The Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival 2008 is long over, but developments around the Festival seem to be going on. Cannes Lions surprised quite a few on September 3, 2008, when it announced that it had withdrawn the Bronze Lion that was awarded to TBWA\Paris for Amnesty France in the Print Lions category. The move has ignited another round of discussions in the Indian advertising fraternity on scam ads and what one shouldn’t do on international advertising festivals.
Despite enraging the Chinese Government with depictions of Olympics-related torture for Amnesty France, Cannes Lions had awarded the Bronze Press Lion to TBWA\Paris for Amnesty. The reason cited in a press statement was, “The significant debate, which this campaign has fuelled required the organisers to investigate the entry and it was ascertained that the entry did not appear in media between the required deadline of March 1, 2007 and April 30, 2008, and so is ineligible. TBWA, who have supplied all relevant material requested, have concurred with the Festival that this is the correct course of action.”
exchange4media spoke to the advertising fraternity and the clients to gauge their reactions to this move. Where half the industry is clear that Cannes Lions indeed took the right step, the other half is blaming the Festival itself for not having scrutinised the entry before awarding it.
Abdul Khan, Head-Marketing, Tata Teleservices, questioned the entire process of judging the entries. He said, “It’s high time for festivals of such high stature to rectify their overall judging process, so that such mistakes are not repeated in the future.”
Sanjay Tripathy, Head-Marketing, HDFC Standard Life, said, “This is a positive move from Cannes Lions as it would ring the alarm bells in the offices of the agencies, who in the future would think twice before they put their last minute work for an award, in the hope that they would not get caught.”
KV Sridhar, NCD, Leo Burnett India, said, “In this case, there is not much harm done as it was a case of charity where the agency would be dependent on somebody else for the money. All international festivals charge highly for each entry. They have enough manpower and time to scrutinise the authenticity of all the works entered, and so, an entry has to be checked thoroughly before it reaches the final stage. If at all a penalty clause comes, then both the agency and the award festival should be penalised for the negligence, as both the parties had enough time in their hands. What we should see now is whether or not Cannes Lions follows the Olympic rule in elevating another agency in the same category and bestowing the award for its creative work.”
Bobby Pawar, Chief Creative Officer, Mudra, said, “Such instances do tarnish the image of the industry. That said, we should not give them much attention or publicity, mainly because such cases are exceptions and not the norm, which the advertising fraternity follows. This move by Cannes Lions should be a wake-up call to all agencies across the world. Agencies should meet all criteria that are required for a legitimate entry.”
Bringing in the Olympic analogy here as well, Rajeev Raja, ECD, Bates 141, said, “This is a clear case of disqualification, and officials at Cannes Lions have done the right thing by withdrawing the Bronze Press Lions award to TBWA\ Paris for Amnesty. The learning from this is that every agency should do their homework in meeting the required criteria before they enter any awards.”
Ramanuj Shastri, CCO, Rediffusion DYR, noted, “It’s a technical mistake on part of the Cannes Lions Festival and its judging committee as they should have clarified the entry and the agency before awarding it. But such one-offs do happen at award shows. So, one must not read much into it, unless there is a case where the agency has tried to hide the facts from the awards committee, which then is a different thing altogether.”
Sumanto Chattopadhyay, ECD, O&M, seconded Shastri and said, “It has been done in the past too, and matters have been rectified. One should not read much into this.”
It may just be a technicality that relieved TBWA\Paris of its Bronze Lion, but the campaign has been in debate for some time internationally. The work, which combines Olympic imagery with graphic portrayals of people being tortured, has been the subject of backlash in China for some time now. Some media reports had even quoted TBWA officials as saying that they “had no prior knowledge of this campaign”. Unusually, the ads appeared with a web address ‘www.amnesty.com’, rather than the correct organisation website address ‘www.amnesty.org’.
Very clearly, India adland is not alone in its ‘Everything is fair in awards’ mentality.