The Curse of Cannes strikes again

July 19, 2010

They’ll shortly be calling it the Curse of Cannes. Win a gong at the International Advertising Festival and sooner or later you’re bound to bomb.

First there was the Old Spice Guy, who waltzed off with the film grand prix, only to walk slap-bang into a controversy over the brand’s lacklustre sales performance.

Now Lean Mean Fighting Machine, the first UK outfit to have won the Cannes interactive ad agency of the year award, has come a cropper with one of its major clients, Coca-Cola, after an embarrrassing foul-up over a Facebook promotion. I doubt that they will be remaining on terms for much longer.

Coke has had to pull the internet promotion, featuring its Dr Pepper brand, after it was accused of enticing children by making reference to a pornographic movie. From what I can understand, users had to give the company access to their Facebook status boxes, which then filled them with silly (but largely harmless) messages designed to give their internet mates a bit of a rise.

All went well, with over 160,000 people signing up, until a certain Mrs Rickman noticed that the profile of her 14-year-old daughter had been updated with a direct reference to a hardcore pornographic film, Two Girls One Cup (aka Hungry Bitches). Perhaps hardcore doesn’t do it justice: coprophagic fetishism would be a polite description of its main theme. Unfortunately for Coke, Mrs Rickman is an adept of social networking site Mumsnet. Result: uproar and a hasty pledge by Coke to can the promotion and mount a full-scale investigation.

Even then, Coke couldn’t get it right. To quote Mediaguardian:

‘She was offered compensation of theatre tickets for a West End show and a night in a London hotel.

“Fat lot of use to me, we live in Glasgow,” she said.’

Coke has admitted the nominal responsibility (with the extraordinary claim that it had approved the offending reference without realising its true significance). But I suspect it won’t be taking the blame.

For that we must look to LMFM, an offshoot of Tribal DDB which was set up six years ago and is chaired by advertising luminary Paul Bainsfair. You can’t be too careful with internet promotions. Someone is always watching over you. Even so, it was unusually bad luck for an agency which only won the account in spring – after it devised a successful April Fool’s Day ad for Coke. This time, the joke backfired.

AND IT GETS WORSE. I gather Coke, under the guise of reviewing its overall digital media strategy, is now considering sacking LMFM, full stop. Only this week, it landed the digital ad account for the Zero brand. For more insights into Coke’s ineptitude over its LMFM hiring see Jim Edwards’ post on bNet.

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