Jaideep Shergill: The Royal Scam

11 Jul,2016

By Jaideep Shergill


I write this on the heels of an open letter which hit the internet about a leading ad firm scamming a metal at Cannes.


The letter starts with these words: I’d like to start this post with a simple message. This is a personal one, not endorsed by anyone or organisation but me. That said, hear me and make no mistake: Grey Singapore and Grey Global – I will not entertain a pitch, submission or award from any one of you until you return that award that you falsely won for this travesty.


Kudos to Alastair Bullock for calling out this scam. Grey did grudgingly return the Lion, calling it ‘unwarranted, unfair, unrelenting’ criticism.


Scamming in the world of awards in our business isn’t new and has been long for as long as one can remember! Clearly there are more than enough firms and clients who partake in the cheap and gimmicky world of faking campaigns for the sake of metals. What really got to me though was the compunction with which these scams continue year after year with virtually no consequences for anybody. Shouldn’t there be rules around scam campaigns just like there are for everything else? Of course the fraternity was quick to jump to defend their fakeness. Many took to the internet to tell us all how only some rotten apples create scam campaigns while the rest are above board. Totally laughable actually!


Another royal scam was pulled off by the PR Grand Prix winner, “The Organic Effect”a campaign for Co-op in Sweden, entered by Swedish ad agency Forsman & Bodenfors.


The viral video campaign featured a Swedish family that switched to an organic, pesticide-free diet for two weeks, with urine samples taken before and after—showing a reduction of certain pesticide traces in their bodies. But the campaign which has been under a cloud of criticism for a while now because the company did not test for residues from the pesticides used in organic agriculture and just for those used in non-organic products.


Kavin Senapathy, a writer for Forbes, has a great intro which starts with these words: I expose quackery and bust myths on health, food and science and Kavin had this to say in her piece:Most people don’t realize that organic agriculture uses pesticides too, albeit different ones. And the experiment didn’t test for pesticides used in organic agriculture.


This is like assigning a group of people to drink screwdrivers (that’s OJ and vodka for our teetotalers), then having them swap the screwdrivers for rum and cola, and concluding that rum and cola drinks lead to zero vodka levels in the body.


What’s also interesting is that this piece was run on Forbes before the Cannes winners were chosen. Clearly an oversight by the jury or is it just a case of turning a blind eye?


We need many more Alastairs’ and Kavins’ if we need to call out these scams. God bless her and may their tribe increase!


Of course these are only a couple of examples which caught my attention but we would fill volumes with scam campaigns across the world of marketing and communication if one really wanted to.


In all of this, the vast majority of the fraternity enjoyed themselves at Cannes and will do so again next year. I can only tell you one thing, Kavin Senapathy, the folks at Cannes were certainly not on a diet of virgin screwdrivers or any other mock drinks. In fact, they were and will continue to be high and the scamming will live on. The mad rush to be a leader at any cost and live in a world of false glory in our industry only illustrates one thick skinned trait which is best described in the intellectually uncurious words of Alfred E. Neuman- What, me worry?!!


Jaideep Shergill, Co-Founder, Pitchfork Partners Strategic Consulting LLP is a PR and communications veteran and has always been contrarian about most things, drawing extraordinary amounts of irk and ire from industry peers. He can be reached on jaideep.shergill@pitchforkpartners.com


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