Grey has returned the Bronze Lion its Singapore office won at Cannes for its I Sea app, which purported to find refugees stranded in the Mediterranean. The app, which was eventually pulled after Grey said it was in the testing phase, caused a storm on Twitter and elsewhere.
One blogger, global senior manager of sponsorship and social media for Formula 1 at Infiniti Ali Bullock wrote a LinkedIn blog called “An open letter to Grey Singapore: Why I will never hire Grey as an agency in my lifetime.”
He observed: “This isn’t someone passing out at Cannes from too much Champagne, this is no joke. It was a human life lost for the most tragic of reasons. Hope of a better life. And Grey won an award off the back of this. Did the champagne and caviar have a salty taste as you celebrated your win? Imagine the salt consumed by people drowning… A truly horrid way to die.”
Grey chief communication officer Owen Dougherty says: “During Cannes we said the app was real and its creator, Grey for Good in Singapore, is a highly respected philanthropic unit that has helped numerous non-profit organizations. Moreover, Grey is one of the most creatively awarded agencies in the world with the highest ethical standards.
“However, given the unwarranted, unfair, unrelenting attacks by unnamed bloggers, we are putting an end to this and returning the Bronze Lion so there is not even the hint of impropriety or a question of our integrity. The saying no good deed goes unpunished is apt in this case.” Nice one Owen.
So – cock-up or conspiracy?
Probably a bit of both although you can’t help feeling that some of the anti-Grey comments (like the one above) are over the top, to put it mildly. But that’s life in the social media age: full of sound and fury and, often, signifying not very much. But it’s the noise level that wins out, alas.
At least it might make agencies think twice before coming up with their next saving-the-world wheeze.