Here’s the story as I remember it:
The agency had already developed two different poster campaigns for the Hard Rock Hotel in Chicago. The team thought it would be cool to do some guerilla advertising by having a glam-model with smeared lipstick walking around Chicago a few blocks away from the hotel in a HRH bathrobe, asking strangers if they knew the way to the hotel. The gist was this hotel let you party like a rock star, and this was just another starlet/groupie/guest who had partied a little too hard and was now just a bit lost.
So the team hires a model and a photographer and heads down to Michigan Avenue. I could be wrong, but think the plan was to be there just long enough to get some pictures and make it legit for the award shows.
While they’re down shooting, a camera crew from a local news station shows up and asks if they can cover the stunt. Serendipity, right? Well, as it turns out, the model doesn’t want to be on TV in a bathrobe looking like a skank. Can’t remember why. Maybe she was afraid her parents would see her. But the bigger concern is that the creative director has to call the client on his mobile phone and say, “Um, remember that idea we talked about? The one where the groupie/stripper would be on Michigan Avenue, asking people – yeah that’s the one. Well, we’re kind of shooting it right now, and there’s a camera crew from Channel 4 that wants to film it for the evening news. You cool with that?”
The spin on this was that the agency was taking photographs of the model to build the case for the client that it would be a good thing to do.
Ethically, you could say this should have never happened because the client didn’t give their approval. You could also argue that doing agency-produced work like this simply for award shows is a waste of time.
Professionally, you could point out that this campaign is now featured in one of the seminal books on ambient media and certainly doesn’t hurt to have that when you’re interviewing for a job or asking for a raise.
I’m not saying which is right, or for that matter which I’d choose. But work long enough in this industry, and you’ll probably have to answer that question yourself.