AdNews drops media agency award categories after Atomic 212 backlash

AdNews has “paused” two categories from its annual advertising awards program after a number of major agency groups chose not to enter ahead of last Tuesday’s closing date.

The editor of AdNews, Rosie Baker, announced that the categories of Media Agency of the Year and Media Network of the Year would not be run until further notice following concern about the awards’ credibility after Mumbrella’s investigation into exaggerated claims by multiple winner Atomic 212.

In her post on AdNews this afternoon, Baker explained the organisers had decided to suspend the two categories until further notice in light of market concerns around the credibility of the categories.

“When we closed our entry system on Tuesday, we found that a number of media agency groups had decided they would not participate in the AdNews Agency of the Year Media Agency and Media Network categories this year. It follows the expose published by Mumbrella in late 2017 about misleading claims within Atomic 212’s previous award entries.”

Last year’s AdNews awards featured in Mumbrella’s expose of Atomic 212’s exaggerated claims in competition entries, where the agency was lauded for client wins which included Westpac, Audi, Coles, American Express and Telstra.

It transpired Atomic 212 had never won any of those organisations as retained clients but in some cases had done work for some of the companies’ subsidiaries, while in others the agency on the account had used the Path51 marketing technology platform that was, at the time of the award entries, partly owned by Atomic.

Atomic 212’s management used these relationships to justify their claims, something that triggered disquiet from jurors during Mumbrella’s award judging and criticism of AdNews from industry figures after the agency’s success at their awards.

While Baker said AdNews stands by the validity of the awards, the organisers have tightened this year’s competition rules to remove loopholes Atomic 212 is said to have exploited.

Baker also expressed disappointment at industry leaders entering awards in poor faith.

“We all put our faith in the leaders in our industry to submit award entries that our judges can trust and it’s a disappointment that this has been undermined and that it has rocked other agencies’ faith in the process.”

While the agency groups chose not to submit entries, Baker thanked their senior representatives for agreeing to be judges on the panels sifting through the entries in 28 categories that will go ahead this year.

Baker’s full piece can be found here.

The main focus of Mumbrella’s investigation was into claims made by Atomic 212 chief executive Jason Dooris into his entry as agency head of the year for the Campaign Asia Awards. The Hong Kong based publication has said in recent days that it is now investigating.

It also emerged that in its winning independent agency of the year entry in the B&T Awards late last year, Atomic made a number of erroneous claims. B&T has yet to address the issue publicly.

The announcement of the media categories’ cancellation by AdNews came just a few hours after Mumbrella launched its own 2018 awards call for entry, with a new move towards transparency including the publication of winning entries.


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