BBDO hands back Lion at Cannes after admitting winning ad was ‘scammy’

One of the world’s largest creative networks BBDO has pulled all of its Brazilian agency’s work for pharma giant Bayer and returned a Bronze Lion it won for an ad which it paid to run, and was condemned for encouraging rape culture.

bayer bbdo brazil rape ad

According to US publication Adweek BBDO’s global creative chief Dave Lubars made the announcement during a session at the festival overnight, saying:   “I learned last night that one of our very own agencies had a pretty scammy ad in the festival, and it won a Lion.

“I told them to return it. Because I don’t want that kind of Lion. BBDO doesn’t want that kind of Lion.”

Scam ads are generally defined as work that exists purely to win awards, not solve a client problem.

Bayer had already moved to disown the ad in question, a print ad which simply read “Don’t worry babe, I’m not filming”, saying the agency paid to run the ad, not them, against the rules of the competition.

Some, including campaigner Cindy Gallop, had accused it of glorifying rape culture as it is taken to mean a man is secretly filming sex with a woman.

cindy gallop bayer rape culture

It is the second piece of work at the festival to come under intense questioning after the I Sea app by Grey Singapore was handed a Bronze on the day Apple kicked it out of the app store because it did not work.

While Cannes Lions has yet to respond to repeated requests for comment on what will happen with that entry chairman Terry Savage told Adnews overnight it will be investigated after the festival, citing a lack of time during the event to make look properly at the work.

Grey Singpore's I Sea app has come under intense scrutiny globally

Grey Singpore’s I Sea app has come under intense scrutiny globally

“On I Sea we will examine that post the festival in conjunction with Grey to ascertain what the real situation is,” Savage is quoted as saying. “In the heat of the festival the sort of enquiry that’s required is too deep dive, and then a decision will be made.”

Cannes Lions chairman Terry Savage

Cannes Lions chairman Terry Savage

Jurors at the festival are asked to judge hundreds of pieces of work over a couple of days, with some complaining they do not have time to assess whether what is being awarded is real, or scam.

In the same Adnews article Australian juror Dave King appeared to backtrack on accusations he levelled at the festival that jurors were told not to call out scam ads and that there was still widespread block voting on his Direct jury.

King wrote in a blog for Campaign Brief: “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. Like the miserable people who developed the I Sea app, 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.”

'Not allowed to call scam': King

‘Not allowed to call scam’: King

In the article he is quoted as saying what he meant was they were not allowed to shout out loud in the jury room when they felt a piece of work was scam, with Savage claiming that was common practice so as not to taint the perceptions of other jurors towards the work.

Savage also refuted claims block voting made by King, saying an electronic system they have in place would pick up suspicious patterns and had not done so in four years.

Block voting is the practice of  jurors from certain networks or countries agreeing to vote for the same pieces to win to boost their points in the festival.


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