One Club's Ban on Fake Ads Has Loopholes; Rules Inspired by Offensive Sept. 11 Ad

Last Updated Sep 8, 2009 12:07 PM EDT

The One Club has done the right thing by banning fake ads that run once in order to qualify for award shows. The move comes after DDB Brasil created an offensive Sept. 11-themed ad for the World Wildlife Fund that it first denied, and then admitted, it was responsible for. The ad was entered in the Cannes festival.

But the One Club's ban has some holes in it that will test the organization's ability to police its members. Frankly, a year from now, most creatives will have forgotten the DDB ad and will be more focused on getting their best work -- by hook or by crook -- onto the finalists' lists.

Here are the rules, coupled with some commentary:
1. An agency or regional office of an agency network that enters an ad made for nonexistent clients, or made and run without a client's approval, will be banned from entering the One Show for 5 years.
Assume that Acme Agency's New York office falls afoul of the ban. What is to prevent AANY's work being entered by the Chicago office next year? The hope that the judges will be familiar enough with both offices to know that Acme is cheating?
2. The entire team credited on the "fake" entries will be banned from entering the One Show for 5 years.
What is the definition of "team" here? Will all the executives listed on the entry be banned individually for five years? Or will they permitted to enter other work if it was part of a different team? If the latter is true, then this isn't a restriction at all.
3. An agency or regional office of an agency network that enters an ad that has run once, on late night TV, or has only run because the agency produced a single ad and paid to run it themselves*, will be banned from entering The One Show for 3 years.
* The One Club reserves the right to review 'late-night, ran-once' and launch versions, at The One Club's discretion. If it is determined that the ad was created expressly for award show entry, the penalty will hold.
Basically, these rules are a good idea. They're actually more harsh than the penalty I proposed last week (forfeiting the award). But the rules focus more on punishments than they do on verification. Verification is the hard part: DDB's Sept. 11/Tsunami ad ran last May and was only noticed at the end of August.

That's why the One Club -- and Cannes, and the Clios, and everyone else -- needs agencies to submit full descriptions or documentation of an actual media schedule. Then the judges won't have to make decisions about whether their potential future employers have run an ad once or not.

And finally: Note how powerful the blogosphere has been in all of this. The ad was first noticed by AgencySpy. The One Show's new rules appear to be a "tribute" to The Dog & Pony Show's proposed ad rules.(Noticed by Adland.) The regular media has been a step behind on the story all the way.

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