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Scam ads – are we fighting a lost battle?

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Scam ads – are we fighting a lost battle?

Cannes awards ideas that are global ideas, great ideas, fun ideas, and ideas for worthy causes or small companies. Are we then talking of a need to do scam ads, which are not the real advertising for the local market, but are the kind of stuff that might work at Cannes, a huge exercise of creating advertising for the judges? As scam ad is defined, it’s an ad that has been created solely (and cynically) for the promotion of its creators via advertising awards.

“Scam is a terminology created by those who are creatively impotent. Created by people who are trying to discredit the good work being done by others, they believe in producing boring ads, which do not inspire anyone and cannot hope to qualify for any awards. So what if the ad has been released only once,” questions Arvind Sharma, CEO and Chairman, Leo Burnett.

But if these are the kind of ads that win awards, then why are we in India making a huge issue of saying that a particular advertisement is a scam and should not be allowed to enter awards? And by subscribing to this attitude, aren’t we fighting a lost battle? And if scams win awards, then why not make them?

Says Preet Bedi, President, Rediffusion, “We can’t any longer say that we don’t do scam ads. But if we subscribe to this process, then the overall creative standards may not go up. However, I think we are learning faster than some of the bigger markets, we are now not concentrating so much on our mainstream work and getting through by means of scam. But because mainstream ads are not universal and scam ads can be made to appeal to all.”

Sharma begs to differ. “It’s really unfortunate that while the world has moved on, a section of Indian industry is still stuck with this crap. There is nothing as scam ad, either a creative is done and released for a client or it’s just not an ad. This distraction is not good for clients as well as the agencies and this has been a major issue with Ad Club. It’s an insidious phenomenon,” he said.

What about winning awards and that too the big ones? McCann Erickson’s Prasoon Joshi answers, “A scam ad is not the right way to approach it; I would rather say niche ads, smaller ads, ads where we have much more liberty to say what we want to say should be the way to go. We need to exploit every possibility but scam or no scam is a much bigger question. Scam ads or non-scam is becoming cynical. A lot of our communication targeted at the consumer does not appeal to the jury and hence have lost out. But we need to create a balance and winning awards should not be left to chance, we need to invest enough time on spotting ideas that cuts ice with the jury and we put enough craft behind the ads.”

The opinion of the advertising industry by and large is clear: no one subscribes to the view that scam ads should be created just because they win awards. Instead, one should create mainstream ads that would be worthy of winning awards. But one thing is for sure: the Indian ad industry has recognised the need to win awards through doing quality mainstream work.


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