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Award winning McDonald’s campaign ran in Rouse Hill Times

The campaign as it appeared in the Rouse Hill Times

The campaign as it appeared in the Rouse Hill Times

An award-winning print campaign which saw its agency refuse to disclose where it ran, was published in a suburban local newspaper on the last day of eligibility for this year’s Cannes Lions, Mumbrella can reveal.

Creative agency DDB – which won a bronze Press Lion, just one of three trophies for Australia in the category – insists that the McDonald’s ads were a legitimate part of its client’s marketing efforts and not a “scam” ad designed to win trophies.

The ad ran in News Corp’s Rouse Hill Times, which has a circulation of 21,097, on April 30. In order to be eligible, ads have to be published between March 1 2013 and April 30 this year.

The single edition of the paper carried four separate executions of the Big Mac Legends campaign, including the Bronze Lion winning “Superman” and “Darth Vader” executions.

Each of the four executions appeared as a half page.

Questions had originally been raised by Mumbrella readers about how widely the campaign had been run, along with that of Panasonic’s Silver Cannes Press Lions winner created by Saatchi & Saatchi. But the agencies and brands refused to disclose where they had been printed. Australia’s two main media monitoring services Nielsen and Ebiquity were originally unable to find evidence of either campaign having run.

Mumbrella was tipped off about the Rouse Hill Times McDonald’s campaign within the last 72 hours. (The campaign can be viewed online via the NewsLocal viewer – search for the Rouse Hill Times and  April 30, and go to page 13 onwards.)

DDB told Mumbrella today the executions were submitted to McDonald’s as part of the same brief which saw the Big Mac Chant campaign go to air as a TV ad last August. Although the ad appears to bear little relation to the idea at the heart of the “chant” TV ad, DDB insists that the print execution was proposed as part of the same “integrated” campaign. The agency would not say what led to the print ads being run on the one occasion some months later, other than to refer to them having “tested well”.

Scam ads are a constant issue in international awards shows, and seen as ads that are created or published for the purpose of winning advertising awards rather than to solve a business problem. Scam ads either do not run in media at all or are placed cheaply in a minor publication to reach minimum entry requirements.

The rate-card cost of a full colour half-page ad in the Rouse Hill Times is $949.21 including GST.

The Rouse Hill Times is a sister publication to the Manly Daily. In 2008, DDB apologised for cheaply publishing press ads for Wrigley and Cycling Australia as single columns on the back page of the Manly Daily.

According to the rules of the Cannes Lions, “all entries must be submitted for judging exactly as published, aired or implemented and may not be modified for awards entry”, with the exception of entries not originally in English which “may be translated as long as the presentation is exactly the same as the original version”.

Mumbrella has been unable to ascertain from DDB or organisers Cannes Lions whether the ads were submitted as double pages to the jury or at the half page size they ran in the paper. The apparent fold in the image below exists as part of the design.

Screen Shot 2014-07-11 at 4.10.30 PM

McDonald’s Darth Vader execution

The four executions ran one after another starting with a Muhammed Ali execution and finishing on page 19 with a Marilyn Monroe version.

Last week, Terry Savage, chairman of the Cannes Lions,told Mumbrella the McDonald’s and Panasonic campaigns were “legitimate”. However, he declined to answer further questions, saying it was “not appropriate” to do so.

McDonald's Muhammed Ali Big Mac Legend

Muhammed Ali Big Mac Legends execution

Until now DDB Sydney has declined to comment on the campaign. However, following on from an open letter from Mumbrella on Friday, calling on the staff of DDB and Saatchi & Saatchi to help resolve the question of the campaigns’ legitimacy, DDB issued the following statement:

“Whilst we have no issue with mUmbrella raising questions around awards entries, we have been disappointed with the ongoing speculation around the legitimacy of our McDonald’s campaign, especially given our client confirmed very early on that the campaign was approved by them and Cannes have stated the entries met their entry requirements.  DDB made a decision not to comment given both McDonald’s and Cannes had addressed this with mUmbrella.  However, we take the duty of care to our staff very seriously and due to the naming of staff we feel it is appropriate to state the facts.

“The Big Mac brief was briefed into DDB by McDonald’s in April 2013. ‘Big Mac Legends’ was part of the creative response that went through independent market research mid-2013 and tested well.  It formed part of the integrated Big Mac campaign, highlighting the iconic nature of the ingredients and it ran as print, radio and outdoor executions, whilst ‘Big Mac Chant’ was our execution in TV and digital. The media for this campaign was approved and paid for by McDonald’s and bought by the media agency. As McDonald’s has already stated, specifics of media schedules are never shared.

“We feel in this context it is important to note that DDB has a rigorous Awards Policy. We support creative awards like Cannes as an opportunity to showcase and celebrate bold creative thinking and work that pushes the boundaries. Our policy around entering work is that it must be for a real, ongoing contracted client of the agency, the work that is entered must be approved by the client, the work must have run and the media must be paid for by the client.”

DDB declined to answer further questions around the executions, including where the radio and outdoor versions ran.

Meanwhile, Mumbrella has still been unable to find evidence of Saatchi & Saatchi Sydney’s campaign for Panasonic in-car air conditioning. We welcome all information via anonymous email if preferred to alex@focalattractions.com.au.

The Big Mac chant ad which emerged from the same brief:

Miranda Ward

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