A Brief History Of Jaw-Dropping, Havoc-Wreaking 'Scam Ads'

By now, you’ve seen that terrible ad from the World Wildlife Foundation and agency DDB comparing 9/11 to the 2005 Tsunami. 

Click through for a brief history of “scam ads” →

WWF said they approved neither the ad’s production nor its publication. But it actually ran once in a small Brazilian newspaper.

How could that happen?

A reader offers an insider’s theory:

It is what is known in the trade as a scam ad.

The rules of ad competitions specify an ad has to run in some form of media to be eligible for entry. So when ad agencies want to win a prize they make an edgy ad which would not normally run in mainstream media, get an OK from the client, any OK will do, and run it just once in some obscure local media, most likely at the agency’s expense. The client isn’t paying so the decision making process on their part is pretty lax.

Things like WWF, Amnesty International & Film Festivals are favourites for this kind of thing because they allow for more scope to be radical than selling shampoo for example, and they are not competing in the rough and tumble of the commercial market place so they are less sensitive about their brand equity.

Scam ads are often in poor taste, deliberately so because people confuse being offensive with being original.

The theory resonates with us because we’ve seen this kind of thing before.

Back in May, cable channel History got in a bit of hot water after ads comparing Hiroshima and Pearl Harbor deaths leaked online. In 2006, ads supposedly created for MTV comparing 9/11 to world hunger. There was also the fake 2008 ads about teen sex supposedly from JC Penney.

But really, words don’t these ads justice. You should see them!

Click through for a brief history of “scam ads” →

[slideshow]
[slide
permalink=”ogilvys-unauthorized-history-ads-part-i-1″
title=”Ogilvy’s unauthorised History ads, Part I”
content=”Back in May, a series of scandalous History [Channel] ads comparing leaked online. It turned out they weren’t actually History ads. They were, however, created by ad agency Ogilvy for History as a part of a ‘creative exercise,’ a source told us.

This source says the ads were meant to ‘provoke creative ideas’ and ‘stimulate conversation.’

And probably win some awards.

This ad compares the number of deaths at the hands of Saddam Hussein to the number following the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.”
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/4a9fd94c7e017e640a297587/image.jpg”
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]
[slide
permalink=”ogilvys-unauthorized-history-ads-part-ii-2″
title=”Ogilvy’s unauthorised History ads, Part II”
content=”The copy compares the number of deaths at Pearl Harbor (2,378) to deaths at Hiroshima (170,000).”
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/4a9fd95661da552c1fd7f996/image.jpg”
caption=””
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]
[slide
permalink=”ogilvys-unauthorized-history-ads-part-iii-3″
title=”Ogilvy’s unauthorised History ads, Part III”
content=”Another Ogilvy/History ad.”
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/4a9fd95d3b02226c4a93c4d1/image.jpg”
caption=””
credit=””
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]
[slide
permalink=”fake-mtv-scam-ads-part-i-911-vs-world-hunger-4″
title=”Fake MTV scam ads part I, 9/11 vs. world hunger”
content=”It is hard to believe a marketing savvy corporation like Viacom would ever approve an ad like this.

The copy reads: ‘2,863 dead. 824 million undernourished people in the world. The world united against terrorism. It should do the same against hunger.'”
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/4a9fd964a26ff30411f7de1b/image.jpg”
caption=””
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]
[slide
permalink=”fake-mtv-scam-ads-part-ii-911-vs-aids-5″
title=”Fake MTV scam ads part II, 9/11 vs. AIDS”
content=”Here is the second of three ads we don’t believe MTV would produce. The copy reads: ‘2,863 dead. 40 million infected worldwide. The world united against terrorism. It should do the same against AIDS.'”
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/4a9fd96dca8aa110477e2ed9/image.jpg”
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]
[slide
permalink=”fake-mtv-scam-ads-part-iii-911-vs-poverty-6″
title=”Fake MTV scam ads part III, 9/11 vs. poverty”
content=”Ths time the copy reads: ‘2,863 dead. 630 million homeless people in the world. The world united against terrorism. It should do the same against poverty.'”
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/4a9fd97503329e503c59e727/image.jpg”
caption=””
credit=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”what-camera-would-jesus-use-7″
title=”What camera would Jesus use?”
content=”Scam ads aren’t always distasteful because they awkwardly compare horrible tragedies. Sometimes they just mock world religions!

Ad agency FP7 created this ad picturing Jesus using a Samsung to take a picture of nuns. It won them the ‘ad agency of the year’ award at the 2009 Dubai Lynx awards. Unfortunately, Samsung isn’t a real client.”
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/4a9fd97dcc54bf414842aaac/image.jpg”
caption=””
credit=””
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]
[slide
permalink=”jc-penney-on-teen-sex-8″
title=”JC Penney on teen sex”
content=”JC Penney’s Controversial Teen Sex Ad – watch more funny videosHere’s a JC Penney scam ad that won an award at Cannes a couple years ago thanks to its honest and funny portrayal of teen sex. We love it, but JC Penney did not. ‘It’s obviously inappropriate and nothing we would ever condone,’ Penney’s chief marketing officer told the Wall Street Journal.”
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/f937544be7e6444ab88b0e00/image.jpg”
caption=””
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]
[slide
permalink=”scam-ads-for-good-9″
title=”Scam ads for good”
content=”At its root, a scam ad is just an industry creative showing off their skills without being asked to by a client. This isn’t always a bad thing. Here’s an uncommissioned scam ad soliciting donations for victims of the 2008 Chinese earthquakes.”
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/4a9fd9b935682a7270324d20/image.jpg”
caption=””
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]
[slide
permalink=”winner-worst-ad-ever-10″
title=”Winner: Worst Ad Ever”
content=”Finally, here’s the video version of DDB’s terrible WWF ad. Yikes!”
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/f937544be7e6444ab88b0e00/image.jpg”
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]
[/slideshow]

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