam ads are an accepted part of many international ad awards.

As in the past, the Chillies will include a week of activity with a panel of international and local judging assessing and selecting the entries.

Here are excerpts of the presentation of the organizing committee:

What is scam? The definition of scam is as follows: “Any advertising clearly developed solely to win at awards shows, with no legitimate client source or though clearly having a legitimate client, has no legitimate client need or rationale”
Steps taken to limit scam:

We cannot eliminate scam. We can only put in more controls so that it is more difficult to submit scam work. The steps taken are as follows:

* Appointment of a Scam Buster committee comprising of senior agency personnel to review all submitted entries at pre screening stage

* If suspected to be Scam, it would be taken up with the relevant agency

*“No to Scam” logo to be incorporated in all entry forms

* All entry forms will carry a statement to say that the material submitted is a bona fide piece of work and not a scam entry. For this purpose, the entry form will seek the signatures of the agency CEO, the Executive Creative Director/Creative Director and the Client’s Head of Marketing.

* The penalty for including scam would be wide publicity of the case amongst the marketing and advertising community as well as a 12-month ban from participating in the Chillies Awards in the following year.

Most of the new ways of tackling scam ads were recommended by the Board of Trustees of The Sri Lanka Advertising Awards Trust after it undertook a comprehensive review of the issues that arose after the last awards.

Among issues raised by the Trustees were the appearance of large scale SCAM ads being entered for the first time. This led to wide-ranging condemnation of the practice of entering SCAM by both participating agencies and the judges ‘because it is clearly against the principles of fair competition and also goes against the stated objective for the Chillies of raising industry standards.’

The Trustees said action has to be taken to restore the credibility of the Chillies and to prevent the awards program disintegrating.

They said it was the unanimously-held view of all parties participating in this review that the existing blueprint and rules for conducting Chillies do not specifically address the issue of SCAM entries. “Most importantly however, the existing rules leave considerable room for SCAM to be entered quite legitimately,” the Trustees said, adding however that none of the entries submitted for the 2007 awards broke the rules of the competition but ‘that while the letter of the law remains intact, the spirit of the law has in fact been compromised.’

The Trustees, in an effort to maintain the highest standards of competition, credibility and professionalism, said they believe a voluntary withdrawal of all SCAM entries by agencies, that know their entries to be so, and return of any awards received for them, will be a strong demonstration of support for these ideals. “Such an action will be deemed an act of courageous and principled professionalism by the Trustees and will be treated as such. Should any agency wish to follow this recommendation, the Trustees will be happy to receive their requests,” they said.

On the issue of ‘influencing foreign judges,’ the Trustee said there are persistent concerns amongst participating agencies, with regard to local judges, particularly those nominated from local advertising agencies, influencing the foreign judges during the judging process. “It is alleged that this takes place in the form of stated comments during judging and by ‘body language’. Such allegations are difficult, if not impossible, to support with facts. However it is the view of the Trustees that while such incidents cannot be discounted entirely, a major step towards addressing this apparent problem will be to avoid the appointment of local advertising agency personnel onto judging panels at all. Such a solution is strongly recommended and supported by the outgoing steering committee,” the Trustees said.

In their concluding remarks, the Trustees said the process of continuously improving standards, that flows out of encountering contentious problems, is healthy for both the Chillies and the industry, provided they are addressed openly and with maturity.

“Sadly such maturity and openness of spirit has sometimes been lacking, even in senior industry people. The Trustees suggest strongly that the industry as a whole adopts a spirit of ownership and participation in making Chillies a strong and respected program and that matters such as SCAM are addressed and then set aside. Continued, fruitless debate and unconstructive criticism in the national press and other media will only serve to emphasize the lack of cohesiveness and credibility in the advertising community. This must be discouraged at all cost,” they said in their recommendations.

The Steering Committee for Chillies 2008 comprises Nalin Karunaratne, Head of Sales, CIC Paints (Pvt) Ltd (Chairman); Paddy Weerasekera, General Manager, Bates Asia Strategic Alliance; Micheal Holsinger, CEO, LOWE LDB; Sujeewa Samarasekera, Director Operations, Grant McCann Erickson; Niranjan Palipane, CEO, Clinch (Pvt) Ltd; Tilan Wijesekera, Head of Marketing, Janashakthi Insurance Co Ltd; Tharanga Gunasekera, Marketing Manager, Corporate Banking, HSBC Sri Lanka and Renuka Marshall, Managing Director, TBWA\TAL.
The Chillies week
This includes The Award Shows, Seminars that will impart knowledge and international learning to our industry, workshops that will improve the craft skill of the creative talent in this country, and the Judges Forums that will critique work in a frank and open way.
* Main event -- February 23, 2008 at the SLECC
* Entry kits to agencies - December 12, 2007
* Entries (roll in) – January 18 to 29
* Judging - February 17 to 20
* Seminars and workshops – February 16 to 21
* Exhibition – February 20 to 24
International judges (confirmed): David Guerrero, Chairman / Chief Creative Officer, BBDO, the Philippines; Jonathan Kneebone, Partner / Creative Director, TheGlueSociety, Australia; Linda Loche, Regional Creative Director, Leo Burnett Asia Pac; Meera Sharath Chandra, National Creative Director, DDB, Mumbai (India); John Merrifield, Creative at large, TBWA Asia Pac, Singapore and Lee Szu Hung, ECD and Joint Chairman-McCann, Malaysia

The Chillies are back and once again the ad industry is gearing up for ‘their event of the year.’ Last year the issue of scams soured an otherwise good event as there were many complaints and concerns. This time, the organizers – conscious of the bad play for and credibility of the industry – have come up with what is hoped a scheme to minimize scam ads. The culprits, the organizers said, would be named in the media and a 12-month ban slapped against involvement in the 2009 awards. This is a bold and courageous move and deserves our support.

However the question one must ask is would the ‘expulsion’ committee be bold enough if the culprits are big names? Everyone knows that big industry names were cited as the scam culprits and if the status quo remains, the committee would be hard pressed to deliver what it is setting out to do. Having said that, all strength to the ‘No Scam’ committee to make sure the 2008 event is free of scams, as promised.

– Business Editor.





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