Our decision to ban permanently Nigel Roberts and Paul Belford from Campaign juries and the exclusion of their work from our awards schemes for three years seems to reflect a genuine groundswell of opinion, a strong conviction that a team that has been so involved in rigging a respected awards scheme should not be allowed to participate in it either. But can anyone seriously object to their hiring by one of the most admired UK agencies?
The question leaves me without an easy target. The idea of Belford and Roberts ever sitting on a Campaign jury again fills me with horror but, as explained above, they never will. I know many creatives have read our coverage in recent weeks and written this off as a piece of bad luck for the pair, a "there but for the grace of God go we all" sort of offence. They set out to favour their own work and torpedo everyone else's secure in the belief that "everybody does it but nobody will ever know".
But, now they have been convicted, does that mean they should never work for an elite agency again? The question clearly is absurd. It is for the management of that agency, its staff and clients (including COI Communications) to decide. It is mostly a matter of internal team dynamic and a business decision. Pick 'em and take the flak.
But my feeling is that the flak in this case represents something quite deep, something really quite important in advertising. AMV's internal memo announcing the pair's hiring therefore made me feel uncomfortable. Its tone - "People make mistakes, sometimes really bad ones. But they also learn from them, grow as a result of them."- smacks of spin and image mongering in the name of an agency that has a reputation for ethical behaviour. One only has to read the pair's apology to Campaign to imagine that "truly sorry" really means "truly sorry to have been caught".
That said, it is precisely because of AMV's reputation that it can make this hiring. Unpopular as Belford and Roberts were at their last two agencies, AMV should be able to control them if anyone can. I just hope AMV has removed the "bonus for awards" clause that the pair had at Ogilvy.
Above all, I do not think that the present generation of younger creatives in the business -- those who might until recently have been impressed by Belford's and Roberts' many awards -- will feel it is incumbent on them to enquire in which client budget to hide the doctoring tweaks at their agencies, any more than those football fans who enjoy a bit of boozy male solidarity will wish to emulate the Leeds players Lee Bowyer and Jonathan Woodgate.
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