Leo Burnett withdraws from two Abbys, McCann is the winner

Even as the Ford Figo JWT ad fiasco controversy has barely cooled, here come a fresh one. This time around leading advertising agency, Leo Burnett has decided to withdraw two radio spots for Tata Salt Lite from the just concluded Goafest Creative Abby’s. The dispute again is over the ads being created only for entries into the awards category and not for any paid release. For an ad to be eligible to be entered into any award category it is imperative that there has to be a paid release, by the client. Tata Chemicals the client in this case has not paid for the ads release.

Even as the Goefest was on, a section of the ad fraternity and the media were talking in hushed tones about a controversy brewing over the awards to Leo Burnett. But given the awesome reputation of the agency very few in fact nobody was willing to come on record. But the sense prevailed that something was definitely amiss. There was also a debate at the Awards Governing Council (AGC) last week. The council had hinted these spots weren't released in a genuine manner.

Sensing that there could be unwarranted speculations and talk about Leo Burnett’s intentions to win an award, Arvind Sharma, chairman & CEO India Subcontinent, Leo Burnett India, wrote to AGC asking the awards to be withdrawn. Shashi Sinha, chairperson, AGC confirmed that two Tata Salt radio entries have been withdrawn by Leo Burnett. He also stressed that the awards auditing agency, KPMG has duly followed a verification process which included client confirmation letters.

The two spots for Tata Salt Lite, captioned 'Office' and 'Society', had fetched Leo Burnett two golds and two silvers in the radio and radio craft categories. Production house Lingo had bagged a gold for the 'Society' spot in the radio craft category.

Now with the withdrawal of awards, Leo Burnett's total metal count is 67 - with seven Gold, 32 silver, and 28 bronze awards. Although its metals tally is higher it will be placed second to McCann Worldgroup which has less metals tally but due to 1 grand prix rank higher. McCann’s tally is 1 grand prix, 7 golds, 15 silvers and 33 bronze, it becomes the numero uno agency this year. Lingo India would lose its sole medal.

Tata Chemicals too has issued a statement in this regard as follows. “It is unfortunate that our agency has been under the cloud of controversy regarding the recent Abby awards based on work done on our brand. The entire award submission process is one initiated and entirely managed by the agency; our role as a client was limited to approval of the creative. As a client, we were not aware of all the other technical requirements and subsequent process of submission criteria, etc. As soon as the inconsistencies were brought to our attention, and upon further enquiry, we concluded it would be appropriate for the agency to return the award to the organisers. We regret this incident, which only strengthens our resolve for and commitment to strict adherence to standards."

Henceforth clients will be more cautious while giving consent letters for entry into awards by their agencies. Also while everybody, surely the agencies entering for awards know about the rules, still big guys do it for winning awards. One only hopes that with the recent experiences about scam ads, better sense will prevail and future award events will be free of any controversies.


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