My good friends who work at Ad agencies will disagree, I am sure, but there are always question marks about the nature of Advertising Award Ceremonies. Right now, the ad world’s attention is focussed on Cannes 2005, where global entries are competing for attention. I spent the whole of the last night tracking down and downloading the top rated entrants, and most of them are excellent ads.
The concern has to do with the correlation (or lack thereof) between the winning of advertising awards and the effectiveness of the advertising for the customer. Let’s be clear: advertising is a product/service that has a specific purpose – to sell more of the client’s products and services. That is the ultimate decider of whether an adevrt is “good” or not. Does it motivate people to spend money on the product? Of course, some adverts are subtle, and about awareness raising. Others are more PR than sales-focused. But, although simply stated, my point is valid.
TBWA logoThe big news at Cannes 2005 right now is the forced withdrawal of two spectacular Sony Playstation 2 adverts: “Duel” and “War”. Barrie blogged about them earlier this week (here). But there is controversy. They were produced by TBWA South Africa for the North American office, and their client, Sony Playstation. But TBWA South Africa reports to TBWA London within TBWA’s global network, and apparently didn’t get permission to do work for America. So, TBWA Global has withdrawn the adverts from Cannes and all other international competitions. Who knows what politics is going on behind the scenes at TBWA, but it certainly doesn’t feel like they have their client’s best interests at heart in the process.
I copy the full press release from SA’s Marketing Web below. But one line stands out for me: “its in the network’s best interests to first consider what is in the client’s best interests”. At this early stage, it looks as if TBWA has dropped this ball… (TBWA has no comment yet on their website – which, amusingly, trumpets their status as “global network agency of the year”).

From MarketingWeb, South Africa, 23 June:
It’s official. Two of South Africa’s great hopes for bringing home a real Lion in the Film category this year, Sony Playstation “War” and “Duel”, have been axed from the competition.
“TBWA London, as custodians of the Sony Playstation account worldwide, have announced that South Africa is regrettably unable to do brand advertising on the Playstation account, the reason being that South Africa falls under the territory of London and has to get all authorisation from the London office.
“London has officially ruled that ‘War’ and ‘Duel’ have been withdrawn with immediate effect from Cannes 2005 and all other award ceremonies around the world.”
That’s the official statement from TBWA Hunt Lascaris’ Paul Warner, creative director on the ads. He adds, on a more personal note, that he’s disappointed that, yet again, a large network has been able to apply the kind of pressure on its smaller country network, to squash really great work on what is really a matter of administrative detail.
“If politics is allowed to dictate the game at this level, it’s hard to see how small countries like South Africa can ever really compete on an international stage, on an equal footing,” he says.
Warner explains that the two ads were approved by the North American head office, as that’s the market at which the ads were targeted.
John Hunt, worldwide creative director of TBWA Hunt Lascaris and Jury President of the Film category at Cannes, is unfortunately unable to comment on the matter. Understandably, he prefers to remain neutral for the duration of his Presidency.
At the time of publication, no one from Sony Playstation was available for comment.
Others in the game are also remaining mum, at least on the record, unwilling to be drawn into what appears to be an internal battle of wills.
CEO of Lowe London Matthew Bull, however, is seldom shy to share his views: “Networks are all about sharing ideas, that’s what global clients pay for,” he says, adding that its in the network’s best interests to first consider what is in the client’s best interests.
It’s clear that he believes “War” and “Duel” are in Sony Playstation’s best interests, a view shared not only by hopeful South Africans. In the latest issue of Boards, the spots were tipped as potential Gold winners.
There are others, however, who disagree, commenting that even ad agencies have to “play by the rules” sometimes – that’s how networks work, and what makes them work.
It’s a disappointing blow, not only for Paul Warner and the team at TBWA Hunt Lascaris and Velocity Films, but also for the South African advertising fraternity.
But we all know that Africa’s not for sissies. We’re a strong nation. And we will bounce back.
Of course, it helps that Net#work BBDO’s “Love Story” for Virgin Atlantic has been described as “genius” (also in Boards). No pressure, guys!

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