I'd like to start this post with a simple message. This is a personal one, not endorsed by anyone or organisation but me. That said, hear me and make no mistake: Grey Singapore and Grey Global - I will not entertain a pitch, submission or award from any one of you until you return that award that you falsely won for this travesty.
Oh, yes. That app you submitted this year at the Cannes awards. The I SEA app.
This is something that I feel cannot be ignored. I held back on writing this post for a few days in the hope that (Grey Singapore) might do the right thing and return the award they falsely won. Alas my initial disgust has now turned to anger.
By now most people reading this will know about the I SEA app that Grey Singapore won a Cannes lion for.
Remember the image of the Syrian child Aylan Kurdi, drowning on a beach near Turkey which made rounds on the internet late last year?
That isn't someone passing out at Cannes from too much champagne, this is no joke. It was a human life lost for the most tragic of reasons. Hope of a better life.
And Grey won an award off the back of this. Did the champagne and caviar have a salty taste as you celebrated your win? Imagine the salt consumed by people drowning... A truly horrid way to die. And how many died while you partied away in Cannes? Hundreds, thousands? I guess we will never truly know as your app was a load of bulls**t. Oh wait, it was in testing... Sorry, my mistake.
Worse, you gave hope. Hope, a creative idea that might help in some small way. The idea one person would be able to make a change for good. This award beat other ideas that are trying to help. Agencies and creatives who are doing this work because they believe in a better world.
A test app. That is what you called it. Except you didn't. You had no approval from the charity you proposed it came from. You had no working version that you submitted. Tell me, how do you look your clients in the eye when you pitch? Actually how the hell do you sleep at night? Please feel free to meet me in person or email me and tell me directly. Really, I would like to know.
But perhaps it is not all your fault. As clients we walk into agencies and as we glance across reception there is always (and I mean always) in the background the so called "shelf of awards." We take comfort from knowing that you are successful at what you do. We pressure you to have these trinkets of success.
What has wining a Cannes award become? When did the cost of winning and using this as tool to reel in a new client come to this? Have we as an industry sunk so low that this becomes acceptable? This is but one example and it has been an open secret that this has been going on for years. And no-one did anything.
To win an award off the back of refugees is a new low.
I am not sure what is worse, Grey not returning the award or that it was not taken back by the Cannes jury. This is possibly the saddest moment our industry has faced. Let me reiterate, this award was won on the back of faking a solution to the refugee crisis. And it would seem I am not alone in this opinion with Sir Martin Sorrell asking the same questions I am.
If (and I stress this is a very personal opinion) I was a client of Grey Singapore, hell Grey Global I would give them one chance to return that award and not resubmit anything next year. That would be a generous 24 hour deal. No excuses, no clever PR release. Just a simple return or they should not be working for me in any capacity.
As for any clients of Grey Singapore I say this: Push Grey to do the right thing and return this award.
Cannes has cancer. Time to cut it out and let us hope we can recover. There is so much good work, both commercial and CSR that we should highlight. And rightly so. But by not taking back this award, the jury, organisers and attendees of Cannes are as implicit in this disgraceful entry as the person who decided to submit this so called app for the award in the first place.
Change will only come if we the clients and fellow creative agencies take a stand against this.
Now, I need to go and remove the foul taste I have in my mouth at the whole damn event that is Cannes. I can only hope in a brighter future next year.
The writer is Ali Bullock, a marketer, sponsorship and social media manager. This article was first published on LinkedIn.