Regional advertising awards are attracting entries based on work that was not properly commissioned by clients, executives claim.
Most reputable advertising awards insist entrants submit evidence that their work was commissioned by a genuine client, and actually appeared in print media, on TV or radio.
Yet some agencies submit work that is designed purely to win awards, rather than to generate business for the advertiser, executives say.
Elie Haber, the managing director of the media planning agency Mindshare in the UAE, claims that many submissions to regional advertising awards are not genuine.
"I'm not sure it's rewarding creativity and excellence. It's about showing muscle," said Mr Haber.
Although advertising-award submissions may meet the entry criteria, he said, many appear only a couple of times in the media.
The benefit of making such entries is that it allows agencies to show off their artistic skills, but in a way that is not directly beneficial to an advertiser. Winning advertising awards helps agencies pick up work from genuine clients, said Mr Haber. "It helps agencies [make] the shortlist when it comes to the pitches."
The issue will be high on the agenda during the Dubai Lynx advertising awards, which are being held this week as part of the Dubai International Advertising Festival.
Two years ago, several Dubai Lynx awards were revoked after it emerged that a number of submissions involved adverts that either were not created for actual clients or did not appear as paid adverts in genuine publications.
The organisers of the event then imposed stricter entry criteria.
Elie Khouri, the chief executive of Omnicom Media Group in the Mena region, said these measures had been largely effective in stopping fake entries. "I think the Lynx organisers and jury have created the right mechanisms to filter this."
However, Mr Khouri added that the fake, or "ghost", entries are still there.
"Ghost work should represent 5 to 10 per cent of the total entries. It's a benign way of demonstrating creativity," he said. "It's OK when it is fantastic work that is producing results … However, it should not be representing the bulk of your work."
Raja Trad, the chief executive at Leo Burnett in the Mena region, said there was now more scrutiny on entries to the Dubai Lynx awards.
"I know the organisers are really looking deeply into all the entries," said Mr Trad. "I hope all the entries … are real work for real clients. It shouldn't be art for the sake of art. It should be art for the sake of communication."