Where does Campaign Brief stand on scam?

tim burrowes landscape

Michael Lynch, boss of industry website Campaign Brief has questions to answer with agencies about his true position on scam, argues Mumbrella’s Tim Burrowes.    

It can get a little boring when the trade press writes about itself, so my apologies if you find what follows a little tedious.

Doubly so, if you feel we’ve been writing too much about the topic of scam.

This morning I find myself the subject of some media coverage (if you count an item in the diary section of The Australian and a follow-up on Campaign Brief).

You see, this week, a couple of our journalists will be covering the Spikes advertising and awards festival in Singapore. Mumbrella Asia’s editor Robin Hicks has travelled from Hong Kong and our reporter Miranda Ward has made the trip from Sydney.

Initially, after we applied for accreditation, we were told we were likely to be turned down. The event is jointly owned by Haymarket Media and the organisers of the Cannes Lions. You may recall that we raised some unanswered questions about certain awards entries at the Lions in France. In the end we decided we would no longer cover the French event until there are changes.

Fair to say, the coverage has been among the most polarising in Mumbrella’s history.

In writing about the behaviour of certain agencies, we’ve lost some friends. Temporarily, I hope.

But the one thing we’ve always tried to do is to present the facts as we see them to our readers, rather than to write for our mates.

For our rivals, the annoyance of certain agencies with Mumbrella has been something of a bonus, particularly for Campaign Brief, which is read mainly be advertising agency creatives. From Campaign Brief’s point of view, the angrier a creative agency might be with us, the more likely they’re to be supporters of CB, I guess.

So it would certainly suit Campaign Brief for some agencies to be unhappy with us. The website appears to have been trying to rally something of a boycott by the upset agencies.

CB, for instance, reported that Leo Burnett had decided to boycott Mumbrella, something we were unaware of ourselves and that the agency’s CEO Todd Sampson insists is not true. In the same article, Campaign Brief also claimed that trade body Newspaper Works was also involved in a boycott. Information which came as news to the organisation itself, with which Mumbrella is in regular contact.

But, hey, who can blame CB – every title tries to use every argument to persuade an agency to place exclusives with them, don’t they?

But this is where things get a little murkier. You see, I think that Campaign Brief is trying to have its cake and eat it.

Lynch, pictured at the Cannes Lions

Lynch, pictured at the Cannes Lions

To demonstrate, I’m going to need to share some texts I received from Campaign Brief owner Michael Lynch. I’ve had them for a while, but I’m only able to put them in the public domain today.

My view as a journo is that a conversation should be off the record – whether in person, on the phone, by email or text – if you’ve got a reasonable expectation as a journo that the other person thinks it is.

And I’ve been having an ongoing conversation about scam with Lynch, via text message. Today he published some of that conversation. Which is fine by me. Clearly we’re on the record then.

Lynchy, it’s fair to say, has been egging us on, while perhaps taking something of a different position publicly.

lynch text lions Back in July, as our coverage of questionable entries into the Cannes Lions from Saatchi & Saatchi and DDB made ripples. Lynchy wanted us to push the boss of the Cannes Lions Terry Savage harder. He texted me: “Did you get Terry’s email? I’m sure you won’t accept that, pretty poor response. What we want is simply when and where the ads ran with proof. Both agencies have not provided that.”

I confirmed that we were asking further questions: “Yes – pushing him for more.”

Lynchy compared the organisation to the controversial global footballing body FIFA, predicting: “He won’t give any more. It’s like dealing with FIFA!”

lynch scam textHe then had further unsolicited advice: “Demand from the agencies a proof of the ads, simple as that. They obviously didn’t run, the young team at Saatchi’s must be shitting themselves…”

Then all went quiet for a month or so.

The Australian’s media diary waded in, reporting that some agencies weren’t talking to us. Lynch seemed to know the article was coming, texting me at 6.30am on the morning of publication asking for comment so he could write his follow-up piece.

The comment thread that followed on Campaign Brief was highly negative about Mumbrella having gotten into the issue of scam. Anecdotally, a couple of people later told me they had posted supportive comments regarding our stance which had not appeared, although I’m sure they simply got lost in the CB spam filter.

The week before last, the organisers of the Spikes told Mumbrella they were minded not to grant accreditation. But eventually – despite us warning that we would give no undertakings about not writing about the issue of scam – the organisers decided to accredit our journos.

lynch scam spikes textOnce again, Lynch appeared to have the inside track. He texted me last week: “Tim, hear you are sending Miranda and Robin to Spikes. Need a comment on why the back-flip?”

Being clear that I wanted to refer his request for an on the record comment to our editor Alex Hayes – who made the call on covering the Spikes – I texted Lynch: “It’s not a backflip, we only ever talked about our position on the Cannes Lions. I understand the ownership structure of Spikes is different. Please go to Alex for comment.”

I then asked Alex not to respond to Lynch’s messages. I’ll be honest – it was a trap. I did this because I wanted Lynch to use what I’d said about the “backflip” in an article, so that it was clear our conversation was in his eyes on the record.

This morning it happened. The Australian (whose owner News Corp is the local representative of the Cannes Lions and Spikes, by the way) made its third attack in recent weeks on our coverage of scam. I was “sanctimonious” and scam is merely like “concept cars showcased at the Frankfurt Motor Show.”

The newspaper wrongly suggested we had made “desperate pleas” to be allowed to attend Spikes. I won’t speculate whether Lynch had a hand in this story appearing.

cb burrowes lynch

Lynch puts the conversation on the record

Shortly afterwards, Lynch used the article as a reason to publish another piece on Campaign Brief, and he published my note to him, although he’d deleted the line saying the comment wouldn’t come from me.

So he clearly sees our texts as on the record. Hence I feel able to share the above.

You already know our position on scam.

I wonder what Michael Lynch’s is? If you see him around the Spikes, be sure to ask him for me.

Tim Burrowes is content director of Mumbrella


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