J.C. Penney decries Lion-winning Saatchi ad

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Although J.C. Penney has received a lot of well-deserved attention for the creative makeover it's gotten from Saatchi & Saatchi, New York, the retailer is up in arms over a fake spot that earned a Bronze Lion at this year's Cannes International Advertising Festival. The "Speed Dressing" ad, directed by former Saatchi creative Mike Long out of Epoch Films, features a teenage boy and girl respectively running through drills, quickly stripping and re-dressing themselves, in preparation for an upcoming rendezvous in the girl's basement while her mother is at home. The ad has been circulating on Youtube since Monday. J.C. Penney never signed off on the spot and disapproves of its apparent promotion of teen sex.

"J.C. Penney was deeply disappointed to learn that our name and logo were used in the creation and distribution of a commercial that was submitted to the 2008 International Advertising Festival at Cannes," the company said in a statement to Creativity. "No one at J.C. Penney was aware of the ad or participated in the creation of it in any way. The commercial was never broadcast, but rather was created by a former employee at J.C. Penney's advertising agency, Saatchi & Saatchi, solely as an award submission without J.C. Penney's knowledge or prior approval. J.C. Penney does not approve or condone its content, and we have asked Saatchi & Saatchi to remove the ad from online circulation and to apologize to our customers and our associates for misrepresenting our company in this manner."

And Saatchi has done just that, responding almost sentence by sentence with its own statement: "Saatchi & Saatchi has a long history of producing principled and respectful advertising for J.C. Penney and its entire client roster," said the agency, adding that the spot "was created by a third party vendor without J.C. Penney's knowledge or consent.It was produced and released to the public without any knowledge or prior approval from J.C. Penney. Saatchi & Saatchi did not enter the spot and deeply regrets the message this ad presents. Saatchi & Saatchi apologizes to J.C. Penney, its associates and its customers. The commercial is being removed from public circulation."

According to the Cannes International Advertising Festival site, the commercial was submitted by production company Epoch Films. Creativity contacted Epoch but was referred back to the agency.

The incident brings into glaring view the issue of scam or "ghost" ads at Cannes and advertising awards shows — typically, highly creative work that is of dubious relevance because it ran only once in a small or test market in order to meet awards show qualifications, or as it appears in this case, because it was never approved by the client. Other festival winners- —this year and in years past - —have been suspected scams.

Cannes festival submission forms do ask entrants to provide a date that entries first appeared. The forms also ask entrants to supply the name of a client. The form states: "If your entry is shortlisted, the jury may want to contact your client to verify the results." The festival's entry guidelines also state: "Entries cannot be made without the prior permission of the advertiser/owner of the rights of the advertisement;" and "All entries must have been made within the context of a normal paying contract with a client, except in the charities and public services categories... the Festival reserves the right to request a full media schedule from each entrant company to verify the authenticity of the ad(s) in the event that entry is shortlisted or a winner." It's not yet known if the Film jury attempted to contact any clients to verify work, or if the festival requested a media schedule from anybody. Cannes organizers and jurors contacted by Creativity did not respond to inquiries by posting time.
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