Scam Ads and Ghost Ads: Their Long History and Sordid Future

Further Stories of Fake Creative and the Trouble It Starts

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Scam ads are a chronic problem in adland, a sort of dark underbelly of the industry where agencies and individuals trying to win awards submit work that's never been approved by a client or run more than a couple times.

A scam ad for Ford Figo in India -- although Ford, of course, never approved it
A scam ad for Ford Figo in India -- although Ford, of course, never approved it

Every few years an ad is so offensive that it gets noticed beyond its home country and makes global headlines. This happened most recently with the Ford Figo fiasco, which led Ad Age to delve into the matter again to see how it impacts the reputation of agencies today and map the ways that clients are put at risk. But the practice goes back much further than that.

Here's a roundup of our coverage, both recent and from the archives -- a steadily-growing timeline of incidents and controversies over scam ads, also known as "ghost ads."

Amid Whispers, Leo Burnett Pulls Its Own Winning Ads From Awards Show April 10, 2013

Is the Ad-Awards Race Crushing the Client? April 2, 2013

Scam Ads Don't Boost Creativity; They Damage Brands, Hurt Agency Credibility April 1, 2013

Lighten Up! Ford, Others Are Overreacting to Figo Fiasco April 1, 2013

Four Steps To Protect Your Brand From Scam Ads April 01, 2013

Chief Creatives Sound Off on Scam Ads -- and What the Industry Should do About Them March 28, 2013

Amid Ford Figo Flap, U.K. Awards Show Applauds Scam Ads March 27, 2013

JWT Entered Sexually Offensive Ford Ads in India's Top Awards Show March 27, 2013

JWT India Sacks Staffers Responsible for Sexually Offensive Ford Ads March 26, 2013

Fake Kia Ad Gets 5 Brazilian Creatives Banned From 2012 Cannes Festival July 21, 2011

Controversial Creative Neil French Defends Scam Ads Sept. 21, 2009

Cannes: No Ban for Agencies Behind Scam Ads Oct. 14, 2009

A fake ad in 2009 showed airplaines honing in on the World Trade Center's Twin Towers.
A fake ad in 2009 showed airplaines honing in on the World Trade Center's Twin Towers.

Brit Award Show to 'Name and Shame,' but Not Ban, Ad Scammers -- Is That Going Far Enough? Sept. 17, 2009

Bad for DDB, Bad for Ad Shows, Just Plain Bad Sept. 7, 2009

In Wake of DDB Brasil Scandal, One Show to Ban Scam-Ad Creators for Five Years Sept. 4, 2009

DDB Brasil Did Make Video Version of Reviled WWF Ad -- and Submitted It to Cannes Sept. 3, 2009

Mark Wnek: A Focus on Awards, Not the Consumer, Caused 9/11-WWF Firestorm Sept. 3, 2009

9/11 Ad for WWF Causes Tsunami of a Crisis for DDB Brasil Sept. 2, 2009

Middle East Ad Festival Strips Shop of Agency-of-Year Title April 1, 2009

Epoch Loses Lion Over Racy Penney Ad Controversy June 26, 2008

Website TheSpecSpot Called a More Legit Alternative to Submitting Ghost Ads to Cannes June 14, 2004

Cannes Winner Questioned as Possible Scam; Johnson & Johnson Denies It Retained Agency June 26, 2002

Real-life Ghostbuster June 25, 2001

Ghosts of Cannes June 11, 2001

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