Ernest Bromley, the agency's chairman-CEO, said "Poker" and "Cuentito" were approved by the client, produced and scheduled to air, but were unexpectedly postponed.
"The spots had been trafficked, then they were pulled," Mr. Bromley said. "The client wanted to keep the dollars in TV."
Mr. Bromley cited turnover in the agency's creative department as a factor in the ads' entry in the competition; he said the creatives who entered the spots were not aware they hadn't aired. The problem was brought to his attention when Continental account execs realized Bromley had been awarded for the work.
Mr. Bromley alerted the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies, which contacted Advertising Age. The winners were announced at a gala dinner at AHAA's annual meeting last month. Mr. Bromley, who said both ads are still likely to run "in the next month or two," has returned the awards.
"We believe this was an honest mistake on Bromley's part. We thank the agency for coming forward, and we disqualified the ads as soon as we learned they had not run," said Advertising Age Editor Scott Donaton. "We remain very proud of this awards competition and committed to a visible presence in our coverage of the fast-growing Hispanic advertising and marketing segment."
Horacio Gomes, president-elect of AHAA and president-CEO of HeadQuarters Advertising, San Francisco, said AHAA "upholds the highest standard of ethics in our industry. It's unfortunate something like this happened, but it doesn't take away from the fact that this year's awards competition was highly successful and the gala event was spectacular."
The humorous "Poker" ad won a gold in the miscellaneous category of the radio segment; "Poker" and "Cuentito" won a second gold in the campaigns segment, also in the miscellaneous category. The spots scored the highest of all entries, leading to the campaign being named Best of Show (AA, Sept. 18).
The next-highest-scoring work, ranked very close to the Continental ads, was a TV commercial for HBO by Dieste & Partners, Dallas. The spot won a gold award in the entertainment/media category of the TV segment.