Mindshare, ZO global bosses claim 'block voting' bias in Media Lions

By Paul McIntyre and David Blight | 24 June 2012

First published Wednesday 20 June, 6.30am.

EXCLUSIVE: The worldwide heads of Mindshare and ZenithOptimedia yesterday sparked controversy in the Media Lions competition with claims that some on the Media jury panel were voting in blocks to benefit their own networks and that an overhaul was needed in the judging process.

Mindshare's worldwide CEO Nick Emery and ZenithOptimedia's worldwide managing partner Belinda Rowe told AdNews they were concerned with voting patterns this year and that other media agency rivals were "organising" their jury members to favour entries that were part of their own holding company groups.

When asked about the rumblings in Cannes yesterday, Mindshare's Emery told AdNews: "Yes, we're aware of it. It seems that good entries are not getting through because there seems to be some block voting going on. It's a shame and a surprise. The biggest shame is a lot of the independents are being squeezed out. The best work is not being seen and media does itself a disservice. I think it's been going on for a long time. I'm just sick of it."

ZenithOptimedia's Belinda Rowe concurred: "Other networks seem quite organised," she said. "What that means is that the people on the jury panel know what is in from their network so they can make choices around whether they are voting for something that is good or from their country or from their network brand."

Some on the jury panel have said privately that the block voting had resulted in some entries being kept to Silver Lions when they should have been higher, to avoid being in contention for the Media Grand Prix. AdNews has been told some judges abstained from voting because they did not think some campaigns were not of a high enough standard.

However, Media Lions jury president and the CEO of OMD Worldwide, Mainardo de Nardis, rejected the assertions when raised by AdNews. "No, I don't think there was any block voting," he said. "Especially the last day when we voted the Lions. I don't vote. My job was to check that wasn't happening."

When asked if jury members in Omnicom Media Group-owned media networks were "well organised", de Nardi said: "I don't know what well organised means. If the question is, did the people from Omnicom know the case studies, yes they did. Our people tend to know which clients they work for. If other people don't, I can't comment on that. It didn't look like there was block voting. If it happened, somebody would have mentioned during the day and told the jury organisers. Nobody came to tell me. It's post rationalisation; it's rewriting history. I don't think it was a big issue."

ZenithOptimedia's CEO for Cananda, Sunni Boot, said the block issue arose every year. "I think the jury president and everybody else is trying very hard not to do that but I think if you're made aware of all the entries, you would probably look at that and maybe look at it a bit more favourably ... I'd like to think the best work has risen to the top."

Australias's Media Lions jury member and CEO of Ikon Communications, Dan Johns, told AdNews: "Mainardo said [during the press conference] that there was competitiveness that came through the judging process and that competitiveness was fairly evident. At times the concentration of some of the jury moved from the work to the agencies they were working for. I think that's kind of what Mainardo was saying."

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