Off brief: Confessions of a scammer

Andy Flemming
By Andy Flemming | 18 March 2016
M&C group creative director, Andy Flemming

This first appeared in the AdNews print magazine. You can read it all below but if you want it as soon as it goes to press, you better subscribe here.

My name is Andy Flemming and I have scammed. I guess it started back in Singapore. It was the early nineties. I met this guy in a club who said he could hook me up with an award. I said I wasn’t interested but I kept seeing him around and one night we started talking.

He said loads of people were doing it and I wouldn’t get caught. I remember he had this orange rucksack, I remember that really clearly after all this time. He leant in there and pulled out this little plastic baggie full of local Chinese supermarket magazines. I followed him into a toilet cubicle and he leant against the door to hold it closed. I unrolled one of the magazines but couldn’t read it as it was all in Mandarin.

The guy asked if I had any money and I said I don’t know, the client doesn’t have a budget. He said that’s ok – this is the cheapest media in Singapore. I flicked through it. It was like reading D&AD. Every page had a beautiful DPS in English. It was exciting because it was so, you know, wrong. Especially as all the ads were running alongside Chinese articles about Durian prices.

I was young and drunk with a heady mixture of ambition and Tiger beer.

Before I knew it, I’d written a long body copy ad for a charity. I can’t remember which one. Water or Africa or something. It all seemed so easy. The guy said he’d hook me up with a photographer he knew. It was ok. It was cool. He was a friend. I followed him down some alleyways. I remember being freaked out as it was my first time.

We pressed a button next to a greasy door and it clicked open. As I walked up the wooden stairs a team from Ogilvy were walking down. They tried to hide their faces but I knew who they were. It took just minutes and we were done.

Looking back, the ad was shit and didn’t even have a call to action but I was young and had weird hair. The ad ran a few weeks later. And then I got the high. An intoxicating rush of adrenalin. It was an amazing feeling. Of course, looking back, that’s how it starts.

That’s how it always starts. You pick up a Hong Kong Kam Fan award but then you want OneShow, Cannes. You know, the really heavy stuff. Within a few weeks I saw the man again. He said he could introduce me to some local Chinese guys. They owned little stores that sold gear from Sony and Nike. He said they’d allow me to run ads for them and win some serious, serious metal.

I laughed and told him that was impossible as I’d have to use their logos.

He pulled out this razor sharp knife from his pocket, slammed it into the table and said if you slice them off, nobody will ever know. They’ll just assume it’s a real Sony ad. That’s when I had to leave Singapore. I’ve been clean now for about twenty years.

Sure, I’ve had really bad days and dabbled with proactive but I haven’t touched the scam. Don’t get me wrong it makes you feel awesome. You get used to everyone saying how talented you are and it’s great to have young art directors want to sleep with you.

But that only lasts a little while and then you realise that you’re chasing the next award, and it just, you know, takes over. Before you know it, you’re on the street with a folio full of Aids. Now I just take it one ad at a time. One ad at a time.

Andy Flemming is creative director at M&C Saatchi Sydney.

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