Terry, Richard and Mark: Tell me, are these winning Australian ads actually scam?

tim burrowes landscapeSerious questions have been raised over two Australian ad campaigns that won major awards at the Cannes Lions festival last month. The agencies and brands behind them have declined to answer those questions. In this open letter from Mumbrella’s Tim Burrowes, he challenges the brand custodians of McDonald’s, Panasonic and the Cannes Lions to help get to the bottom of things.

Hi Richard, Mark and Terry,

You may not know each other, so before I get to my point, allow me to introduce you all…

Richard Tassone

Richard Tassone

Richard Tassone is Panasonic Australia’s top marketer. He was promoted to director of Panasonic’s Consumer Group at the beginning of this year and has been with the brand in Australia for 14 years, including as GM of marketing since 2010.

So he knows what’s what.

(Richard’s creative agency of record in Australia is JWT – I’ll explain why I mention that shortly.)

Mark Lollback

Mark Lollback

Mark Lollback is another experienced and well respected marketer. He’s chief marketing officer of McDonald’s in Australia and New Zealand, where he’s been for nearly three years now. Before that, he was CMO of ANZ Banking Group. And before that, he was CEO of Pepsi Lipton International, and indeed also did a stint as VP of marketing at Unilever Foods.

So Mark also knows what’s what.

Terry Savage

Terry Savage

And I’m sure both of you guys know who Terry Savage is. Terry is the face of the Cannes Lions. If you were to come up with a list of the most influential people in the world on the topic of advertising creativity, Terry would be on that list. Before he ran the Cannes Lions, Terry was executive chairman of cinema advertising firm Val Morgan – which he helped expand into a global company. And he was president of the Screen Advertising World Association too.

So we’re lucky to have him living here in Australia.

Of course, I’ve just realised. Mark and Terry, you do know each other already. I see that later this month the two of you are presenting a session at ADMA’s Creative Fuel conference on the topic of “What It takes to win a Lion”.

Funnily enough, that’s exactly why I’m dropping the three of you a line.

Richard, your brand was the recipient of one of just three trophies for Australia in the Press Lions category.

It was a bronze for this imaginative stuff.

Saatchi & Saatchi Panasonic Cannes Lion work

Congratulations, Richard.

And Mark, you must be even prouder. McDonald’s got silver for this.

DDB's McDonald's Cannes Lion work

Well done, Mark.

Given that some years Australia wins next to nothing in the Press Lions, it’s a great achievement.

And while I’m congratulating people, well done to you too, Terry.

Given that it costs more than $700 to enter (and much more in some categories), and you had 37,427 entries (an all time record), there are thirty million reasons for congratulations.

And that’s before the $4,000 ticket price from 12,000 delegates. So that’s another 48 million reasons to congratulate you.

And then it looks like you got some pretty good sponsor support. I won’t even begin to guess how much that was worth…

Cannes Lions partners

Cannes Lions partners

So well done all three of you.

But I’ve got a bit of a question. Well, originally, our readers did. Then we started asking it.

Nobody seems to know where the ads ran.

As you would know, that’s relevant for a couple of reasons.

First, the spirit of advertising awards is to celebrate great work that helps clients solve real problems. That means working to a brief in the real world.

Second, the rules mean that could leave a bit of wriggle room. So long as the ads have run somewhere, at least once, they can technically be eligible if the client had a hand in it.

Of course, if your ad only runs single column width, once, on the back page of The Manly Daily, it might technically be eligible, but it doesn’t really seem to be in the spirit of things, does it?

But this is what the rules of entering the Cannes Lions say:

  • Directors’ cuts, spec ads and conceptual advertising are not eligible.

  • The Festival reserves the right to request a full media schedule from each entrant company to verify the authenticity of the entry in the event that entry is shortlisted or a winner.

  • In the event of a complaint against any winning or shortlisted entry, the Festival organisers will conduct a full investigation into each case and will request detailed documentation from all parties concerned including the complainant, the entrants and the client.

  • The Festival organisers will have no hesitation in withdrawing an award in cases where the complaint is upheld.

  • Entrants or companies who are proved to have deliberately and knowingly contravened any rules relating to eligibility may be barred from entering the awards for a period of time following the Festival as specified by the organisers.

Pretty clear, I think.

But there’s more. Here’s what Cannes Lions said in a statement on scam entries back in 2009. It’s a bit long, but I think it’s worth sharing in full.


14 OCTOBER 2009

There are many definitions of “scam”, and the issue is rarely black and white. As such, we want to develop a policy that is not only workable but also enforceable.

The role of Cannes Lions and its associated Festivals (Eurobest, Dubai Lynx and Spikes Asia) is to set the benchmark for creativity in communications, to celebrate creativity and to reward the industry for outstanding creative work.

Our role is not to come between the client and the agency; it is not to have a negative material effect on agency business; and it is not to penalise individuals from an agency who have not had any association with the work in question.

Our key rules in this regard are simple: “Entries cannot be made without the prior permission of the advertiser/owner of the rights of the advertisement. All entries must have been made within the context of a normal paying contract with a client. That client must have paid for all, or the majority of, the media costs.”

It is our policy that when a piece of work comes into question, we request clarification or further information according to the complaint raised. If it is not forthcoming or not adequate, we withdraw the award.

In future we will continue to withdraw awards that do not meet our entry criteria and announce that we have done so.

Our entry criteria include:

  • Submitting full client details (including name, position and full contact details)
  • A senior officer (CD, CEO or Chairman) from the entrant company must authorise the entry

Our checks include:

  • That the client is legitimate and that the product corresponds with their portfolio
  • Judges are offered the opportunity to raise queries with the organisers and information is gathered accordingly throughout the judging (media schedules, client authorisation, etc.)

We believe that banning agencies from entering on a wholesale basis is unfair on blameless individuals. There are many people who work in agencies who may not be involved with an erroneous entry and therefore should not be penalised. Our policy will be to ban the individuals named on the credit list if a scam is discovered.

The length and nature of the ban will be decided based on the seriousness of the case involved. We take the view that not all issues are the same and each case should be dealt with on its own merits.

In summary, the key issues which will guide us through this process are:

  1. Was the work approved and paid for by the client and was it run using media space paid for by the client?
  2.  If an entry fails to meet this or other entry criteria, we will withdraw the award and make an appropriate announcement.
  3. If we deem it is required, we will ban the individuals involved from entering our awards for a specific period of time which will be decided at that time.

That’s a pretty brave and comprehensive policy, Terry.

After all, if you put off agencies from entering their work, then those millions of dollars of entry fees might drop off.

So well done, you.

The rules are pretty clear, aren’t they?

The ad has to have been commissioned by the client; the media placement has to have been paid for by the client; and the ad has to have run.

But this is where, as I’ve alluded, it all gets a bit odd.

For one thing, as one of our readers pointed out, the McDonald’s work doesn’t seem to follow the usual brand guidelines. And the Panasonic ad doesn’t have much of a mainstream feel to it either.

So we asked Ebiquity, who usually monitor press advertising, where these two very creative campaigns ran.

They couldn’t find anything.

Another odd thing, Richard, is that JWT is your agency of record. According to The Source, Saatchis isn’t even on your roster. Yet they’re the one that won the award.

Here are the credits:

lions credits saatchi

(Interestingly, but coincidentally, ECD Damon Stapleton was the Australian representative on the Press Lions jury himself.)

Juror: Stapleton

Juror: Stapleton | Pic: Getty Images

And while I’m at it, here are the McDonald’s credits…

lions credits

So we rang your people at the Panasonic and McDonald’s press offices. And this is where it all began to get a bit weird.

To be honest, the statements we were given were kind of bullshit. They didn’t actually answer the question we’d asked about where the ads had run.

Richard, your press office referred us to the agency. Here’s what Saatchi & Saatchi gave us:

“The Panasonic Nanoe TM technology for Automotive Airconditioners is one of the most innovative technologies used in the automotive industry. We (Saatchi & Saatchi) developed the dog print ads campaign as a project for Panasonic to demonstrate the benefit of fresher air through this technology in an engaging way that everyone can relate to. The print campaign ran in March and April.”

And, Mark, this is what your press office said about the work for you:

“We were really pleased with the Big Mac Legends campaign which was rolled out across outdoor and radio in addition to print placements.

“Like most well known legends, The Big Mac is now instantly recognisable simply by its seven famous ingredients. The McDonald’s Big Mac Legends campaign underlines this by placing famed legends, such as Darth Vader and Superman, side-by-side McDonald’s biggest legend. The creative however does not include names, just each legend’s distinguishable ingredients because after all, when you know the ingredients, you know the legend.”

I’m sure you guys can understand why our curiosity was by now piqued.

It was starting to feel like the work had either not run, or perhaps had been run cheaply in some out-of-the-way regional title or perhaps overseas.

So Terry, we decided to ask the Cannes Lions press office about it. As you’ll be aware, you have a very high quality team. They’re usually extremely responsive.

But, oddly, they haven’t been acknowledging our questions, let alone answering them. At all. My colleague Miranda has been emailing your PR and press manager Amanda Benfell. (I’ve dealt with Amanda before – she’s excellent at her job.)

cannes lions email

We started gently

cannes lions email 2

After we didn’t hear back, we wondered if the message hadn’t got through

cannes lions press office

I joined in – and didn’t get an answer either

cannes lions email again

Then Miranda tried again

Screen Shot 2014-07-03 at 11.11.20 am

But you know, post-event adrenalin can leave things hanging a bit. We do understand…

Screen Shot 2014-07-03 at 11.11.36 am

So we kept trying

canne slions final email after call

We even tried ringing. The time difference to that London office is a bugger. (By the way, the phone skills of the person who answered also leave something to be desired.)

It was very odd to get no answer at all from such a professional outfit.

Now Terry, I know you’ve been taking a well-earned break. Miranda emailed you too and you told her you might be able to “connect” with her later this month. But I’m sure you’d want to correct any misperception that Cannes doesn’t take this sort of thing seriously just because it would affect the revenue stream.

And Richard, we never succeeded in getting past your press office.

But I see you’re quoted in Channel News:

Richard Tassone the Director, Consumer Electronics Group at Panasonic Australia told ChannelNews that Panasonic Australia “did not publish this advertisement in Australia” he added “We have put no TV commercials to air this year nor have we booked this campaign”.

Funnily enough, when we asked Mat Baxter, the boss of UM, the media agency that usually books media advertising for Panasonic, he also told us the booking hadn’t gone through them.

It’s all a bit awkward, isn’t it?

And in case you were wondering, we have no axe to grind with the agencies in question – quite the opposite in fact.

DDB is currently one of the best operations in the country. I was delighted when its work for Devondale won campaign of the year at the Mumbrella Awards last month. It was great work, solving a tough client brief and helping redefine a very competitive category. DDB is also our APAC network of the year.

And I have nothing but praise for the job done by Damon (who funnily enough has just moved to DDB NZ) for Saatchi & Saatchi. If an award were to be given for turnaround story of the last couple of years, it would go to that agency. Under Michael Rebelo, Saatchis is back on the map and on an upward trajectory.

But our job is to ask questions of everybody – including our friends.

Terry – this year, we sent two journos to Cannes. With flights and accommodation it’s expensive. We do it because we see you as the pre-eminent advertising festival on the planet. And that’s because winning is meaningful and we want to be there to record genuine Australian success.

When I decide whether to invest that resource next year, I hope I can be confident that you really do take scam seriously.

And Mark and Richard – these efforts have taken place in the names of your brands. I’d be much obliged if you could clear up what may well be a huge misunderstanding.

Mark and Terry, I’m looking forward to watching your presentation on how to win Lions at Creative Fuel. Will you be taking questions afterwards?



Content director, Mumbrella


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