How to stop fake ads forever.



Ok, this is getting ridiculous. Ad award show after ad award show is finding out that large numbers of winning entries never even ran at all. Not that that’s a huge secret. Jackass, cheater creatives have been more concerned with winning some hunk of metal than in actually doing real work for real clients for years. This ad from DDB Brazil is the latest example.

We’ll forget the fact that the concept is fatally flawed. And that it’s poorly written. And that pulling some cheap stunt like this to capitalize on a real tragedy is way below board. Even if it was real, it’s a piece of shit that should mean an instant firing to whomever created it. I hope the WWF sues the crap out of them. But this post isn’t about hack creatives doing lame ads. It’s about agencies cheating and lying their way into award shows and winning awards while good, real work gets left out.

Plenty of people are calling for the end of advertising award shows, but all that really does is penalize good creatives along with the bad. So here’s my suggestion on what to do. And I guarantee you it’ll work.

If you enter a totally fake ad like this one in an award show: Your agency is banned from entering any award show for 10 years.

If you enter an ad that technically ran, but the submission is a “director’s cut” or in someway altered from what actually ran: Your agency is banned from entering any award shows for 5 years.

Get caught entering an ad that ran once, on late night TV, or only ran because your agency produced a single ad and paid to run it themselves: Your agency is banned from entering any award shows for 2 years.

Individuals who are credited in the fake entries get banned for double the agency time – 20 years, 10 years and 4 years. So even if they change jobs, any future submissions that credits them in any capacity would be rejected.

Award shows who accept submissions from banned agencies: International scorn from various ad associations, promises from other major agencies not to enter those award shows any more, and worldwide press coverage ripping the show.

Agencies who enter fake awards want to build their credentials, show off to prospective clients and to recruit better talent. So let’s hit them where it hurts. Cut off their access to awards if they can’t win them fairly.

Award shows want people to enter so they can make money. But if major ad agencies pulled out of their shows because they accepted entries from banned agencies, they’d go out of business. It’d be way too risky for award shows to let the bad guys sneak back in.

Suddenly, clean shows would get a huge influx of entries as the honor of winning for real work went up. Good agencies would know their entry fees weren’t being wasted trying to compete against fake ads. Awards would finally start to mean something again.

So here’s my challenge to Cannes, the Clios, the One Show, the D&ADs, the Andys and every other award show out there. Immediately ban DDB Brazil and every individual credited on the entry. Put all DDB offices on warning. Crack down on the cheats. Clean up your shows. If agencies are going to lie, make them pay harshly for it when they’re discovered and maybe it’ll deter others in the future. Bring some respect back to the creative product and don’t celebrate people who invent things out of thin air for their own amusement. Celebrate those who do great creative work for clients – real clients. That is what should be rewarded, not mindless spec work masquerading as thoughtful, important, game changing advertising.


38 Responses to “How to stop fake ads forever.”

  1. 1 Toby

    Agree with all your points.

    Interesting you say…”Good agencies would know their entry fees weren’t being wasted trying to compete against fake ads.”

    That opens a lot of questions. Especially one about whether this all constitutes a legal fraud.

    You see, some agencies/creatives knowingly enter fake ads into shows. There is a lot of pressure to win awards, because to be frank, awards often attract better jobs and salaries for their creators, as well as clients for the agencies. So people are being looked over for jobs, and some agencies are being awarded clients based on the perpetuating practice of cheating. A lot of times, the jury is also in collusion to scratch each other’s backs.

    So, for the few agencies who outright do not (thankfully at one of them) enter scam ads and even have ethics codes against it, they are possibly losing many opportunities as a result. Not to mention wasting money on entry fees in a game stacked against them – money that is also part of profit sharing, or even part of a publicly-owned company’s profit.

  2. 2 Karen McIntyre


  3. 3 Karen McIntyre

    oops.. “D’oh!”


  4. 4 John Ashley

    Interesting proposal, but it’s not perfect.

    Under such rules, how would Apples 1984 spot be treated? It ran only twice and one of those times was a late night spot.

    Also, an old saying comes to mind, be careful what you wish for.

    If acted on, this proposal could be an excellent window of opportunity for someone to start an awards show strictly for “creative” ads that never ran.

    In a worse case scenario, it’s possible that as a “showcase” for creativity it could conceivably end up having more influence with potential clients/ad buyers than other awards.

    Then where will you be?

  5. 5 dognpony


    I’d be all for an award show that’s just for ads that never ran. There are already some smaller ones. Oink Ink Radio’s Dead Radio Contest comes to mind. But I disagree that they’d ever have more influence than “real” award shows. Everyone knows it’s easier to come up with a wild creative idea than it is to come up with a wild creative idea that solves a business problem that you can sell through to a client.

    Real work will always be more impressive.

    As far as the Apple 1984 example, yeah, they ran it in 1983 to that it would qualify for the award shows. I don’t think that should have been allowed to happen. They should have run it in 1984 during the Super Bowl and then entered it into the 1984 award shows.

  6. 6 Little Penny

    Much in the same way you need to provide a SSN for any dependents you claim on your taxes, or a utility bill to get a parking permit, you should have to provide some record of where/when an ad ran. Hopefully from a neutral source, not a sales-rep the agency is in bed with.

    Of course this opens up the debate as to what is “real.” Once my agency was beat out in a category by a bull-sperm-bank ad. I’m sure it ran in the Lodi weekly or something (which is legit), but I doubt the client paid what was at the time the “Agency of the Year” full rates/anything to produce it.

  7. John, the Apple spot ran more often than that, and _specifically_ in some late night shows/cable to be eligible to compete in that years awards – before it aired to big fanfare in the 84 Super Bowl. In other words, they followed the rules.

  8. 8 Ting Tong

    The only reason this ad has attracted so much outrage is because it exploits 9/11 in such a disgusting way. Fact is, fake ads like this, ads created solely for award shows are done every day….from Singapore to Dubai to Mumbai to South America and many more cities I’ve missed out.

    Here’s the main reason for this:

    Regional creative directors in Asia have their bonuses pegged to the agencies creative ranking…and some rags actually oblige by creating these rankings where a gold pencil = 50 points a silver= 30 points and so on.

    Since their bonuses depend on it these regional CDs put in place known scam artists as ECDs in their individual offices. The hope is that they will win awards boost the rankings and the regional CD gets paid a fat packet…that is all.

    So no one really gives a fuck about real problems….and to be frank….theyve been so obsessed with scam theyve forgotten how to solve real problems. As a result, even top headhunters in these parts dont know how to evaluate a book…they just pick up the list of Asia’s Creative (Scam) Rankings and start calling people from that list.

    In the US agencies that win awards on real work (like goodby, crispin etc) have pretty good new business records. In Asia the big agency names do so much scam they rarely win pitches…most of the business is fed to them by their offices in the US, UK or Europe. That is because they have no idea on the seriousness of the situation….even when they lose a big client, all the creatives want to do is scam.

    The ones affected most by these shennanigans most are the clients…theyre paying big bucks for the time of creative directors who usually are more pre-occupied (and frankly, terrified) that the regional ECD is going to call and say where are my

    Maybe if agency heads instituted a different criteria for bonuses to regional ECDs, their fervour for scam would cool and they might be more honest.

  9. Yeah, good luck with that. Hire Blackwater to police it.

  10. 10 Augusto

    It’s all about ego and money. This will never end.

  11. 11 Tom McManus

    At Cannes so many medal winners are so fake. And they do nothing about it because the money is soooo good for the award shows. So they will no way ban an agency for cheating. They make too much money with it as is. The only way to stop this is for good ad agencies to ban shows that use cheaters. That is how you stop it. Stop entering in award shows that allow cheating.

  12. 12 Gabriela

    Great! But award shows will not do that, they are like DDB Brasil, just think about money and fame.

  13. 13 Artur

    Don’t think that we will be able to ban agencies from awards based in your proposition. Fake ads have a good purpose in the market, but they shouldn’t be awarded.

    And for the fact that the award is poorly writen: the guys are Brazilians, they translated the ad. I think you wouldn’t like to read headlines in portuguese if you were part of a jury.

  14. 14 dognpony

    Tom and Artur,

    Soon enough, award shows will realize that allowing fake ads is like the Olympics allowing steroids. When the competition isn’t fair, the guys who play by the rules will quit and the audience will stop caring.

    They’re devaluing their own product by not keeping it clean.

    Yes, money is what the award shows live on. But unless they start policing themselves, that money is going to disappear. Who would bother paying those astronomical entry fees for an award that people think is fake?

    I’m telling you, the first major show to announce they’re implementing my proposal will see a giant influx of entries because people will think they have a fair shot at winning. And the positive press would be a huge boost as well.

  15. 15 dean

    I think even more should be done about ripped-off ads. I’ve had many. I’m sure everyone else has, too.

  16. 16 Capt' Picard

    Googled the CD’s to see their other work for WWF. A lot looks fake. Oh, and it seems they think the white guy looks like a tiger and the black guy like a gorilla:

    Why do we award this shit, and then send people to great jobs and cocktails in Cannes?

    Does anyone else spend their day making this crap? Can we get back to our real jobs?

  17. 17 ed

    Good luck.

    Your plan involves the award shows banning their clients from entering – and paying. Do you really think they’d cut their own throats. Don’t hold your breath.

    This also assumes that there is a grand infrastructure in agencies deciding what to submit. Most agencies I’ve been at, this job tumbles down to a creative coordinator, and is ruined by ambitious junior creatives who feel like their brilliance has been stunted by a client and want to prove they were right.

    Award shows are what they are. Mostly beauty contests. Judges aren’t reading briefs or tracking results. They’re holding work up to their own personal standard of what is good, and then picking the work of people they know.

    There are many more important things in the world to be losing sleep over.

  18. 18 edstate

    One more must have:


    Every single show I’ve judged has the friggin agency and even the creative’s NAMES on all the work. All that does is allow the ass-kissing judges award the “hot agency of the moment” or the “cool guy of the moment”. It also influences the judging in the other direction: say a traditionally “bad” agency actually manages to eek out some great work… with their name on the piece, the work is automatically lessened in the judges mind.

    Overall, great ideas. And the day they agree to overhaul the system will the be day that frozen pigs fly in Hell.


  19. 19 Brundlefly

    As a creative who’s spent a good chunk of my career solving the problems of some unsexy and technically complex clients, I’ve always been a little steamed that the fakes can steal the glory from some genuinely brave stuff. Fallon’s “Live Richly” campaign for Citi is one example of a human, creative solution for a big ugly client. There’s no reason such brave work should have to face off in award shows against fakes and vanity projects. It’s an insult to the actual breakthrough thinking our industry should be celebrating.

    Another problem with the fake ads is purely financial. I once worked in a creative department that had an entire sub-staff of chain-smoking european imports who were dedicated to doing fake ads. Meanwhile, I ran one of the ugly but necessary accounts that paid the bills, and I couldn’t get our CCO to assign staff to our paying work. I was told, “They’re here for the award opportunities.” And not the actual clients.

    No wonder the agency model is in trouble. What credibility could we possibly have, after all that?

  20. 20 Creative in Brazil

    This ad is tasteless, touches a serious nerve, and uses a tragedy that sits in the forefront of people’s fears to make a false point. (Tsunamis are results of earthquakes, earthquakes are not caused by men’s careless conduct – a quick google search would have shown this)
    But I agree with dognpony – the point discussed here is the so called phantom ads that are created for festivals.
    In Brazil, prior to submission deadlines for Cannes, The One Show, and lately El Ojo there are tons of productions being rushed. I have seen careers built on awards won this way. The productions cost money, just ask the folks that produced the WWF ad being discussed (Tribbo Post).
    There is a number of issues with these free ads. The agencies get prizes, they risk very little, and it is good for every one involved. For the production companies, it’s a calculated risk – you do it for free and get on the agency’s good side, maybe even win and get free pr. Or you don’t do it and the agency blacklists you.

    But the core of it all has to do with what is fair. Is it fair for a phantom campaign that didn’t go through any level of scrutiny do win an award against a contender that really did create a fantastic campaign having the best interests of the client at heart? And how are the festivals checking the truthfulness of such work? I can’t believe there is no method to avoid accepting an ad that ran once in a small town cable station at 3 in the morning.

    Make the entry rules stricter.

  21. 21 For Real

    Hard to believe people care about this crap.

  22. I’ve added a discussion of this on my agency blog as well.

    As I’ve said on other blogs, we do sometimes ban agencies that cheat but we are always looking to make this as tough as possible.

    I also have to keep making this clear that the One Show is a nonprofit. Nobody is making tons of money off of our show. It’s not happening. I can’t speak for other shows, but there is no element of greed involved.

    The One Club board has a board meeting coming up very soon and we will be discussing this topic. Again, send any suggestions for improvement to the url above and I promise you we will discuss them.

  23. 23 Anderson

    The ad is great, it only tells the truth: americans can only look at their own and make it sound like theres no rest of the world. You should die with your stupid patriotism. Its the richest freaking country in the world, you could spend billions in 9-11 but could also support other causes around. You should know that at least half of the entire planet didnt give a shit about 9-11 while you were making such a fuzz (with a good point in your country context). The point is, people around the world (besides politicians) dont give a damn about it and actualy they wouldnt care less if this ad were true. I`m not included but oh well, its your problem so.. die. Just because you are wishing bad for those creatives, thats my problem with this whole crap.

  24. Nice shot. Was almost that what One Show just did.

  25. I stopped reading after “If you enter a totally fake ad like this one in an award show: Your agency is banned from entering any award show for 10 years.”

    “Any” award shows?

    So let me get this straight: you expect all the award show industries to get together, join hands, sing kumbaya and save the planet against cheating creatives? How realistic is that!?

  26. 26 dognpony

    Absolutely, that’s the goal. Get the major shows to adopt the same standards and ban cheating people/agencies across the board.

    Will it happen tomorrow? Of course not. But hopefully with the bold move that the One Show took yesterday, that’s a first step toward that happening.

  27. 27 Dominic

    I Absolutely agree with you regarding banning fake ads, such as this WWF ad, for award shows.

    One question that stands out in my mind is what about people entering such award shows as the Saatchi & Saatchi New Directors Showcase. Some of these people may want to create “fake ads” just to showcase their talent for directing. Many of these people may have no advertising or directing experience but have great idea’s for brands.

    What’s your opinion on this?

  28. 28 dognpony


    I’m all for individuals creating spec ads to show what they’re capable of doing. There are plenty of people who are working in this industry who haven’t had the opportunity to sell through what they consider great work. And while I want to see what you’ve been able to really produce, I also want to know the range of your abilities.

    The catch is twofold, however.

    1) It has to be made clear that it’s spec work. Don’t try to show me a book and just “forget” to mention something is spec. Come right out and say, “Now this next campaign I did for fun on my own” or “This is pitch work that never got produced.” As long as you tell me upfront, I’m completely cool with spec.

    2) Unless it’s an award show or category specifically for spec work (and there are some), then a spec ad just doesn’t belong there. You don’t have to win an award to get noticed for your work (spec or not). There are a thousand other fair ways to go about it.

  29. 29 Dominic


    Thanks for the reply. I completely agree that spec work does not belong in award shows unless they hold that Category.

  30. 30 Nikita

    They have taken a good step.

    But more then half of the money they get from entry fees is from the fake ads.
    how will these award shows survive?

  31. 31 Dan

    Another award show rule should be that you can’t do an ad for, say, Haagen Dazs and show it to your local 7-11 or mom and pop store that sells Haagen Dazs. You have to get it approved by Haagen Dazs themselves. This would cut the scam from Asia substantially. Theyre notorious for doing dodgy stuff that is damaging to a brand (see DDB Malaysia Lego ads on this blog) and getting it cleared by some random retailer who has no knowledge of the DNA of a brand. All he is told is ‘Hey Pops, the ads are free because we like you!”

    Some time back Saatchi Malaysia did some ads for Penguin books and the client for it was some small time book store. And who can forget the Land Rover ad from malaysia (it showed a amazon tribesman asking a guy in a Land Rover for directions)…..nice ad, but the client was…wait for it…..the Malaysian Land Rover Drivers Club…..I mean seriously….can these guys get any more devious?

  1. 1 Fake Ad, The Video | MediaBistro's Blog Feed | Online Marketing Connect
  2. 2 ninesense ads.
  3. 3 » A polêmica WWF, DM9 e o 11 de setembro: “Francamente, espero que você morra de fome nas ruas” ## Johnatan Oliveira ~~ |
  4. 4 One Club's Ban on Fake Ads Has Loopholes; Rules Inspired by Offensive Sept. 11 Ad | BNET Advertising Blog | BNET
  5. 5 Glad SOME good’s come out of DDB Brazil «
  6. 6 Arson co-founder helps One Show fight fake ads.
  7. 7 A polêmica WWF, DM9 e o 11 de setembro: “Francamente, espero que você morra de fome nas ruas” | Brainstorm #9

%d bloggers like this: