Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Violent Fairytales For A Violent Subject

In contrast to our last post, let's look at a Public Service Announcement (PSA) campaign from South America that's a little shocking, but also good advertising. The two posters here are from Amnesty International (AmnistĂ­a Internacional) in Chile.

The art direction on these two posters is fantastic and the concept is solid as well. Most fairytales are pretty violent when you think about it, and tend to get more so the further back in their history you go, so linking fairytales to a campaign against domestic violence and violence against women is an interesting connection. The visuals are very dark, but with enough key fairy tale pop culture visual cues that we easily identify the tales being referenced. The Little Red Riding Hood concept works the best due to the tale's very violent beginnings. Little Red Riding Hood goes back long before the versions most of us know to an oral tale that was told to warn young girls about predator men. I won't go into the gruesome details here—you can get the historical versions synopses on Wikipedia or in a good book of classic fairytales—but essentially, even the modern version has ties to violence against women.Unfortunately, the Snow White poster doesn't have quite the same fairytale connection. Another story, like Bluebeard, might have been a better tie though much less visually recognizable. Either way, it's a great example of some good PSR work that can be shocking but still a good piece of advertising.

(via The Inspiration Room)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

DDB's Offensive 9/11 Ad Ushers In Some Much Needed Award Show Rules

I was apparently living under a rock last Tuesday when AdFreak first broke the news about DDB Brasil's tasteless 9/11 ad (above) which has continued to blow up throughout the blogosphere and has DDB Brasil and the client, WWF, backpedaling like crazy to escape the international bad PR. You can check out the day-by-day updates on the original AdFreak post.

Essentially, the print ad shows hundreds of planes flying into lower Manhattan and the copy compares the death toll between 9/11 and the 2004 Tsunami. The copy reads, ‘The tsunami killed 100 times more people than 9/11. The planet is brutally powerful. Respect it. Preserve it.’


I get that our planet is powerful and can be very destructive, and I do believe we need to take some drastic action to curb climate change, but seriously? How do you possibly compare a natural disaster to a terrorist attack? The oddest thing is that this concept actually won a One Show Merit Award for public service work. Yeah. I would think the One Show would know better. It's not just that it's an offensive ad, but it's just a bad concept too.
As AdWeek's Barbara Lippert said, “Aside from being offensive and cringe-worthy, it's also just an ugly and dumb piece of creative, scoring high on the 'gratuitous use of tragedy to make a nonsensical argument' meter.”
It's shock value only, so how did it win a One Show Merit Award? Beats me.

That brings us to the next uproar. Aside from the fact that the One Show bestowed its honor on such a bad, tasteless ad, there is the question of whether the ad is even legit for entry. Once the corporate backpedaling started, WWF immediately claimed that they never approved such an ad to run. Sound familiar? Well, once the finger pointing began, it turns out that someone in the local Brazil WWF office actually did approve the ad and it ran at least once.

Well, okay, it ran once in a newspaper somewhere, but sometimes there's still the question of whether that really makes it award eligible. It's part of the larger issue of award chasing: Agencies like awards. They look pretty on display and they give that little ego boost and assurance to creatives that they actually are pretty good at what they do. But award chasing gets a little out of hand sometimes with people submitting fake ads, ads that were never approved, ads that never ran or sometimes ads that the agency footed the bill to run once, just so they'd be eligible for awards. Wow, that makes us ad industry folk sound like a bunch of cheats, doesn't it? The sad thing is this happens rather often on all levels of ad competitions from the local level to the international level.

In Barbara Lippert's AdWeek article on the recent DDB Brasil fiasco she quotes David Baldwin, former chairman of the One Club as saying that somehow the award shows always get blamed for giving awards to fake ads. True, I can't imagine the daunting task of trying to fact check every ad submission to some of these competitions, but at the same time, as far as I know, the award shows have never really penalized anyone for these fake entries. You might lose your award, but that's it. I remember once stumbling across a little note in Communication Arts retracting one of the campaigns I loved from their ad annual because it had never run, but it was a tiny little footnote that I just accidentally happened to see. There was also the Cannes Bronze Lion awarded to the agency that produced the fake J.C. Penney spot last year. I believe they lost their Lion, but that's about it. And did that really matter compared to the huge recognition they got for that fake ad?

The truth is, at the moment there's little to no incentive not to cheat in most of these shows. Sure, most ad agencies will figure out a way to make it technically legit (i.e., it ran once in this tiny little publication) but are those really any more legit than a totally fake ad?

In response to the uproar around DDB Brasil's controversial ad, the One Show has enacted new rules to deter fake entries. Basically, if you enter a fake ad and get found out, the agency and everyone credited is banned from entering the One Show for five years. If you enter an ad that 'ran once,' or the agency paid to run, etc., but isn't really legit, under The One Show's discretion the agency is banned for three years.

Personally, I applaud the One Show for finally taking some much needed steps to deter this ever-growing practice. I think the banning will help enormously, assuming it's enforced.

* On another note, check out the even worse TV spot from DDB Brasil that surfaced this past week. They apparently tried to enter it in the Cannes Film Festival, but thankfully, it didn't get shortlisted.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Pfizer Follow-up: Record Fines over Illegal Promotions

Well over a year and a half ago, Christine reported that drug giant Pfizer was in some trouble for using an unlicensed M.D. to promote their drug Lipitor. Now, as this article on Yahoo! describes, Pfizer has been fined $2.3 billion in civil and criminal penalties for illegal promotions.

According to the article, "Pfizer invited doctors to consultant meetings at resort locations, paying their expenses and providing perks."

"FBI Assistant Director Kevin Perkins praised the whistleblowers who decided to 'speak out against a corporate giant that was blatantly violating the law and misleading the public through false marketing claims.' "

While not related to the incident in Christine's original post, it seems this kind of thing has been a problem for Pfizer for some time.

"Authorities called Pfizer a repeat offender, noting it is the fourth such settlement of government charges in the last decade. They said the government will monitor the company's conduct for the next five years to rein in the abuses."