Scam ads: another debate

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I enjoyed reading this extremely well-written and brilliantly argued piece of writing on scam ads by Suman Srivastava. I will not be able to capture the power of the argument fully here, but the gist of Suman’s argument is this: we celebrate creativity & skill that are not put to practice in everyday life (e.g. Fashion Shows, F1 racing). So why can’t we ‘celebrate’ scam ads in creative awards?

Suman says ‘Creative awards are meant to recognize work that has pushed the boundaries of communication. Effectiveness awards recognize work that has pushed sales or other results for the client.’ No issues. On creative awards the argument is that ‘creative awards should be looking for unique insights, creative expressions and execution techniques. These insights, expressions and techniques could be demonstrated in the form of scam ads. That’s fine. What is important is their brilliance, their creativity’.

Hmmm, iffy. If our business is about making a difference to our client’s business through ideas, can we delink that aspect completely from awards that celebrate our ideas? If our only currency is ideas, can those ideas be independent of business constraints and complexities that are a part of our everyday life? Don’t constraints bring out the best in us? Biomat, a laundry detergent from P&G had to address the orthodox Jews who simply shun TV. This forced Mediacom to think out of the proverbial box and it won them a Cannes couple of years ago.

If scam ads are legitimized and we celebrate ‘unfettered ideation’, it may occupy more mind space than what it already does among the creative folks. I have met a number of young copywriters who come up with brilliant ideas on brands or categories we don’t work on. Typically, it starts off with ‘hey, how about this ambient idea for XYZ?’. I like such initiatives. It’s a way of showing how creative they are. But I would start worrying if it becomes an unhealthy obsession. We are paid (poorly, some may say) to think about our client’s brand and deliver ideas that work. Scam ads are a ‘high’ already but if it occupies my creative team’s mind space no more than what is absolutely necessary, I would be worried. Legitimizing scam ads may lead us into this path. 

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