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O&M Mexico in Cannes Scrabble ad cock-up

So many ads and so little time must be the mantra of judges at the Cannes Lions international ad fest and they’ve just proved the point by awarding the Grand Prix in the prestigious press catogory to an ad that was first entered in 2008 (when it didn’t triumph, as far as we know).

This is against the rules of course so Ogilvy & Mather Mexico’s ad for Mattel’s Scrabble game was demoted and runner-up Almap BBDO Sao Paulo’s ad for Billboard magazine won instead.

Whether this was mendacity or carelessness has yet to be shown. But the festival has been bedevilled over the years by ads that shouldn’t have been entered, many of which were voted winners until they were found out.

Some years ago the festival instituted a president’s ‘black list’ of agencies that bent the rules, although this seemingly sensible move aroused the ire of, among others, O&M’s then worldwide creative director the excitable Neil French, who said it didn’t matter which ads won so long as they were good.

Neil didn’t win this one (he didn’t win many of his numerous major arguments actually).

A common ruse used to be for an agency to pay to run an ad just once in some obscure and cheap magazine or other medium and then claim it was a proper commercial message and therefore eligible.

Agency Chiat/Day ran its legendary Apple ‘1984’ ad launching the Mac and directed by Ridley Scott on an obscure TV station in Twin Falls Idaho at the back end of 1983 to make sure it was eligible for the 1984 awards season. As it turned out probably the most famous TV ad in history only ran once in 1984, on the NFL Super Bowl broadcast.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.
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