A blog for the New Zealand creative advertising industry, now at www.campaignbrief.com/nz. Email news to: michael@campaignbrief.com

Friday, January 20, 2006

Why is cheating wrong? Ummmm....

There have been some remarkable opinions expressed on this blog in the past 48 hours in respect of the scandalous unnamed scam. Very naive stuff.

Most remarkable of all is that many of you think that cheating, and lying is okay, if there's a gong at the end of it. Whatever it takes...

This kind of attitude reflects badly on all people working in advertising, in whatever sphere. It merely serves to confirm what the general public think of us as a rule, rating us somewhere between car dealers and politicians. But I know some reasonably honest politicians and quite a few guys I'd buy a used car from. Then there's a couple of ad people I wouldn't trust to look after my wallet. Let alone my business.

So, why are scams wrong? Well, they're not all wrong. It's not so black and white The traditional scam ad is a "good idea" which is retro-fitted for a convenient minor brand or retail business. Or a minor brand with an easy peasy creative direction - the sort that a 14 year old could make a funny gag out of. Then they are run, usually once. And entered into awards. That's not wrong either, it's just not brilliant. Not genius. Not moving us forward.

15 years ago, scams were the rule. Ads for dog training schools and ant obedience courses were cleaning up at awards shows in this part of the world. As were charity ads, which back then didn't tend to be fenced off into their own category.

So big serious business problems for big multi-national brands answered by insightful strategies and genious creative were disadvantaged by cheap shots at very easy targets - like a couple of dogs pissing against a urinal for some spurious dog training school. Funny? Yes. An example of the creative process at its best? No.

There was a definite backlash against this - typified by an ad run by AWARD back in the early 90s featuring a photo of a hand holding a dead dog and the headline - "here's a dead dog. Where's my award?" This was a direct reference to an AMV ad from London which featured a pile of dead dogs ( Aushwitz-style) for a charity which cleaned up in the shows around that time. I'm hazy on exact dates. Too much claret/ But that's when the industry in this part of the world started to behanve like...well, grown-ups. Like pros.

Some of New Zealand's success in award shows in the past decade has been due to work which is at best, dodgy. Young creatives have made careers on the strength of work which is not at all robust. But hey, that's not wrong either. However, would you rather have in your book an award-winning campaign for a pubic hair straightener, or a major international telco? Which do you think is ultimately going to make you a hero? Which is going to make you a milllion dollar creative?

Smart scams are basically capers, and there'll always be a place for them. Under the radar, cheeky and cheerful. Picking up the odd award and giving everyone a laugh.

Where scams go bad is when they are not only vapid and vacuous, but fraudulent. When a piece of work has been produced, hustled, and lied into the award books - like when someone hypes a piece of work that has never been seen by the client, possibly never appeared anywhere except on the agency toilet door, and then it wins a gong. Not cool guys. Not particularly clever, either. Just a creative wank, I'm afraid.

Think of the biggest, most successful New Zealand ads ever. Go on. You can summon up a few, I'm sure. Are they for farting classes or douches? Nah, they're for really big brands like Toyota, Lotto, Instant Kiwi, Telecom, Sky TV etc. The ones the public and the award juries agree are the bomb.

The same applies internationally. The best UK and US ads are for big jobs. Almost every Asian award-winner is a scam...look at any issue of CBAsia and you'll agree. Clever ideas, sure, but it's a bit like trying to win the US open by practising mini-putt. Low-hanging fruit and all.

It seems like a given, but it's worth repeating: if you truly want to impress a CD, don't turn up with a campaign for condoms or a new nasal hair trimmer. That's not impressive. It's a no-brainer.

Try creating a really clever ad for a difficult business problem. That's the trick, and there's your value.

If you can do this, and do it consistently, you'll never have to worry about where your next house is coming from. That's why the big guys and girls get the big bucks.

Okay? Stop cheating. Stop scamming. Start doing great big wonderful, inspiring advertising. ( and it doesn't have to be that big. Just smart.)

Now go immediately to the BDO and get fucked up. See you Monday.



Blogger lynchy said...

Good comments, Frenchie. But the NZ Coastguard 'Famous 5' work is actually not one of the dreaded scams you quite rightly abhor. As I said elsewhere in this blog, the article was taken off the CB Blog because it came to my attention that IT WAS APPROVED by the chief of NZ Coastguard. Someone at Publicis Mojo gently explained the situation to CB (no legal threats) and, confirming that fact, I decided it was best to take it off.

2:45 PM NZDT

Blogger nzcreativecircle said...

Cheers Lynchy. I don't have any DNA so...
But where there's smoke, there's fire. And there are a few other hot spots in that part of town. Flick the little fire engine is keepin an eye on them as we speak. Have a top weekend.


2:49 PM NZDT

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Neil,

I got my first job because I had a great campaign for condoms in my book.

Why don't you post your condom idea on the blog. If it's so easy it shouldn't take you more than a couple of days.

Be careful to keep it fresh, we wouldn't want to see any scammy ideas.

Best of luck.

4:30 AM NZDT

Blogger nzcreativecircle said...

Fair comment. Although I think Condoms hardly fall into the category of scammy subjects. Can't think of a much more important business model actually. Think of Africa and Aids. The world could do with some more good ideas for condoms, so if you've got eny left in your bottom drawer, post them on the blog or better yet, take them to a condom manufacturer and get them made and running. I do have a condom idea actually, but it's comemrcially sensitive ( hah hah) and I don't think the blog is the right place to unroll it.goovq

10:06 AM NZDT


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