Cannes Yanks Awards Given to Pedophile Ads for Kia, and Exposed by BNET

Last Updated Jul 22, 2011 11:40 AM EDT

The Cannes ad festival has withdrawn two awards from the ad agency that submitted a pedophilia-themed ad campaign for Kia (KIMTF), following the carmaker's disclosure to BNET that it had never commissioned the ads. The Cannes "Lions" are the most important awards for advertising creativity, globally.

The ads, from ad agency Moma Propaganda of Brazil, purportedly touted Kia's dual air conditioning controls that allow simultaneous "hot" and "cold" zones. One depicted a sexual situation between a male teacher and an underage student; the other showed two children in the Sleeping Beauty myth alongside an an adult-oriented reinterpretation.

After BNET noted that the ad business had some explaining to do about why it had lauded such a lousy campaign, Kia spokesperson Scott McKee used The Tagline's comment boards to deny the company had anything to do with the ad. McKee later confirmed to BNET that the ads had not run on behalf of an independent Kia dealer, either.

In a statement, Cannes festival CEO Philip Thomas said:

The Cannes Lions rules state clearly that if requested, proof must be provided that campaigns ran, and were legitimately created for a fee-paying client. Despite many conversations, Moma Propaganda have not provided the proof we require and therefore the Lions have been withdrawn.
It's the first time Lions have been withdrawn from an agency, and the shop's executives are banned from entering next year. BNET previously called for new, robust rules to shore up Cannes' increasingly fragile credibility. In 2009, I suggested that any shop caught cheating ought to forfeit their awards automatically. You're welcome, Mr. Thomas.

Adopts tone of righteous indignation
The withdrawal and the ban were widely covered in the ad trade press and on blogs, but by an amazing coincidence almost all of them failed to mention that it was BNET that broke the story a month ago, on June 24. Both Adweek and Ad Age covered the issue for the first time on July 21 (even though both magazines had reporters in Cannes at the festival)

For a significant period of time Kia's statement denying the ad was only available on BNET, yet this, the original source for the controversy, didn't get a mention in either of those mags, nor Campaign, mUmBRELLA, B&T, Adrants, or The Drum. Only Australia's Campaign Brief provided a link to BNET.

In the social media age, this is something of a professional discourtesy. I've thrown thousands of links at those titles over the years. Perhaps they are trying to hide their embarrassment at the fact that they were beaten to the biggest story at Cannes by a guy who wasn't even at the festival. It's also worth mentioning that it was another blogger, Dabitch at Adland, who noticed that one of the creative directors on the fake Kia ad was also behind the fake Sept. 11-themed World Wildlife Fund campaign when at DDB Brasil in 2009.