Glad SOME good’s come out of DDB Brazil

Quickly, what happened last week:

Ad Agency DDB Brazil won some awards for a VERY CONTROVERSIAL ad linking 9/11 to Global warming and American interference in, well, everything. At least that was what I took away, and was promptly informed by some that I was reading way too much into it. I maintain that my viewpoint wasn’t unique, and that at least some extreme-patriots-cum-reverse-conspiracists must have seen these ads as anti-American.

copy reads: "THE TSUNAMI KILLED 100 TIMES MORE PEOPLE THAN 9/11. The planet is brutally powerful. Respect it. Preserve it."

Anyway, dabitch at Adland has covered this in far better detail than me, and informs many of the facts I have here, so you can get a fuller story there. Before I forget, Barbara Lippert was where I found this stuff first.

Long Story Short

Suffice it to say that creatives at DDB Brazil came up with this ad, the agency somehow sold it to WWFBrazil, ran it once in a small publication, and then submitted it all over. Cannes and OneShow awarded them for their, ahem, efforts. Then people started to get REALLY offended by it. While people were getting angry, some of them pointed out that it wasn’t even a REAL ad. It only ran once, it wasn’t even in a big paper. The head offices of both DDB and WWF never approved it. Then One Show revoked their award, the creatives were fired, and due to some excellent blogging by the Dog and Pony Show, new rules have come into effect at the One Club. The main punishment is a retroactive and cumulative 5-year ban for anyone submitting fake ads.

Effective beginning in 2010:

  • An agency or regional office of an agency network that enters an ad made for a nonexistent client, or made and run without a client’s approval, will be banned from entering the One Show for five years.
  • The entire team credited on the “fake” entry will be banned from entering the One Show for five years.
  • An agency or regional office of an agency network that enters an ad that has run once, on late-night TV, or only because the agency produced a single ad and paid to run it itself will be banned from entering the One Show for three years.

So that’s it. At least now it’ll be harder to get away with cheating. It won’t stop ads that have only run once, just those that are run disingenuously at late hours or paid for by the agency. Gotta love those clauses, because for a second there I was worried Apple’s “1984” by TBWA/Chiat Day were gonna get screwed (it only ran one Super Bowl).

Still, my question is how those guys won. The morning-after consensus is almost unanimously that DDB Brazil deserves their award IF they had run it in a real magazine, or more than once, or any of the other criteria above. Except that the original reason everybody was angry was that the ad flat-out made little sense and worse, pissed off more people who saw it than otherwise. So how do judges pick these things? Are awards but a complex form of chicken in which the agency with the biggest balls and the ability to cajole clients wins? Or was the coup great because they ran something so offensive that next-to-no initial public response to such a slap in the face could be termed ‘a win’?

As a student of advertising I’m really confused here. Any help?


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