Kia Denies Knowledge of Pedophile Ads That Won Cannes Prize

Last Updated Jul 22, 2011 1:40 PM EDT

Kia (KIMTF) has denied it has anything to do with a pedophilia-themed campaign that won a Silver Lion at the Cannes advertising festival, calling into question the integrity of the agency that created the ad -- Moma Propaganda in Sao Paulo, Brazil -- and the competition itself.
The rules of the Cannes festival are clear: Ads must have been made for clients and run as part of normal campaigns paid for by client media budgets. This is a the second recent occasion in which a Brazilian ad agency has been caught entering an ad at Cannes that was not fully approved by a client. In 2009, DDB Brasil entered an ad for the World Wildlife Fund that depicted a Sept. 11-style attack on New York that was nixed by a client before the festival began.

Kia, in a message posted in the comments section of the BNET item reporting on the campaign, says it has "no business relationship" with Moma and did not approve the ad.

The offensive ads showed a sexual situation between a male teacher and an underage student; and two children in the Sleeping Beauty myth alongside an an adult-oriented reinterpretation (click to enlarge). They were intended to highlight Kia's hot-and-cold dual air conditioning zones for driver and passenger in the Sportage.

In Kia's message on BNET today, the company said:
Kia Motors America (KMA) has become aware of an offensive piece of advertising material that was created by an ad agency in Brazil that KMA has no business relationship with and has never worked with. This ad was not created in the U.S. by Kia Motors America or any of its marketing partners and does not reflect the opinions or values of KMA or Kia Motors Corporation. The ad is undoubtedly inappropriate, and on behalf of Kia Motors we apologize to those who have been offended by it. We can guarantee this advertisement has never and will never be used in any form in the United States, and our global headquarters in Seoul, South Korea is addressing the issue with the independent Brazilian distributor.
In Moma's official Silver Lion page on the Cannes web site, the client is listed as "Kia Motors." But Kia spokesperson Scott McKee told BNET that the ad did not run for any consumer purpose for Kia -- meaning it wasn't a car dealership ad. Moma did not return a request for comment.

Also in question: Why would a Brazilian ad be written in English if it ran in Portuguese-language media? Cannes' rules do permit translations as long as the translated ads are the same as the originals.

If the ad did not actually run as part of a proper campaign, the agency may have to forfeit its Lion -- the most prestigious award in advertising -- for potential violations of rules 3, 4, 7 and 9.

More to the point: What does it say about the quality of judging at Cannes that ads that are clearly controversial -- and therefore unlikely to have been approved by a client -- just blew past the judges? Cannes judges are supposed to be the best and brightest in the industry. Now consider that one the Cannes judges this year was Sergio Valente, CEO of DDB Brazil, the agency that entered the nixed WWF campaign in 2009 at Cannes and in the New York One Show.

Clearly, reform is needed at Cannes. Currently, it just cannot be taken seriously.

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