In one of the biggest scandals to hit the advertising industry, a top award has been withdrawn from Metropolitan Republic after it was discovered the winning campaign never ran in Uganda.

 

The ad agency responsible has been slapped with harsh penalties by the organisers of the Loeries Grand Prix Award. “Project Uganda” for MTN, created by Metropolitan Republic, won the top Grand Prix award for media innovation at last month’s ceremony in Cape Town.

It also received Gold in the Ubuntu category for sustainable marketing. In the agency’s Loeries entry, it claimed it had run four-week campaigns in newspapers in Uganda, to help students access study material and help people without bank accounts to transfer money. The agency claimed it had printed pictures of library books in these newspapers and that students could then access the content of those books by using a code on their cell phones.

Pictures of ATM machines, also with codes, were supposedly printed and posted in various places. People without bank accounts could transfer money by punching in codes shown on the posters, according to the agency’s award entry. But, according to award organisers, the Project Uganda campaign “does not meet the Loeries entry criteria”. Loeries chief executive Andrew Human said: “In addition to this, each entrant warrants that their information provided is true and correct.” Human added that, when the Loeries organisers questioned the entry some time after the awards evening, “Metropolitan Republic chose to withdraw this entry from the awards”.

He said the Loeries organisers understood the agency claimed there had been a “clerical error” in their submission of the entry for Loeries consideration. However, material celebrating the award, and provided by the agency to a number of outlets, clearly indicates that the campaign has been carried out. Also, a video in support of its claims, which purports to have been shot in Uganda, has clearly been filmed in townships in South Africa.

The Loeries also disqualified all of the agency’s award-winning work at this year’s festival.

But, in addition, the organisers imposed other unprecedented penalties. Human said: “No representative from MetropolitanRepublic will be allowed to judge at the Loeries for the next two years”.

In addition, Human said, “any entries submitted by MetropolitanRepublic for the next two years must be accompanied by a media schedule, a letter from the brand representative and the contact details of the brand representative”. MetropolitanRepublic was also in trouble last year, after the SABC “banned” a TV advertisement it did for the Fish and Chip Company.

The offending ad poked fun at president Jacob Zuma and his family. Earlier this year, the agency generated another storm over its “You can Help” campaign for FNB, which featured a school girl commemorating the 1976 Soweto urpising by making harsh comments about South Africa’s current situation. FNB was accused of attacking the ANC and some of the videos were removed from the internet.

MetropolitanRepublic said “that due process around entering the awards had not been followed nor cleared with the executive team within MetropolitanRepublic nor our client”, and it admitted that “the concept is still in development”. It added: “We are sincerely apologetic for our lack of process around how the entries were allowed to go ahead in the absence of formal approval.” Now

1. All MetropolitanRepublic’s awards this year will be disqualified.
This includes all of the following:

o    Project Uganda, MTN, Media innovation, Grand Prix

o    The Everywhere Library, MTN, Ubuntu, Gold

o    Project Uganda, MTN, Tactical use of Newspaper, Gold

o    The campaign that never flighted, The Fish & Chip Co, PR
Communication Campaign, Gold

o    Connector Bot, MTN, Alternative Media, Silver

o    The campaign that never flighted, The Fish & Chip Co, Media
Innovation, Bronze

o    The campaign that never flighted, The Fish & Chip Co, Social Media, Bronze

2.     No representative from MetropolitanRepublic will be allowed to
judge at the Loeries for the next two years.

3. Any entries submitted by MetropolitanRepublic for the next two years must be accompanied by a media schedule, a letter from the brand representative, and the contact details of the brand representative.

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