Merit or Demerit?

By Gh Published on .

The fallout is still falling from the recent north-of-the-border "cunnilingus" scandal. Cam Gardner, the publisher of the Canadian trade weekly Marketing Magazine, lost his job late last year, after approving the ad seen here, for the magazine's 2002 Marketing Awards. It so offended parent company Rogers Communications and caused such a ruckus behind the scenes at Canada's premier ad show, that Gardner, popular among Canadian creatives for championing good work, was forced to step down. The ad is part of a very funny campaign, themed "Really tough judging," from Toronto's Taxi, which does more than its share of edgy work. Other ads in the series feature a father looking at his little daughter's drawing of Daddy, and thinking "Hack"; and a woman looking at a baby in a couple's stroller, while thinking "Poor execution." A provocative campaign, but hardly one to be taken too seriously. Community reprisal was swift after the firing, says Taxi CD Zak Mroueh. Taxi president Paul Lavoie resigned as the show's chairman, and both Taxi and JWT/Toronto pulled its work from the Marketing Awards. "It brings up prickly questions," says Mroueh. "We were told we could submit the ad itself to the show. If it had won, it would have appeared in the magazine. Does this mean ads that offend Rogers should be banned from the show?" Furthermore, says Mroueh, "it sends the message that if you run an ad that's a bit risque you risk being fired." Ironically, Mroueh was worried that the final execution in the campaign would be too controversial - it shows a homeless man with a "Will work for food" sign, and a man thinking, "Seen it." "I thought for sure we'd get more complaints about that ad," says Mroueh. "The fact that we didn't sends a really bad signal: Sex is bad, but making fun of homeless people is fair game." The Marketing Awards, or what's left of them, will be held March 24 in Toronto.
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