CLAIM: Google Ad Campaign Won Top Cannes Award In Corrupt Judging Process

google voice searchGoogle Voice Search campaign by OMD

Photo: Google

Google’s British media-buying agency, Manning Gottlieb OMD, London, did not deserve to win a Grand Prix at the Cannes ad festival because the judging process was corrupt, according to allegations by WPP CEO Martin Sorrell and Ikon CEO Dan Johns.They may be right: Some of the media placements that OMD cited in its award-winning work are flawed because they ask users to search for information in under-ground locations where there is no web service.

Here’s the winning campaign for Google. It’s certainly clever—OMD bought posters near historic sites and then spelled out on them phonetically things users might want to search for. So in the Baker Street underground station, a poster said, “Shur-lok hoemz.”

But users are unlikely to get wireless reception when they’re in a subway station. Wireless reception won’t become available in the London Underground until later this year, yet OMD’s video entry for the award cites at least six poster locations in underground train stations.

The allegations call into question—again—the integrity of the world’s premier advertising awards competition. (Last year, a fake ad for Kia won a Lion which the festival had to pull after I exposed that it was a fraud.)

Sorrell told The Guardian that he believed the media judges voted for their own agencies’ campaigns, not the best work:

“One thing I’ve noticed this year in particular some practices creeping in that are a bit disturbing,” said Sorrell, speaking to MediaGuardian. “Practices of pressure on the jury by [the chairman] of the judges. There are some techniques to these things. I was at a dinner and there was lots of chatter about one of the functional areas [awards categories] where lots of pressure was put on an organisation in terms of voting.”

Ikon’s Johnson went further. He told B&T “the best work didn’t win gold” because certain judges were “ordered” to support work from their sister agencies:

Johns told B&T: “Unfortunately after six days of judging the best work didn’t win gold, that is a view held by a number of the jury members. In these situations you have two choices; either to sit back and do nothing or raise your hand and say enough is enough.”

The media jury was chaired by Mainardo de Nardis, CEO of Omnicom-owned agency OMD Worldwide. OMD, of course, owns Manning Gottlieb OMD, the agency that won the Grand Prix for its Google Voice Search campaign.

The award was immediately heralded by Daryl Simm, CEO of Omnicom Media Group Worldwide, who noted in a press release, “Along with winning the Grand Prix, OMD was awarded a total of a 15 Media Lions — more than any other media agency in the competition.”

A protest by some Cannes judges is planned.


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