CANNES, France (AdAge.com) -- In a bizarre and embarrassing fiasco, the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival disqualified the Grand Prix winner in the press contest because the Ogilvy Mexico campaign for Mattel's Scrabble had been entered in the festival before. The new Grand Prix winner in the press category, elevated from a gold Lion, is runner-up Almap BBDO, Sao Paulo, and its Brazilian print campaign for Billboard magazine.
The Cannes festival hastily sent out an announcement throwing out the original Grand Prix winner just as the awards show was beginning this evening at 7:30 p.m. in the south of France.
Only hours earlier, jury President Mark Tutssel, Leo Burnett's worldwide chief creative officer, had lauded the Scrabble campaign at a packed press conference attended by many of the more than 500 journalists from around the world covering this year's festival.
The Ogilvy campaign, which it now appears may have been created as long ago as 2008, ingeniously used the same vowel in each word of a long story that ran as a full-page ad. Each print ad started with the tile of a vowel -- A, E or O -- at the top, followed by an amazingly lengthy story using the same vowel throughout, and ending with the tagline: "Scrabble. Lots of Words."
"Not only was it appropriate for the brand, it connected people and peoples' love for words," Tutssel said at the press conference.
But the Scrabble campaign had not been a unanimous choice, with some judges preferring Almap BBDO's print campaign for Billboard magazine. Two other favorites were from the U.K. and India.
"The jury wavered," Tutssel said at the press conference. "The lead horse was Scrabble."
A festival attendee familiar with the matter said that some judges wanted to award Ogilvy's Scrabble campaign rather than Almap BBDO's Billboard work because the Brazilian agency had already won so much. Almap BBDO has wracked up an impressive number of Lions so far this week, including two gold Lions and four bronze Lions in the print contest, and is emerging as a contender for the festival's Agency of the Year, an honor it has already won this year at several regional and international ad festivals.
The now-Grand Prix winning campaign carries the tagline "Billboard. Music. See What It's Made of." Each ad features a colorful, pixilated picture of a pop icon, with a small bar graph in colors from Billboard's logo showing what that icon is made of. Bono, for instance, is almost equal parts Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Lou Reed and Mother Teresa, while Britney Spears is mostly Madonna, with a large dash of paparazzi.
"It grabbed you by the eyeballs," Tutssel said at the press conference. "Every detail was perfect, and communicated the essence of the magazine in a fresh new way."
Tutssel and festival officials could not be reached for further comment because the awards show for the press, design and cyber Lions was going on.
The press jury awarded a total of one Grand Prix, 12 gold Lions, 21 silver Lions and 39 bronze Lions.
The other two Grand Prix contenders were from the U.K. and India. A campaign for the website of U.K. consumer electronics retailer Dixons, by M&C Saatchi, London, encouraged people to shop elsewhere. Go to your favorite trendy department store, try out the latest must-have plasma TV, then go to Dixons.co.uk and buy it. The ads brand Dixon with the unlikely sounding claim: "The last place you want to go."
The images in India's Conqueror Papers campaign by independent agency Taproot India, Mumbai, are made out of paper. Colorful figures like a spiritual guru and a Kathakali dancer are composed from the round ends of rolls of bright rolls of paper in ads that are "Celebrating a decade in the land of a million hues."
The U.S. was virtually shut out of the press contest. Tutssel proclaimed that this year represented a creative renaissance in print, but it apparently skipped the U.S. Other countries -- especially strong players in the print category like Brazil and India -- haven't yet experienced the same brutal fragmentation of media that has happened in the U.S. In a pitiful performance, the U.S. won only two of the 72 Lions, and both silvers were for the same campaign by Y&R, New York, for cable channel VH1.