Would they lie to you? TBWA\ puts senior agency folk to the test for Effies campaign

There are many people in this world who assume those who work in the field of advertising are basically paid liars. But are they really? As part of a campaign to drum up interest in the Effies, TBWA\ has attempted to find out by filming a host of senior agency folk taking a lie detector test. And, as you’d expect, the results make for very entertaining and enlightening viewing.

Eight executive creative directors and one chief executive offered themselves up to a probing from professional Australian polygraph examiner and ex-cop Gavin Wilson as part of the ‘Results Don’t Lie’ campaign. And, with some tongue and cheek questions (like one to Clemenger BBDO’s executive creative director Philip Andrew, ‘are you trying really hard to stay in Mantrol right now?’ and a few curlier ones (like one to Colenso BBDO’s executive creative director Steve Cochran, ‘did someone from AIM come up with the idea for Yellow Treehouse?’), there’s a good mix of light and shade. 

TBWA\’s creative director Lisa Fedyszyn says DraftFCB has to be congratulated for starting the ball rolling when it comes to creative call for entries ideas after it pulled off the secretive ‘The real judge of advertising is the consumer‘ campaign in 2011, which featured a range of Adland’s family members (in a case of meta-awards, DraftFCB entered the call for entries campaign in the next year’s Effie Awards after record entry numbers, but it was thought to have been thrown out on a technicality). 

While polygraph tests aren’t used in court anymore, they are 96 percent accurate so all the reactions are legit. And the first subjects to go public are M&C Saatchi’s executive creative director and chief executive Dave King, who admitted to being quite nervous, Y&R’s Josh Moore, who Wilson treated like a criminal and Fedyszyn says was “one of the most honest”, and Cochran, who was picked as one of most likely to beat the test but ended up being “one of the worst”.

Having watched all the filming, Fedyszyn had some good insights into the psyches of the senior folk. She says DDB’s chief executive Justin Mowday was also treated like a criminal by Wilson but she felt he beat the test best; she thought ex-TBWA\ executive creative director Andy Blood also knew how to beat it and laughed the whole way through so the results were inconclusive; everyone could tell Barnes Catmur’s Daniel Barnes was lying; and as for DraftFCB’s James Mok, she says he was the most liked and Wilson had a “man crush” on him.  

She says director Damien Shatford of The Sweet Shop came up with the idea of setting up the fake office scenario and eight cameras were set up to catch all of the participant’s reactions as they arrived. Each of them had the final say over the end result, so “it was such a nervous day showing them to everybody”. But they were all good sports and there are some potentially controversial answers that they’ve left in. 

Each interview took around ten minutes and the final edited clips run for approximately two minutes. The films will be released online in the lead up to awards night with the aim of generating entries and building anticipation.​ But the piece de resistance of the concept will take place on awards night with the return of Wilson, who will test some brave/foolish New Zealand ad folk, including Colenso BBDO’s creative chairman Nick Worthington, live on stage.

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Interestingly, the release gives other awards—and by extension other CAANZ awards—a bit of a slap for exaggerating outcomes and embellishing the truth in an effort to contrast that with the Effies, which it says deals in “good old-fashioned results”.

“Blame it on the increased importance of the two minute awards video. Blame it on scam ads. Blame it on the myriad categories at Cannes,” Toby Talbot, chief creative officer at Whybin\TBWA New Zealand says in a release. “Whatever the reason, hype and puffery has crept into so many creative award entries that the truth can become a little, how can I put it, distorted at times. The Effies, in contrast, is impervious to hyperbole because it relies so much on hard facts, data and concrete results. And results, as they say, don’t lie.”

The pro-bono campaign also consists of EDM, hand-stamped posters, online polygraph banners and press advertising. And for those wanting to prove their own innocence, www.resultsdontlie.co.nz, which was also created by TBWA\, features an online polygraph test that uses voice stress analysis software to scrutinise answers. Bespoke posters featuring results can be printed following the completion of the test for those who are keen to parade their innocence (or otherwise).

“The Effie is about interrogating our work to get a sense of what has been genuinely effective,” says Paul Head, chief executive of CAANZ. “The learnings that result make our industry stronger, more successful and prove our value to clients. Recognition of creative excellence will always be prone to personal opinion, cultural differences, politics, fashion trends and hyperbole. With effectiveness it’s less subjective because you can’t hide from results, as this year’s Effie theme states.”



Paul Head – Chief Executive Officer

Kelly Gilkison – Sponsorship and Events Manager


Toby Talbot – Chief Creative Officer

Jonathan McMahon – Creative Director

Lisa Fedyszyn – Creative Director

Steve Kane – Creative Director

Ross Howard – Digital Creative Director

Cece Chu – Creative

Ryan Price – Creative

Jodi Willocks – Group Head

Victoria Meo – Senior Account Manager

Liz Rosby – Head of Content

Amy Hansen – TV Producer

Jim Hudson – Graphics

Michelle Hong – Production Manager

Ali Vernon – Print Producer

Chris Lewis – Senior Designer

Frank Turner – Designer

Digital Arts Network (DAN)

David Minty – Digital Creative

Henson Tan – Digital Producer

David Colguhoun – Digital Developer

The Sweet Shop

Director / Editor – Damien Shatford

Producer – Lynnette Gordon

Executive Producer – Fiona King

DOP – Nick Burridge

Colourist – Dave McLaren


Post-Production / Online Edit – Andy Timms and Mat Ellin


Mark Wondercastle

The Coopers of Franklin Road

Audio – Jon and Penny Cooper

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