Should We Embrace the Rejects and the Fakes?

Last week, we at Advertising for Peanuts received an email announcing a new ad contest and it sparked quite a bit of conversation among us. Here’s the first paragraph from that email:

“We’re excited to announce our call for entries for The 2008 Speckie Awards. The Speckies ( level the playing field for creatives because it enables them to showcase any of their ad ideas that did not run which in turn allows us to award the best ideas on their merit, rather than being based on luck and the ability to survive all the politics and bureaucracy of the advertising world.”

To emphasize the speculative nature of this contest, their rules on their website even state that one could submit ads for imaginary clients. While not the first advertising contest to honor ideas that never ran because the client rejected them, it does seem to be among the first one to embrace pure spec advertising. The only other venue for honoring spec work in advertising that I can identify is CMYK magazine and that fine publication targets ad students. This contest seems to be open to everyone.

And while I must admit that the Speckies seemed to have amassed a strong judging panel, including such recognized creatives as Doug Jaeger; Katy Dreke (from Wexley School for Girls), Nick Cohen, and Patrick Hanlon and I probably mention this contest to my students, this announcement raised tons of questions for me:

If an entry was for a real product, was it rejected because it was off brand? True, a great idea is a great idea, but concepts get rejected all of the time because the core message is inconsistent with brand. What does putting off-brand messages and imagery out there do to the brand, even if we know that these messages and images are fakes? What responsibility, if any, does the creative team have in protecting the brand during off hours and outside of paid media?

In other words, what does this say about the team or individual who entered it? Could it look like these people are at odds with the brands they are paid to protect and promote?

It it’s a spec ad for a fake product and it was done by a professional team, where did they get the time? Why aren’t they spending the time on their real products and projects? Or why can’t they get real work? And, where are they accrediting their time on their time sheets? True, every creative team has some down time, but is this the best way to spend it? Some management types might not think that it’s a good way to fill the hours. Also, others might see it as easier, because with a spec ad you can come up with the idea and work your way back to the product. On the other hand, maybe doing fake work is a good way to fill the time. Perhaps creatives should be rewarded for spending their time trying to advance their skills.

In other words, what does it say about the team or individual who entered The Speckie Awards? It could be seen in a poor light. Or it could be seen positively.

So what do you think? How will the Speckie Awards be perceived in your organization? What is the value on the resume? And do you think it’s even worth the time for people to enter any awards show in general? Please, let’s get the discussion going? Just click the comments link below to give me your thoughts. I really want to hear what you have to say.


Steve Hall said...

The way I look at this show is that it's pure fun. I wouldn't read too much into it. I look at it as an outlet for creatives to create whatever the hell they want and see how others (other than their clients) receive it. It's harmless. It's a little diversion from the "real" work sort of like a vacation.

Johnny Lefthand said...

I think the only time one should make spec ads is when you're a student.

To me its not a contest to make imaginary ads because making funny/smart ads is only half of what creatives do. The other half is getting other people as excited as we are about them. So a spec award show really only awards half of what we do.

scuba steve said...

Who actually has these full campaigns/projects that never ran? And who has the luxury of being able to scrap an entire project and start again? Normally if our client doesn't like a project that we consider to be near completion, there's no time/budget/desire to start again from scratch. We just water it down, compromise on everything, shoe horn it into some modified design brief, and end up with something that, ultimately, nobody is happy really with.

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