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Cheers to the real ones

Posted on December 14, 2009 and read 3,124 times

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martinb Cheers to the real onesMartin Belanger
Freelance Creative Director

The stench of fake seems to be fading around award shows, and the recognition of true work seems to be making a comeback. At least, we hope so.

If there was a sensible topic to close out the year, it’s the one regarding scam or ghost ads. You know the ones, those ads that aren’t ads, which often reaped their lot of awards, and which have taken up, I say it with regret, a certain space in the “creative ” sections of industry publications and websites.  To recap: from pure thirst of recognition, and from a desire to see themselves crowned in front of their peers or potential clients, some agencies submit pieces that have great virtues of ideas and purity of execution. But the designation of advertising starts and stops there. These ads have been elaborated without any marketing problem to solve. Without any brief, no invoice or media placement, either (if not a homeopathic buy, with the unique goal to comply by the skin of teeth to award shows rules). In short, fake stuff. Often some beautiful fake stuff. Some very intelligent fake stuff. But fake stuff nonetheless. And it rarely expresses itself in the form of campaigns for Gillette or Nike. No, they are creative ideas that more often pretend to sell a chiropractor, a hairdresser (a classic), a bowling alley, an aphrodisiac drink, or other products nobody ever heard of. At best, client is in on it, and participates, with one eye closed. At worst, the client isn’t even aware or – the height – never heard of the agency and has no relationship with them. And then Bam ! We give them a trophy. Which is very much like giving “star of the game” status to a hockey player who would have scored an empty-net goal, on a penalty shot, with no goalie.

This phenomenon has fed controversy in international award shows for more than a decade. Brazil was among the first champions of these prize specimens, and more recently, Asia has had fake campaigns roll in in front of judges, with India and Singapore being particularly assiduous. Lions have been pulled after verifications that unveiled the fraudulous process. No later than last year, Saatchi & Saatchi NY and a production house (Epoch) were caught with their pants around their ankles and had to hand in a Bronze Lion for a JC Penney spot that was too good to be true.

Wanderings in grey areas and complacency of awards show organizers have often made me jump out my seat. We haven’t been exempt — here in Canada and in Quebec — from this trend of the fake stuff. But is it a consequence of economic pressures that keeps us away from frivolities, or is it a newly acquired conscience? I don’t know, but by looking at the Quebec prize list of the last five or six years, I have observed a decline of the said phenomenon.

The 2009 Marketing Awards promotion is in line with this trend, to say the least. At last, a respected show that positions itself firmly against fake ads and fake clients. “Only real clients, please” is the campaign’s tagline by BBDO Toronto. A breath of fresh air. A few years ago, another award show call-for-entry showed a car print ad, on a cutting table, and an X-acto-armed hand, truncating the offer-price-monthly-payments-legal portion. It said something like “prepare your entries”. Once, accomplices winked at each other about a practice that had become commonplace. Today, we laugh at the forgers.

One thing is for sure, if the tendency is real, it is welcome, at a time when our industry needs – more than ever – to evacuate bullshit. For those who are a little naïve, like myself, I suggest we cheer the real ones. Real clients, transparency and real exploits. And to those who still pride themselves on scoring in empty goals, I think you better hurry: the game is almost over.




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