Cannes Controversy: Omnicom Challenges Group M's Award Tally

While attendees are still radiating from their time in the sun at Cannes earlier this month, controversy has erupted over the final Lion tally claimed by WPP’s GroupM.

The media holding company issued a statement Wednesday, well after the conclusion of the festival, that it won a total of 45 awards, the most of any media agency holding company. 

Omnicom Media Group in turn cried foul, and has charged that GroupM claimed credit for awards not certified by the Cannes Lions organization and has demanded that the awards group look into the matter, which they are. According to Omnicom’s tally, approximately 30 Lions claimed by GroupM are not verified on the Cannes Lions winners’ Web site.

GroupM countered that it was playing fair and pursuing award entry amendments allowed under the rules. The Cannes Lions organization is expected to issue a revised list of winners next month.

One of Omnicom’s major beefs has to do with the fact that for over half of the wins claimed by GroupM, the company’s agencies were not cited in the original competition entry. After the wins were announced, GroupM agencies then went back to the entrant agency and requested that they be listed as the media shop for the work. That’s a violation of the festival’s rules, according to Mainardo de Nardis, CEO Omnicom’s OMD Worldwide. The rules state that entrants need to list all participating agencies at the time of submission with allowance for the occasional mistake, de Nardis said.

The OMD CEO says that GroupM is essentially gaming the system. GroupM, he asserts, “decided to rewrite history after the event,” and by doing so is “making a mockery of the whole thing.” It’s a “big problem,” he said. “It affects the whole industry. Cannes is a big event." Clients and agencies expand much time, effort and money to produce the campaigns and the entries.

De Nardis confirmed that he has laid out the shop’s grievances to Cannes Lions CEO Philip Thomas and Chairman Terry Savage and asked them to intervene.

“We need clarity,” he said, stressing that OMG put out a release on its 19 wins only after the wins were confirmed on the Cannes Lion site. “Those are the rules of the game,” he said. There was one exception -- a Press Lion Grand Prix winning entry by TBWA\Media Arts Lab failed to cite OMD as the media agency, a lapse for which TBWA has apologized, said de Nardis. OMD was subsequently credited.

During Cannes and the following week, GroupM and its agencies didn’t help clarify matters. On Thursday June 20, the media holding company issued a release stating that it won 16 Media Lions across Maxus, MEC, MediaCom and Mindshare.  A rep noted that at that time, across all categories, GroupM was claiming an additional 11 Lions for a total of 27.  A week later on June 27. the holding company issued another release declaring that 45 was the actual number.

According to Omnicom however, only 15 GroupM agency Lions were verified on the Cannes winners site as of June 28.

In separate and conflicting releases, two GroupM agencies were declared the most awarded media shop at the festival. On June 22, Mindshare claimed it was the most awarded media agency, winning a total of 19 Lions. Later, when GroupM claimed 45 total Lions, it asserted that MEC was the most awarded media shop with 21 total awards.

Last week, in response to OMG’s charges, a GroupM rep insisted that in a number of instances, its agencies were mistakenly left off entries and that the shops went back to the award entrants to ask that they be listed, as allowed by Cannes rules. The entering agencies complied, the rep said, adding that the Cannes Lions organization had set a July 5 deadline for amended entries — and an updated list of winners would appear after that. “When the new list comes out, we will be vindicated and credited with 45 wins,” the rep said.

For now, Cannes Lions officials aren't talking about the contretemps. Queries to Thomas, Savage and a PR rep went unanswered at press time



2 comments about "Cannes Controversy: Omnicom Challenges Group M's Award Tally".
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  1. Doug Garnett from Protonik, LLC, July 1, 2013 at 10 a.m.

    Of course, no one is asking the important question: why don't any if these awards have any connection to having made clients more profitable? But, no surprise there. Advertising awards are a game of entertainment not based in reality.

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, July 1, 2013 at 10:48 a.m.

    The conglomerate of WPP has more personal information on you than a government and will use it. This is just the beginning. You won't be able to have ---- because you did not ______. All those who have already told all of your secrets somewhere on line ....they are not your secret. Think it won't happen. OK.

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