"In an embarrassing development, Leo Burnett withdrew two award-winning Tata Salt Lite radio spots from the Abby Awards on instructions from the client. Leo Burnett’s Arvind Sharma confirmed the decision to withdraw in a letter to Shashi Sinha, chairman of the Awards Governing Council," Firstpost had reported on Tuesday.
The withdrawal was spurred by the client, Tata Chemicals, who was clearly uncomfortable about the negative chatter on the ads being ‘scam’ ads –ads created only for entry to awards shows.
"It is unfortunate that our agency has been under the cloud of controversy regarding their recent Abby’s awards based on work done on our brand. The entire award submission process is one initiated and entirely managed by the agency; our role as a client was limited to approval of the creative. As a client, we were not aware of all the other technical requirements and subsequent process of submission criteria etc. As soon as the inconsistencies were brought to our attention, and upon further enquiry, we concluded that it would be appropriate for the agency to return the award to the organizers. We regret this incident which only strengthens our resolve for and commitment to strict adherence to standards,” a Tata Chemicals statement read.
It is apparent that Tata Chemicals was not aware of what scam ads are and the implications of a scam ad going wrong.
Leo Burnett’s Arvind Sharma was confident that the Tata Salt Lite ads were legal and kosher, based on the fact that the client had ‘approved’ the production and release.
You can see Sharma’s views on the legality of the Tata spot here:
The issue, it seems to be, is that the client and the agency understood the situation and the ramifications differently, which caused Tata Chemicals to ask Leo Burnett to withdraw the entries in question.
“But process is followed,” says Sharma – and he’s correct. Ultimately, after a brief stutter, the paperwork for the Tata Salt entry was found to be in order.
Part of the ‘process’ which needs to be followed is that there has to be proof that there was a legal, official media release of the communication. And since Storyboard’s Pavni Mittal had not heard the Tata Lite spots (as the majority of us haven’t), she asked Sharma where (on which radio stations) the spots were aired.
Sharma sidesteps the question, as you can see here.
Sharma takes refuge in following the legal process – as do many agencies who support the scam ad route to winning awards. What the Tata Salt episode does is to bring to the fore the possible downside of entering scam work at awards. While many marketers may sign off on a scam thinking that it is nothing of import and just a favour to the agency, they could discover, as Parag Gadre of Tata Chemicals unfortunately did, that it is a big, big deal if it goes wrong.