Pritha Dasgupta
May 31, 2013

All About: Proactive work ‘versus’ ‘scam’

Pritha Mitra Dasgupta asks adlanders for the difference, and approach to the two

Issued in 'public interest'?
Issued in 'public interest'?

Agency: Leggy Boot Laces 
National Creative Director: Hercules Hegde 
Head of Advertising: Jughead Jalaram
Sr. Creative Directors: Calvin Gomes and Hobbes Handa
Account Planning: Batman Punjabi and Robin Raheja
Account Management: Tintin Talwar, Snoopy Mula, Superman Shah, Phantom Daruwala
Creative team: Mogli Shedge, Richie Rich Banerjee, Pokemon Ghosh, Pappu Picasso
Client: (Confirmation Awaited)

A lot of youngsters in adland refer to the ‘Marlboro man dead horse’ creative by Piyush Pandey, now executive chairman and creative director, South Asia, Ogilvy & Mather India, for the Cancer Patients Association (2002), as India’s first ad that got international recognition. Some adlanders also refer to it as India’s first ‘scam’ that met with success at international awards.

Some part of the international recognition is true, though it wasn’t India’s first Gold at the Cannes ad festival as some recall it to be.

But it surely was not an instance of ‘scam’, underlines Pandey, explaining the difference between proactive work and ‘scam’.

“Any social media awareness pro bono campaign starts off as a proactive work because we do not take any money for creating it. The Marlboro man-dead horse campaign was supported by The Indian Express Group both in its English and Guajarati dailies. And then we got huge support from the outdoor media. So whoever said that it was India’s first ‘scam’ ad can go take a flying f@#k,” he says.

Elaborating the difference between ‘proactive’ work and ‘scam’, he adds, “There is a difference between proactive work and downright scam ads. In case of proactive work, one can create a piece of work, take the client into confidence and find a legitimate way to publish the work. Otherwise, it’s scam.”

1. Proactive equals ‘scam’?

Asked about the genesis of scams and the difference between a ‘scam’ ad and a proactive piece of work, ad veteran Mohammed Khan dismisses the notion. He reasons, “You yourself know what you have created is dishonest work. So where is the joy and pride in winning awards for it? Once you decide to do scam work how does it matter if you legitimise an illegitimate piece of work?”
He adds, “When I returned to India in early 1970’s there was nothing called ‘scam’ advertising. All this started in the 1990’s.”

Not everyone concurs with the lack of distinction between proactive work and ‘scam’. Many in the next gen of advertising certainly don’t.

2. Proactive work is not just for awards

An agency thinking up and idea and presenting it to the client, before persuading the client and pushing it through to execution and release, could qualify as proactive work too, reason adlanders.

In the case of ‘scam’, another definition doing the rounds is an ad created purely for the sake of awards, without the client’s approval. The only shift right now is clients also wanting a share of the action - read trophies.

Manish Bhatt, co-founder and director, Scarecrow Communications, toes the line that there is a clear divide between the two. He explains, “Two of my best pieces of work, two films - ‘National Anthem’ and ‘Holi’ - started as a proactive work. We started with an idea and approached Code Red to fund the films. I spoke to some 25 to 30 celebrities to endorse the cause before releasing it online and promoting it aggressively before channels started playing them. It was much later that these films picked up awards.”

Bhatt maintains, “There are many good ideas which are canned by the clients but that doesn’t make it a bad idea. And there are many takers for good creatives. So people should look for a route to legitimise the idea instead of getting sloppy after creating scam work with the only objective of winning an award.”

3. An obsession that troubles veterans

Call it scam or by another name, ads created for awards were few and far between in the 1990s, but are now bona fide, says Khan.

They have, he says, become a sanctioned function in the everyday life of an advertising agency.

He recounts, “At Enterprise, we won several awards but did not create a single piece of scam work. If I had found anybody in my agency doing such a thing, I would have shot that person.”
“If you look at the newspaper or the channels, the ads which are currently playing are $#!+. Agencies forget the clients are spending heavily to create these ads which in turn pay the salaries,” says Khan.

That, again, is a statement many in adland wouldn’t agree with - entirely.

What It meand for...

Piyush Pandey:

“There is a difference between proactive work and downright scam ads. In case of proactive work, one can create a piece of work, take the client into confidence and find a legitimate way to publish the work. Otherwise, it’s scam.”

Mohammed Khan:

“You yourself know what you have created is dishonest work. So where is the joy and pride in winning awards for it? Once you decide to do scam work how does it matter if you legitimise an illegitimate piece of work?”

Manish Bhatt:

“Two of my best pieces of work, two films - ‘National Anthem’ and ‘Holi’ - started as a proactive work. We started with an idea and approached Code Red to fund the films. I spoke to some 25 to 30 celebrities to endorse the cause before releasing it online and promoting it aggressively before channels started playing them. It was much later that these films picked up awards.”

Source:
Campaign India