Fake Cannes Ad Pisses Off The Real JC Penney Client

There’s still a small part of me that sees the value in awards shows. But boy, it’s getting really hard to defend this type of shit:

J.C. Penney Co. officials are upset about a racy, fake advertisement on YouTube in which the retailer appears to be endorsing teen sex, and they are blaming the company’s ad agency, Saatchi & Saatchi.
The purported ad, which surfaced on the Internet after winning a prestigious international advertising award at Cannes this past weekend, shows two teenagers in their own bedrooms stripping down to their underwear and then timing themselves as they race to put on their clothes. All this is done in preparation for the boy and girl to hang out in her basement while her mother is upstairs.

The ad in question:

I’m sure there’s a proper method to recognize advertising and marketing concepts that transcend the norm; I just don’t know that awards shows are that method anymore.

About Dan Goldgeier

Blogging on AdPulp since 2005, Dan Goldgeier is a Seattle-based freelance copywriter with experience at advertising agencies across the U.S. He is a graduate of the Creative Circus ad school, and currently teaches at Seattle's School of Visual Concepts. In addition, he is a regular columnist for TalentZoo.com. Dan published the best of his TalentZoo.com columns in a book entitled View From The Cheap Seats: A Broader Look at Advertising, Marketing, Branding, Global Politics, Office Politics, Sexual Politics, and Getting Drunk During a Job Interview. Look for it on Amazon in paperback and e-book editions.


  1. This is such a great example of fake work. You can smell it a mile away. We all know JC Penny would never buy an ad promoting teen sex. How does that build their brand with moms–their primary customers? It doesn’t. Which just makes this ad look bad and its makers even worse. That something this obviously fake would win at Cannes is outrageous. That is, if you still believe in awards shows.

  2. It’s Saatchi NY. Typical. Or at least, it was typical for the crew that was responsible for that rash of scam that got them all new jobs.
    Scam sucks. We need scam control in the shows, and people who get caught shouldn’t be allowed to enter again because it’s cheating.

  3. Said it on my post… Saw it for myself: scam ads or “ghosts” are as common in Cannes as uncovered breasts on the beach!

  4. Scam or not… this shows how hard it is to maintain control of a brand message – or even the brand itself. Once you launch a campaign or company you can’t just relax… I would’ve loved to have seen a less panicked/angry response – and instead see a mainstream response more in line with the JC Penney brand – if they responded at all.
    To me this appears to be a missed opportunity to reinforce the brand message.

  5. I propose students in ad schools just go ahead and submit the spec work they do each quarter for their books into the shows from now on. Honestly, with so much fake work coming from the agencies, waiting for one to actually hire you before you take your turn is just silly. 😉

  6. stu sutcliffe says:

    Sad part is the holding companies, not the start-ups appear to be the serial offenders. Not only harboring these cheats but hiring and promoting them as well. I guess it needs to cost them money in a few lost clients and lawsuits before this practice comes to a halt.

  7. Let’s call a spade a spade.
    For every Tide Interview (great spot, pun not intended) Saatchi and the Granger crew put up about 20 scams.
    From the Tide print being BOOED at the One Show to this fakery. How Granger is still employed boggles the mind. How he’s moving UP, makes me want to quit advertising.
    Everyone knew their “hot CD’s” (you know who, they went on to start their own shop) were the fake-ad awards-winners.
    I thought that kind of thing only happens in India.

  8. Tide interview won in Cannes and only THEN was allowed to run in mass media by the client. It started as scam.
    Many indie agencies have policies against scam. People think it doesn’t hurt anyone. Very wrong when your CD is 30 and built a career on fakes or you work at an agency that you thought made really great work but it was all fake. Worse is when a client brings business to a competitor because of the awards they won for fakes.
    I thought this was a real business. There are so many talented people but we celebrate the shitheads.

  9. VW Polo anyone?

  10. Elephant in the room, I’ve got a question for you….
    What about a lifetime ban for Granger?
    No more pencils, clios or lions for Tony.
    And what of the stuffit/tide/crest/buckley’s (etc) creatives who now presumably command 6 figure salaries?

  11. Asking people to stop sending in bullshit “work” is, sadly, a waste of time.
    The onus is really on the judging cabal to start saying no to all the ghosts.
    Having judged a few shows over the years I can honestly relate that most judges have a pretty good bead on what’s real or imaginary, but they don’t always represent that when they vote.
    Some figure it would be hypocritical to throw out someone elses entry because they themselves might also be bending the rules, or have in the past.
    Others are unfamiliar with certain regions of the world and don’t really know what did or didn’t run officially, especially if there’s a media purchase order from The Gao Sentinal.
    Still others are skeptical but don’t want to be seen as uncreative naysayers and tend to stay quiet.
    A minority of judges will actually call bullshit and raise the perjury issue.
    In short, there’s a lot of subtle and overt insecurity/peer pressure to maintain the status quo.
    People will continue to send in imaginary work and many juries (comprised of the culprits themselves, friends/employees of the culprits and rising stars who want to eventually work for the culprits) will continue to reward it.

  12. @Todd – Agreed. It comes from the cradle. You get your first job in this business based on the fake work in your portfolio–work some people spend two years and a bunch of money making. Then you get better and better pay at better and better shops based on your new and improved fake work and the rewards they win.
    We’re in wretched shape.

  13. However the real question to be posed is why on earth do creative souls resort to such deceptive tactics? We know the symptoms. Let’s get down to the cause of this disease.
    It’s easy to dismiss these tricks as shameless attempts at glory, but let’s begin by asking is there any shame in left in advertising?
    Honour? Dignity? Integrity?
    As a profession we are just above used-car salesmen in terms of respect.
    The brilliant American writer F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “Advertising is a racket, like the movies and the brokerage business. You cannot be honest without admitting that its constructive contribution to humanity is exactly minus zero.”
    Account executives and media planners can get away with ‘”I handled megabuck brands”.
    Art directors and copywriters everywhere are judged on their portfolios, awards won, and these days, the number of times they have employed the services of cricketers and Bollywood stars to endorse their clients’ brands.
    On the other hand, all through the year they are asked to churn out drivel that would insult the intelligence of a two-year old.
    They are commanded by their leaders to come up with cookie-cutter ideas that are in line with a client’s global brand guidelines.
    The very same leaders who encourage the creation of ghost ads (and will shout from the rooftops if one of them wins the Norwegian Toe Nail Clippers Association Award for best ad for a pedicurist).
    I can hear them say, “Hey, it’s December! Time for those tantrum-throwing creative types to let off some steam. Let’s get them to do some ghost ads. Keep the troops’ morale up.”
    “There are real clients out there who need real solutions” is a platitude.
    If a brilliant idea was to be handed on a platter to the client servicing team, would they be able to sell it?
    Good ideas are scary and ads these days hardly leave me wetting my pants.
    This brings us to the cause of the disease: a system that has failed to produce account executives who can sell good ideas.
    Rather than just slam scam ads, we should focus on creating an environment that encourages account executives to sell ideas, as opposed to merely going back and forth like glorified peons.

  14. Sunil,
    I adore F. Scott Fitzgerald. Have you ever read “The Diamond as Big as the Ritz”?
    By the way, I concur with your thinking above and couldn’t have said it better. What I will add is that no account person should be hired without first showing a book consisting of work they SOLD.

  15. David,
    Under those conditions, we’d never hire another account person again.

  16. HJ,
    That, or they’d be asked off the account by the clients within minutes. No, seconds.

  17. Hi David,
    No. Will try and get hold of it.
    By the way Singapore leads the way in fake ads closely followed by India.