Rumor at the top

In Advertising, Communicate, Dubai, Opinion, Published journalism on November 23, 2010 at 6:00 pm

As Lynx allegations fly, Communicate finds all’s fair in love and awards

Originally published in Communicate, April 2009

This year’s Lynx Awards and Dubai International Advertising Festival served up the sort of scandal, drama and intrigue that the industry – and Communicate – thrives on.

Fortune Promoseven swept the board, with the agency’s Doha office grabbing the title of Agency of the Year, and its Dubai headquarters coming in second.

This will be a weight off the shoulders of FP7 Dubai creative director Marc Lineveldt, who was brought to the company from Team Y&R Dubai to pump up its creativity. But as well as fame and fortune, the agency’s success will lead to the inevitable target practice. “If you win, you’re screwed,” observes one awards veteran. And it wasn’t long before the knives were drawn for FP7.

Fadi Yaish, the ex-Saatchi creative who Lineveldt brought in as creative director of FP7 Doha, is one of the most awarded admen around. His work for EA Games’ Medal of Honor won two Gold Lions at Cannes last year, as well as a Gold and a Grand Prix at last year’s Lynx. It went on, however, to trigger a controversy over whether EA Games had approved, or even known of the campaign.

Eventually FP7 kept its trophies, but this year there were more allegations. Yaish’s work for Samsung washing machines (which took Gold in the Print category) apparently touted an appliance not yet available in the region. There was skepticism over where ads for another Samsung product, a camera with an anti-blink feature, would have run in the conservative Middle East. One showed schoolboys fixated on a female photographer in saucy suspenders, another execution showed nuns transfixed by a point-and-shoot-wielding Christ. And FP7 Doha’s work for Nissan was removed from display, apparently after TBWA/Raad pointed out that the client was, in fact, one of theirs.

Ghost ads aside, alleged plagiarism was also prominent. Yaish’s work for Aramex, where one pair of hands puts an object into a box as another pair receive the contents from the open other end, was strikingly similar to DDB Brazil’s recent work for FedEx. And FP7 Dubai produced an ad for Kwik insect-killing spray, which won Silver in both the Print and Outdoor categories. It looked dangerously similar to a campaign for Selton by DDB Plezoteca in Uraguay. Amazing what coincidences creatives can dig up when their rivals win big.

Yaish is understandably defensive. “All the work that we produced this year has been approved with prior client permission and released in the media,” he tells Communicate (his full statement can be found below). “And some creatives do think of the same idea around the world. The evidence of that is at the Lynx this year, as well as a lot of other shows.”

He has a point; you don’t have to look too far to find ads that bear a striking similarity to one another. In the hall outside the Festival seminars, work entered for the Lynx was hung up for all to see. It included two campaigns, one by JWT Dubai and one by TBWA/Raad, for competing brands of sticky plaster. JWT’s effort for Johnson & Johnson’s Band-Aid showed a bloodied plaster being peeled off scar-less skin. TBWA’s work for Beiersdorf’s Hansaplast showed… a bloodied plaster being peeled off scar-less skin. TBWA won a Silver in Outdoor and a Bronze in Print. JWT’s version got nothing.

Even the Grand Prix winner from Leo Burnett was not free of controversy. During the Lynx Debate, on regional creativity, Leo Burnett Cairo’s executive creative director Mohamed Hamdalla revealed that not only was the campaign not commissioned by the client, Heinz, but it also took a lot of pushing to get the execution past them. So although it ran, it wasn’t exactly commissioned and executed under a client’s brief.

On top of all this, the Lynx was abuzz with talk of leaked results, spurious shortlists, stolen artwork, unawarded categories and more. There was backslapping, backstabbing and backbiting galore, and over the coming months Communicate expects allegations will be thrown around like confetti.

But doesn’t all this controversy and infighting hold the industry back? “Maybe that’s why the region has still to make a mark in the global advertising arena,” says Yaish. “Because for every single entity that tries to raise the bar, there are 10 who try to bring it down.”

He’s right, of course. If everyone could play nicely, who knows what we could achieve? But then, that wouldn’t be nearly as much fun.



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