The One Show Puts Its Fist Down On Scam Ads

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In the aftermath of DDB Brazil's WWF tsunami of a scandal, the One Club has decided to take a hard line on scam ads with a set of new rules and severe penalties against scammers for its annual One Show. Any advertising agency caught entering ads run without client approval or made for non-existing clients into its show will be banned from entering the show for the next five years. The team associated with the creation of that ad will also be banned. Moreover, punitive measures will be taken against those adopting the Bend, Oregon strategy and any agency or regional office of a 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 also be prohibited from entering The One Show for three years.

Creativity checked in with One Club President Kevin Swanepoel on The One Show's new rules.

Why did you decide to take such a hard line on scam ads?
Because "Scam Ads" are giving the advertising industry a bad name. The One Club has always stood for creative excellence and we feel the need to help put an end to this practice.

What response are you expecting to see from other awards shows?
I have already had an email from the Argentina Creative Circle and they have adopted the same code of ethics. This is the first, but I am sure it will not be the last. The response has been very positive from agencies and creatives alike.

Ads that have run just once or a few times, purposely for awards show entry seem to have become a standard industry practice. Yet you've also taken a stand against these sorts of entries with the three year penalty. What was the One Show's position on these sorts of ads prior to this latest announcement? And why did you decide to take this stance now?
Trying to police and verify each and every ad is a huge task. We received over 17,000 entries this year and each piece that made the finalists list was asked for verification. As for the "Tsunami" ad, I have the actual newspaper as proof it ran. The publication is from Brazil and is in Portuguese. Given the number of entries each year, it is impossible to check the market size or the print run of each entry. There has to be some trust. It was clear to me there needed to be better rules to deter people from the practice of running an ad once in a small market to meet the requirements.

In hindsight, this ad was created and run merely for an award show entry.

Newspaper with WWF print ad.
Newspaper with WWF print ad.

How do you plan to enforce and monitor future entries? What sorts of staffing or system will be put in place for next year's show?
We're still working out specific procedures, but as award season approaches we will be increasing staffing. One of their primary tasks will be closely examining verifications. An ad with questionable content, like the "Tsunami" ad, will certainly elicit greater scrutiny and lead us to require a more detailed media schedule. That said, we will still need help from the industry to police this. If a scam ad is identified and we are notified we will investigate the ad thoroughly. This has happened many times over the past few years, leading to ads being withdrawn and their awards stripped.

Ultimately our greatest weapon is the penalty. Agencies now know that if a fake ad is caught they will be banned from participating in the One Show for up to five years. Creatives who are banned will be withdrawn from the credits. Agencies who are banned will have their work withdrawn from the system. We will begin setting up a database of banned creatives and agencies and all future entries will be rigorously checked against this list.

See the full set of penalties against scam ads on The One Club site.
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