After they won, the creepily suggestive ads first drew attention for being sexist, with implications of sexual violence and invasion of privacy against women. One of the three ads said "Don't worry babe, I'm not filming this.mov" above two boxes of aspirin, and another said "Relax, it's not like this is being recorded.mp3."
The critical spotlight on the Outdoor category winner led to Bayer outing the agency as having paid to briefly run the work for the aspirin brand in an effort to make it eligible to enter the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.
"All Bayer work created by Almap BBDO has been withdrawn from the Festival," BBDO said in a statement. "The work was approved by the local client to be run in Brazil. However, the media was paid for by Almap BBDO which contravenes the Cannes entry regulations. We regret this and apologize to the festival organizers and our client for any embarrassment caused."
Bayer and the festival organizers did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The Cannes contretemps also highlights the complicity of some clients, at least at the local level, in sneaking into award shows work that has not been widely run on the client's dime. BBDO's statement makes it clear that the local client agreed to the ad being run at the agency's expense.
Three years ago, JWT India fired agency staffers over sexually offensive poster ads for its Ford Motor Co. client's Ford Figo brand that had apparently not run but were uploaded to website Ads of the World and entered in India's local ad festival Goafest, with a client letter of approval from Ford.
In a local statement released in Portuguese by Almap BBDO, the Sao Paulo shop skirted the whole scam issue and merely apologized if the ads offended anyone and said the agency is opposed to violence and invasion of privacy, and for that reason had asked the Cannes organizers to withdraw the work.