Scamadgate-2 | Anil Thakraney: Penalize the scamsters

10 Apr,2013

By Anil Thakraney


There has been a rather muted reaction to Leo Burnett’s Tata Salt scam radio adverts. In contrast with all the sound and fury over the JWT Ford Figo ads. Surely Burnett’s ‘crime’ isn’t any lesser. I can only think of one reason: The ad junta is tiring of news on scams, a few senior industry folks I spoke with only shrugged with helplessness and resignation: ‘So what’s new, man?’


Enough has been discussed on the subject of scam ads (including by myself), so there’s nothing more to add. However, I am now convinced all this talk has been pointless, that scams will always rule in the desi ad world. Not just because these ads land people new jobs and increments (and are therefore created), but because India is a country of scamsters. There’s a ghotala happening in all walks of life, so why must the ad frat be any different, they haven’t arrived from Pluto. I guess the time has come to accept that they will happen again and again. And therefore, the debate must shift from ‘How to cure this disease’ to ‘How to control it’.


The social media buzz suggests creating a separate category for scam ads, thus legalizing them. This idea is as old as the hills, I recall proposing it fifteen years ago in the ad mag I was editing at the time. This will never work because once they are called ‘Unreleased Work’, such ads will not land people any real recognition, and therefore no new jobs. Agency heads will treat it as ‘jerk-off’ stuff, and dismiss it. So then what to do?


I think the solution lies in financial punishment. For the next year, the GoaFest organizers should announce that scam ads entered slyly as official work will invite a hefty fine for the ad agency. Let’s say, a penalty of Rs 25 lakhs per scam ad. The world’s second oldest profession isn’t generally respected by the masses. And that can be corrected a bit by passing on the amount collected as fines to charity organizations. The ad world gets a positive name, and the threat of monetary loss will deter many potential scamsters.


The GoaFest team must give this suggestion a serious thought if they want their trophies to get some respectability. They need to play the role of cops, and not just festival organizers. Because frankly, I can’t think of any other way out of this rotten mess. Time for debates and angry tweets/FB updates is over. It’s time for hard action.




PS: On a recent visit to Delhi, I noticed that this product finds pride of place in the medical store shop windows. Not surprising, given the rising rate of crimes against women in India’s capital city. At this rate, ‘Pepper Spray’ will replace India Gate as Delhi’s glowing symbol.


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