We recently talked (a lot) at Photohop World in Las Vegas, where we gave three seminars.  We covered model release issues, copyright matters and a Vegas style buffet of other photo/legal issues.  PSW was a very well attended blast thanks to in no small measure Scott Kelby and his staff from NAPP.

A significant number of attendees were current (or recently fired) ad agency executives, art directors and art buyers.  While most of our materials are targeted to photographers,  illustrators and models, we will shortly be giving seminars aimed squarely at those in (or attempting to get back in), the advertising industry.  Many of these people have due to the economy, been let go by agencies big and small located in cities from right coast to left and all stops in between.  Many of these skilled people are disheartened, disgusted, disgruntled or just plain angry. Most need to work and have mouths other than their own to feed.

We were approached by many ad people who regaled us with stories of ad agency incompetence akin to some of the matters discussed by us at the seminars.  We always advise that creatives never, ever rely on an ad agency, publisher or media company to do anything to protect the creative.  In that spirit, some suits from the agency side pulled us aside and provided us adult beverages and accounts of incidents, which they believed to be noteworthy.  As one former exec told us, “Sometimes what is said in Vegas, must not stay in Vegas”.  All stories intended by their respective speaker for public consumption.  Proof that A. ad people can be every bit as dumb as photographers, illustrators: and
B a suit and tie afford no protection from stupidity. Quotes are not our words but those of our sources.

Submitted for your approval on the main stage, “Ad Agency Burlesque”:

1.  Major ad agency, major prescription drug, household name, lots of TV and consumer print advertising.  Model release prepared by ad agency, model signs release which prohibits any consumer advertising of pharmaceuticals. Ad agency is forced by model agency to pay more money upon its complaint over the prohibited consumer use.  Agency pays big immediately so that ad agency’s client will not find out about the huge screw up. 5 years of usage about to expire and client wants to extend usage of successful consumer campaign.  Ad agency contacts model who is now represented by another model agent. Model doesn’t want to do the ad going forward because he/she now regularly appears for a competitor company (not competing product) and such work “pays his/her rent”.

Client bypasses ad agency and contacts model directly to beg him/her to reconsider. Model tells client that, “Hey I never signed a release in the first place. I was tricked into the ad (maybe so, maybe not). My model agency got me some more money five years ago but I should have gone to a lawyer then and sued the (heck) out of you. Don’t call me again. You people are (expletive deleted)”.  Client dumps agency after review of incident from point A and successful ad campaign dies an unnecessary and untimely death.  No one at the ad agency ever read the (incorrect) release prepared by it and given to the model to sign.

2.  Ad agency enters into extensive negotiations with a famous celebrity who is also a well known for legendary drinking binges.  Negotiations break off only when client can’t/won’t meet celeb’s fee demand.  Product? Alcohol. In the words of my ad agency source, “We dodged an atom bomb”.  The people at the agency never checked on the celeb’s background…never..”not so much as pressing a Google button”.

3.   Art director on set. Model is sent by well-known model agency.  Art director gives an adult model release to be signed by a 17 year old.  No one checks release. Ad ran, model was paid.  17 year old was not signed with any modeling agency at time of shoot.  X months later model gets representation by a reputable model agency which examined his/her portfolio in connection with signing him/her.  Model was asked who was signing releases on model’s behalf when model was a child given that model never had a professional agent. Model says “I signed all of my releases”. The model was immediately told to sue by his/her new agent and a lawyer was provided to the model for such purpose the next day.

There will be FIVE more real life scenarios posted tomorrow. We can’t make this stuff up. Stay tuned.