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IndustrySpeak: ‘Scam’ ads – ‘illegitimate’ or ‘hatke’ creativity?

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IndustrySpeak: ‘Scam’ ads – ‘illegitimate’ or ‘hatke’ creativity?

Scam ads have been the bane of advertising, or are they? India has had its share of these ‘scam ads’ – ads that are primarily meant for winning awards more than anything else. But what are the implications of such ads, do they affect a brand’s performance, do they affect the advertising industry itself? exchange4media looks for some answers.

Prasoon Joshi, Regional Executive Creative Director, McCann Erickson Asia Pacific, remarked, “Every industry has its set of issues and problems – some internal and others that come up for public consumption – which may or may not have been blown out of proportion.”

Indian advertising industry had worked hard and had done superlative work in building many brands, Joshi said, adding that clients, who were a mature and prudent lot, would not undermine the worth of an industry on the basis of a few aberrations. He further said, “They know that the ad industry has partnered them in the toughest phases of a brand, market conditions and situations and have stood shoulder to shoulder on any issue faced.”

He, however, said, “It doesn’t mean that as an industry we sweep issues under the carpet. A real discussion must happen between the key stakeholders of the industry to ascertain what is the kind of work that we would support and give accolades to, what is the signal that we want to give to the younger generation coming into this field, the kind of DNA and value system that we would want to build. I am positive that sooner than later, by default or by design, we will work towards this.”

For R Balki, Chairman & CCO, Lowe India, “Awards are not about judging the best candidates, but judging the best creative on paper. As an industry, one needs to identify the problems, which pieces of advertising are trying to solve the clients’ problems, how interesting are the solutions to this problems, can these solutions really solve the problems.”

Balki further said, “We as an industry have to come to a particular scenario where we should stop calling these awards as Advertising Award shows, as today an award show is to only judge some pieces of fun that some people have decided to have, but have nothing to do with advertising. At Lowe, we do not wish to play this kind of games.”

Madhukar Sabnavis, Director & Partner, Strategic Planning and Regional Director for Thought Leadership, O&M, observed, “Firstly, controversies are part and parcel of creative lives. These kinds of debates don’t make or break the image of advertising. The image is built by the larger body of work that we do, especially for clients in India. I think the industry is much bigger than the media stories. Every industry has its issues, and just because they are highlighted doesn’t really mar it, as long as consumers continue to get value from it. In that context, the so called ‘scam controversy’ is quite peripheral to the advertising industry.”

He further said that the word ‘scam’ was a creation of the 90s and “we need to revisit it”. According to him, as long as ads entered in the award functions were true to the rules of the game and had the approval of all the parties involved, there was nothing called a ‘scam’. Ads created for creative competitions and released once could be branded ‘scams’, but were not ‘wrong’ or ‘illegitimate’ to contest and win.

Sabnavis added, “I personally see the creative award functions as benchmarks for creativity, much like the fashion shows in Milan and Paris. The fact that the ads have had limited release is much like the ‘unwearability’ of many of the designs displayed at the fashion shows. As I said, as long as they are true to the rules, it’s ok. I think we are making too much about these so called scams.”

Ali Merchant, Director, Triton Communication, said, “We are a poor cousin to most countries when it comes to scam ads. Quite honestly, as long as awards are given for ‘hatke’ creativity, any entry is welcome and should be applauded because at the end of the day, creative awards are about recognising people with unusual creative talent. Nothing should come in the way of this single minded objective.”

Aniruddha Banerjee, President & COO, Publicis Ambience, had a different take. He said, “Of course it has! It just adds to our image as a frivolous, non-accountable industry, full of people who are mostly busy chasing personal glory. Everybody knows scam ads exist, and they do so the world over. Controversies like these just make them the centrepiece of what the industry does, and makes us come out in a very poor light.”

He further said, “As it is, clients are losing respect for the industry, and I really don’t blame them. First, you have award winning ads, which aren’t even client sanctioned (or, at best, technically sanctioned). Then, you have agency heads taking pot-shots at each other. On top of that, there are a flurry of ads which have been ‘inspired’ by other international ads. All these raises questions about our ethics, our leadership and our basic creative ability.”

And so the debate continues…


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