Hegarty: Asia will never be a dominant force in advertising if it doesn’t cut out scam

“There have been no statements from agencies that they won’t do it.”

Advertising legend John Hegarty has hit out at the “endemic” level of scam advertising in Asia.

In an interview with Mumbrella at the Cannes Lions festival today, the Bartle Bogle Hegarty founder and creative chief said that there was no signs that scam – the practice of ad agencies creating work purely to win awards – was diminishing in the region.

“There have been no statements from agencies that they won’t do it,” he said.

Client are in on the act too, Hegarty said.

“They’re trying to beat each other in the rankings to take awards home. It’s a disgrace.”

“If you focus on scam – which a lot of agencies do in Asia – you’ll always lack proof that creative work actually works.”

“You can con yourself by calling it ‘proactive’ work. But that’s just another word for scam.”

“We’re proactive every day by trying to solve client’s problems, not pretending we can produce pretty ads that never run anywhere.”

“If Asia is to become dominant force in advertising, it must kick this habit,” said Hegarty.

Scam is not difficult to spot, he added.

“Just look out for the beautiful piece of art, with a tiny logo in the bottom corner.”


  1. Marco
    20 Jun 13
    10:25 am

  2. Scam is not difficult to spot, he added.
    “Just look out for the beautiful piece of art, with a tiny logo in the bottom corner.”

    Then why are we still awarding it? If we continue to award it, creatives are just going to continue to produce it.

    I can imagine a creative thinking like this: if I get all righteous and stop with my “proactive” drive and someone else continues with it and gets the lions, who do you think is going to get the pay raise and the promotion?

    The problem is not scam advertising. It’s the people who encourage it by awarding those ads you say are not difficult to spot.

  3. Jules
    20 Jun 13
    11:41 am

  4. The awards shows will still continue to award scams… theres a whole lot of money to be made from entry fees.

  5. Ad
    20 Jun 13
    11:34 pm

  6. The judges in these awards shows are usually people who were ‘well-awarded’. Of course they would award the same kind of work no? It would be pure hypocrisy not to!

  7. Unemployed
    21 Jun 13
    2:05 am

  8. I agree COMPLETELY with John Hegarty and Marco.

    I’ve been threatened often by various ex-bosses who got to where they are today doing scams. To not do likewise, as I have, is to risk losing one’s livelihood. That’s how bad it is.

    It’s NOT difficult at all to see the proof. Just take your pick of any CCO, ECD, GCD, SCD, and the many CDs in any agency in the region (especially the MNCs), and you’ll NOT find a handful who hasn’t done scam ads.

    The asian awards juries keep awarding these scams because they do it themselves. And they get to keep their jobs by encouraging their agencies to do the same. Hell, they even get promoted. So, they’ll ONLY employ scam artistes. They’ll never admit it, of course. And the NEW juries? Why, they’re the scam artistes who’ve won with the scams and get invited back to be a juror, of course!

    In the end, the scam CDs beget more art directors and copywriters to work on scams. Monthly “creative” meetings, weekly “creative” meetings… especially leading up to the awards submission deadlines. Heck, they even do statistical studies and comparisons year on year to understand what the next award jury will reward. They’ll even plot between the categories to enter… just so they’ll cover all the bases.

    So, creatives hungry for the next promotion and pay rise think ONLY of scams. A simple comparison between their disinterested daily works versus their off the wall award-winning “Public Service” ads will reveal all that everyone refuses to see. Recently, some have begun to call themselves “artists”… for entering “artistic” works into the award shows. No client, no commission. They just pay for their display, get this written and photographed, uploaded somewhere and behold, it’s ready for submission.

    And Cannes, Clios, D&AD, One Show, etc. continue to bestow awards to scams every year. The effectiveness and “results” of these fake ads… the number of hits, the percentages, the media stories and free publicity… remains to be proven. Trust me, I just tried to search keywords of one of this year’s Cannes winners. And found zip. No video, no news report, no blog, no website, nada…

    Creatives with hundreds of awards. BIG titles. BIG salaries. Now, what are the real paying clients getting?

  9. dominic braganza
    21 Jun 13
    6:04 pm

  10. Jen
    22 Jun 13
    10:12 pm

  11. The ad world will be/ is segmented into two – one that does work for fame and glory, and the other that does the everyday client work while trying to push the boundaries each time. Unfortunately, it’s the former group that gets rewarded. A vicious cycle indeed.

  12. hey-hey-hey
    24 Jun 13
    1:13 am

  13. Here’s an idea!

    Get ALL the Award Festivals to REMOVE individual names of the creatives and just reflect the names of the agencies, the clients and their marketing teams.

    This ought to set things right once and for all.

    Why not? Agencies, not individuals are paying for these entries and they should rightfully get the credits. And if the agencies (who pay the creatives) are TRULY doing outstanding work for the clients, the clients who bought these fantastic ideas OUGHT to be the ones who deserve the trophies. It’ll certainly beget more clients interested to buy better creative work, so everyone wins!

    Everyone, except the creatives who move from agency to agency, who scam ads and belittle daily work, of course. Why? Because EGO dictates that whoever comes up with the brilliant idea should be celebrated. But hang on, isn’t EVERYONE with the creative job, paid every month… SUPPOSED to be creating brilliant ads in the first place?

    If the advertising world truly cares for creative work for clients and brands. The entry lists and forms ought to bear more brand names, client names and agency offices, NOT the names of these creative department individuals. Just look at an Awards entry form, and you’ll see the problem. Dozens of agency staff names, with just 1 agency name, 1 brand name, and 1 client name. There’s your misappropriation!

    Creatives ought to service the agencies, who in turn serve the clients and their brands. That’s what advertising is about.

    It is NOT about servicing creative individuals.

  14. Oji
    25 Jun 13
    10:16 pm

  15. Asia is Asia. Meaning Asian CLIENTS. Despite that, Asia still wins in the award shows because we’re as good as every creative elsewhere. BUT what’s stopping us being a dominant force opposite (Europe, North America, Aus, NZ) is the 1. Clients 2. THE REGION – and YOU are one of them. Asia is a cash cow for global agencies so most turn a blind eye when regional accounts like Unilever, P&G, Ford etc. opt for REGIONAL ABOVE THE LINE – that mostly come from mother agencies. You turn a blind eye while clients bully us while the local agency – for the sake of money will do whatever the client wants. Money – money that keeps the agencies afloat – money that keeps you the MOTHER AGENCIES outside Asia to keep doing what you do – Ads that aren’t scam.

    So much as I respect you for your creative brilliance Sir John Hegarty, I urge you, open your eyes and snap out of it.

  16. Cezar
    26 Jun 13
    9:21 pm

  17. In Asia, it’s so hard to get legitimate ‘creative’ work approved by legitimate clients forcing lazy creatives to scam to prove their ‘brilliance’.

    It doesn’t help that award-giving shows accept, and reward, their ‘work’.

    To stop all the masquerading, and be fair to those who do not do scam and who, understandably, are at a disadvantage against their unfettered counterparts, awards shows should consider opening a SCAM category — a showcase of initiatives strictly for show.

    That should give creatives a vent to let off creative steam, so to speak, and hopefully inspire clients to buy their ideas.

    At the same time, we should provide more incentives to ‘real’ creative work which is the essence of true advertising.

  18. Guilty
    30 Apr 14
    3:40 pm

  19. Even Mr Hegarty does not mention the role of the multi-nats themselves in this.

    From where I am sitting, the orders to scam come right from the top: worldwide ECD level and above, who demand wins at Cannes in particular. Or else. There are now a whole generation of ECDs who got their jobs by scamming. And the big-wigs who appointed them do not care where the awards comes from either. They just want the glory.

    They don’t mention the word ‘scam’, but they make it clear you are expected to score at Cannes, and that they do not care how you do it. Of course, if you are caught, they will – MI style – disavow all knowledge of your activities.

    I am not innocent in this by the way. I am not proud, but it is an ‘if you can’t beat them’ situation and I have a family, a mortgage, and some brutal school fees to feed. I’d much rather not spend several creatives’ salaries on award entries, and not do months of late nights leading up to awards season, but my choice is either do it or find another job.

    Mr Hegarty himself may be above all this, but BBH is part of one of the two groups which control the advertising world and he has a great deal more influence with the powers-that-be than I do. Can I ask what he is doing about scams?

    And can someone remind me how you get a job at BBH in Asia? Oh yes, I remember now. Win lots of awards.

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