BBDO pulls scam Lion winning work, says agencies are like ‘street junkies’ for awards

Rosie Baker
By Rosie Baker | 25 June 2016

Just hours after BBDO’s Brazil office was forced to withdraw a Lion it had won which turned out to be scam work, the network's global CCO David Lubars told the festival that the industry has “become addicted to awards [and] we behave like dirty street junkies” for them.

Brazilian agency AlmapBBDO has handed back the Gold Lion it won for the controversial aspirin ad admitting that it wasn’t eligible to enter Cannes Lions on the basis that it wasn’t a genuine ad for the client Bayer.

Bayer this morning moved to distance itself from the ad, which Cindy Gallop has been critical of for being sexist and making light of rape. It has refuelled the discussion around the male-dominated industry’s views and the way it represents women. Unilever this week unveiled a global push to change the way it depicts women in ads under the umbrella #unstereotype.

It transpired that the ad for a Bayer-owned aspirin brand had a limited run that was paid for by the agency – not the client as part of any genuine activity.

Speaking on stage today, BBDO worldwide chief creative officer David Lubars said: "I believe as an industry we’ve become addicted to awards - we behave like dirty street junkies. I’m not saying this from any high horse, last night I was alerted that one of our very own agencies had a scammy kind of ad and it had actually won a Lion. I told them to return the Lion and the points because I don’t want that kind of Lion. BBDO doesn’t want that kind of Lion."

Terry Savage, Cannes Lions festival organsiser told AdNews that BBDO is expected to put out an official statement later today.

A second winning piece of work has garnered a lot of attention and been accused of being scam this year is yet to be withdrawn.

Savage told AdNews today that the app for I Sea app by Grey Singapore will be investigated after the festival and a decision will be made. Grey Singapore defended the app to AdNews and said it is genuine, but in a “testing phase”.

He said: “BBDO have withdrawn it from the event and there will be an official announcement in due course. On I Sea we will examine that post the festival in conjunction with Grey to ascertain what the real situation is. In the heat of the festival the sort of enquiry that’s required is too deep dive, and then a decision will be made.”

Meanwhile in a blog posted on Campaign Brief by Dave King Innocean ECD has talked openly about block voting still going on and around the issue of scam. His comments have been taken out of context elsewhere to suggest that the festival was encouraging judges to overlook scam, but speaking to AdNews at Cannes, he clarified that wasn't the case. 

In the piece he says: “We weren't allowed to call scam, but my radar was going off constantly. And the repugnant thing was most of the scam work was taking advantage of tragedy, following death or chaos …there was a lot of dodgy work for charities. I had to call one as the case video was impeccable but so clearly didn't happen. It was also a case of one of the judges putting it forward for another member of the panel. Sadly, that shit and block voting still happens, but you probably knew that.”

He told AdNews today that he simply meant judges were asked not to shout out loud if they thought a piece of work was scam so that it didn't influence other judges and undermine the work if it turned out to be kosher, but rather flag it with the jury president - in this case Mark Tuttsell of Leo Burnetts.

Savage also moved to clarify that judges are in fact encouraged to raise any questions over legitimacy of entries that they have with the president of the jury, who then passes the concerns on and the festival investigates the work and subsequently makes a decision on whether it is legitimate or not.

He explained that what the festival tries to avoid is jurors quite literally ‘calling out’ and drawing attention of the entry throughout the process if they have suspicions, because suspicions could “kill the work” before it has been investigated meaning that if it’s found to be eligible, it has been unfairly slighted in the judge’s eyes.

“This is the reality; we say the opposite. We say if in fact there is something that you feel is questionable do not call it out loud across the room – go to your president we will then examine the work and your president will feed it back. Because if someone calls it out it kills the work and then most of the enquiries we get turn out to be legitimate. Don’t shout it across the room and kill work, go through the proper channels from the president to our team and then back from our team to the president and back to the jury.”

King also said that block voting was happening in the Direct jury that he was on.

Savage also batted away the suggestions that block voting was happening. He explained the electronic voting system that uses an algorithm to uncover any patterns between jurors and their votes. He said if something that looked like block voting happened, he gets a “red flag” alert which would then prompt an investigation.

However, he said that hasn’t happened in four years.

“What all the juries are told is this – all the voting is electronic. We have a system that is linked directly to the electric voting which has a set of algorithms that identify block voting. So if we see regional blocks, network blocks or holding company blocks I get a red flag. I know exactly what’s happening in there.”

Ahead of the festival, AdNews talked to a number of creatives about the habits of jurors, the relevance of scam and block voting. The consensus appeared to be that things were better than they have been in a few years, but ‘prototypes” were hailed as an emerging new era of scammy work. 

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