For the first time, the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity is banning agency creatives from next year's festival after stripping independent Brazilian shop Moma Propaganda of two Lions won at the Cannes awards for apparently fake ads for Kia Motors Brazil.
After the June festival, a firestorm of bad publicity swept social media, criticizing the campaign for overtones of lust and pedophilia. Automotive News, Ad Age and Creativity's sibling publication, described the two print and outdoor ads, intended to promote the Kia Sportage's dual-zone hot-and-cold climate control feature, as comic strip-style scenarios with family-friendly images on one side, juxtaposed with racy, adult fantasies on the other, including a male teacher helping an elementary school girl.
When Kia denied approving the ads, the festival investigated.
"The Cannes Lions rules state clearly that if requested, proof must be provided that campaigns ran and were legitimately created for a fee-paying client," festival CEO Philip Thomas said in a statement. "Despite many conversations, Moma Propaganda have not provided the proof we require and therefore the Lions have been withdrawn."
Although the Cannes festival has stripped agencies of their prizes before when ads have turned out to be fakes created to win awards, this is the first time the creatives responsible have been banned from entering future work at Cannes. The one-year ban covering the 2012 festival applies to individuals listed on the credits and affects five people at Moma Propaganda, a festival spokeswoman said.
The two awards rescinded by Cannes are a Silver Lion in the print category and a Bronze Lion in outdoor. The campaign featured two ads, "Teacher," in which a male teacher fantasizes about a little girl, and "Princess," juxtaposing the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale with an X-rated version.
A Kia Motors Brazil public relations exec said the company had no comment because the marketer had not approved the campaign. At Moma Propaganda, a medium-size Sao Paulo agency owned by Rodolfo Sampaio and Fico Meirelles, neither partner returned calls, and Mr. Sampaio's office said he was on vacation.
Although Brazilians' irresistible compulsion to create fake ads to win awards has blown up again, it's not always an unforgivable offense in that Cannes-crazy country. Although the agency had to send back two Lions, in typical Brazilian fashion Kia Motors' Brazilian distributor is still on Moma's client list, along with Sherwin Williams, a shopping mall called Center Norte, Herbalife and local home furnishings store Camicado.