The Dubai festival was created by the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival organization. After the 3rd annual festival ended last month, local bloggers in the Middle East claimed the ads entered by FP7 were fakes and the festival undertook a comprehensive investigation. Scam ads are an ongoing problem at awards shows around the world, and it's not that unusual for a winner or two to be thrown out during or even after a festival, but the sheer scale of FP7's ill-gotten gains makes this one of the most rampant cases of festival fakery.
"Even before the awards night we had withdrawn a number of pieces of work from the competition but subsequently our investigation has found other pieces that were presented to the jury that infringed our requirement that all work presented must represent the client who approved it," said Philip Thomas, Dubai Lynx CEO in a statement. "Our rules are very clear with regards to this, and we have no hesitation in withdrawing these awards."
In addition to the Agency of the Year title, FP7 was stripped of a print Gold, a TV/Cinema Gold, and two print Silver awards for Samsung, print and outdoor silvers for Higeen mouthwash and a TV/Cinema bronze for Nissan. Another 10 FP7 ads that had been shortlisted in the print and outdoor categories were also disqualified, the festival said.
Lynx judge Steffan Postaer, chairman and chief creative officer of Euro RSCG, Chicago, said the judges questioned a number of the ads during the judging, and the festival contacted the agency for media documentation indicating the ads were genuine. "I saw a real effort to verify the pieces, but the cheaters found a way to cheat," Postaer said. He said that in one ad, for a Samsung washing machine, clothes threw up stains because the machine has such powerful, roller coaster-like cleaning action. It was a great idea, but he said he knew no washing machine marketer "would ever have an ad that had barf in it. We wrassled internally with a lot of that stuff. But if it met the legal criteria, we didn't throw it out."
Postaer said that if he had realized so many of the questionable ads and for so many big marketers came from a single small agency, he would have been even more suspicious. He was the only U.S. judge on the jury. "We didn't want to be arrogant judges from the western world telling the Middle East what to do," he said. "They show you a media schedule [as proof], and if you keep harping on it, you look like a jerk."