So called “scam ads” – those that have never been aired for real clients in real campaigns – are the latest controversy to hit the hothouse world of the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival.

Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide’s global creative director, Singapore-based Neil French, has taken up the cudgels following last June’s event when two winning entries from his Singapore unit were probed and subsequently cleared of allegations that they were scam ads.

Following the incident, Cannes jury president Bob Isherwood, worldwide creative director of Saatchi & Saatchi, declared he would set-up a ‘President’s Log’ naming agencies who submitted scam work during the event. He has, however, since backtracked in favor of a “softer approach” that will point no fingers but simply offer general guidance to this year’s jury.

Isherwood also put the problem in perspective, pointing out that less than ten of the 17,000-plus ads submitted at Cannes last year were confirmed as scams.

This failed to appease French who on Thursday fulminated to UK ad trade weekly Campaign: “I think it is disgusting. By nature it focuses the jury on witch-hunting rather than looking for good work. I am against this politicisation of advertising. By doing this they exclude small agencies and you don't even know if you have been excluded.”

Hence, blustered French, O&M would not be submitting any entries for this year's Cannes Lions. But others within the O&M network are attempting to pour oil on troubled waters, saying that the agency simply seeks “reassurances about fair play and being clear about ground rules”.

The broadside was timed to coincide with the assumption by new Festival ceo Franz Prenner of his London-based post. Wisely, Prenner kept his head below the parapet, leaving spokesperson Amanda Benfell to play down French’s fumings as “a storm in a teacup”. Added Benfell soothingly: “We'll look into it and I'm sure our ceo will be in contact with [Mr] French.”

News source: AdAge Global