Cannes boycott looms as DDB Worldwide creative chief Amir Kassaei accuses some Cannes jurors of bias: "Other holding companies briefed to kill Omnicom, especially BBDO, DDB and TBWA"

Screen shot 2012-06-23 at 12.07.42 AM.jpgCAMPAIGN BRIEF ASIA WORLD EXCLUSIVE CANNES VIDEO:  DDB Worldwide chief creative officer Amir Kassaei has accused some Cannes 2012 jurors of bias - claiming that judges of certain global holding groups had been ordered to vote for work from their respective groups.

In this world exclusive video interview with Campaign Brief Asia he said the integrity of Cannes was at stake, and suggested that DDB Worldwide would boycott Cannes next year if an investigation of this year's jury decisions was not undertaken by the Cannes organisers.

Says Kassaei: "I have been notified by no fewer than 12 jury members that people from other holding companies this week were briefed to kill Omnicom, especially BBDO, DDB and TBWA, this is a fact."

VIEW THE WORLD EXCLUSIVE CB CANNES INTERVIEW

45 Comments

Hmmmmm said:

It took courage of him to say that, but Cannes has been notorious for many years for bloc voting (usually along country lines rather than holding group lines). WPP's Sorrell is now echoing Amir K's message here (even the mainstream UK papers are running the story), Group M has lodged a complaint, it's all fun and games.

Don't think Cannes will do anything, but I had a feeling that some of this year's juries were not as strong as they have been in previous years. It's not as simplistic as saying "uh, never heard of this guy from Bulgaria / Colombia etc", because once you read their backgrounds, you can usually see that they're up to scratch, no matter where they're from. This year, in some cases (not all), you just didn't get that feeling.

That's one explanation, perhaps?

Wella Wella Wella said:

Voting bias....holding company conspiracies...incompetent juries....at Cannes of all places???...who would've thought.

I think the only way this bullshit will only stop is if prominent clients reveal exactly how much awards play a part in them awarding their business.

Because we all know that a majority of the work entered and awarded at these kind of shows is specifically created for that purpose. It's got fuck all to do with the complex problems that real advertising is meant to solve.

For eg. the problem that BBH Guardian 3 Little Pigs TVC solves is wayyyyyy more intricate than some stupid ads for a bicycle renting shop in Singapore (Gold Lion...really?).

I can understand Kassaei's POV...maybe he felt his holding companys work got shut out.

But the fact is, they all play their part in this nonsense.

That said, can we have a Hall of Shame for the juries that awarded the Press and Outdoor Coke Grand Prix? They need to disbarred from judging for life.

You cant handle the truth said:

Kassaei says his network briefed its judges to only award the best work regardless of where it's from.

That's like telling a centre forward his job is to score goals. Surely any award show is about creative excellence...so the obvious goal to award it .

And you would think most judges would know that anyway.

Why would it be necessary for networks to 'brief' their judges?

A football team has a briefing before a game to discuss winning strategies.
Why do judges need to discuss strategy unless they are plotting to win.

Maybe Kassaei is sore that his tactics were overturned by the other team.

Get over it said:


Don't praise or blame Amir. He's only been around in his current gig a short while and hasn't been let in on the job description yet.
Every worldwide CCO pressures, coaxes, bargains and influences in their positions as jury members.
Some do it better and some not so well with glaring and questionable poor metal calls.
Don't cry foul if your counterpart managed to push his agenda better than you did this year.
You always have the next year and other shows to play this tit for twat game.
And don't start calling out clients of conviences. Every major network has them. (Maybe except for BBH, of course.)
Bottomline: Cannes lost it credibility a long time ago.
And you can't devalue what is intrinsically worthless.

POWER TO THE COURAGEOUS said:

GOOD ON YOU. Someone has to speak out. Cannes is out of control.

It has lost all of its integrity in my mind.

Good on him said:

Jury stacking happens at a lot of places (anyone see anything as a finalist from Ogilvy Sydney or Euro RSCG at AWARD this year?) and it's fantastic someone so important has stood up to it.

The only way to ensure the best work wins is to have creatives from other countries shortlisting the work, who are only allowed to judge work that's outside their network and their previous agency's network. And the only way to make that happen is to have more jury members, potentially using an online system like the ADC do.

Well, Wella... said:

...you have made a valid point that does, it's true, apply to many Cannes categories, mainly Press / Outdoor and wherever else many (not all) Asian / South American agencies do their, ah, stuff.

But there is, to be fair, quite a lot of real solutions to real briefs on view as well. Yes, even from Asia, though less frequently. So the value of Cannes is not negligible, in that sense - maybe that's why Amir Kassaei is trying to make people wake up.

@"get over it" - there's an uncomfortable level of truth in your comments. But Kassaei is hardly a novice, nor lacking in clout in these arenas. Outmanoevered? Yeah, maybe. But maybe there's a grain of truth in what he says, though more people who actually WERE on a jury this year have to come out and say it (or at least, go on record in a closed-door investigation).

People can speculate till the cows come home, but...without proof, it remains speculation.

Balls to the man said:

It takes courage to expose a vile reality that has been going on for ages.
THE ONLY WAY Cannes will wake up is a boycott by Omnicom. Because only one thing matters ultimately - $$.

Old dog learns new tricks said:

As an ECD here in Asia I support Amir's observations.

However, I would go further in challenging the resurgence of scam. Amir's own agency in Singapore won many medals on one campaign for a bicycle shop. I mean really, can this be a bona fide client of DDB? I'd love to audit the agency and see the revenue on this piece of business.

The other thing that has to be abolished immediately is the "support films" for submissions. Let the work speak for itself. Sure, non traditional work could have a one page support document. These support films are in many cases better than the work it's supporting.

Awards ceremonies are big profit making businesses. Will Cannes and Spikes become the F1 of awards shows - with a Bernie Ecclestone at the dictator's helm?

Award shows should become non-profit organisations run by the industry for the industry.

I'm seriously thinking of stopping entering awards. I'd rather take the creative department to Koh Lanta for the weekend. And we'd still have a few dollars left over from our awards budget for an agency bar.

Fake Gold said:

Amir, you lost, and next year you will have more of your guys on the jury and you will win. Khai and Ogilvy and WPP did it this year, you do it next year. There is nothing you can do about it but boycott and miss out next summer.

Old Dog's comment rings some truth. Your DDB office is winning for run once scam work.Non-roster DDB clients which is a real joke up and down the strip here in Cannes.

Which is a shame because when I worked in Singapore DDB Singapore used to be quite open about killing ads like this for so many years. Now they are winning awards for a bike shop. "Here is my FREE poster, can I run it to win an award?" or in Ogilvy's case, "Here is my FREE poster and easel, can I run i to win an award?".

DDB did well in Singapore. But not for a real client. This is clearly against the rules yet it gets its trophies anyway. Nobody will ever stop the bar and jury alliances.

With Khai being the head of print and poster is it no wonder they ended up network of the year? Keep asking the questions Amir.

Ask them too where their Faber-Castel print Bronze winner rang as well. Doubt you'll find anything except a fake tear sheet.

Two Bogus said:

Next year Amiir will be the festival president. Or, at least jury president for TWO JURIES!!! like Ogilvy's Khai Meng. Watch next year guys, Amir might even be festival chairman. There will be no boycott at all. This is just a bid for a bigger seat next year.

Ogilvy #1 said:


By any means necessary. You can't prove it. You can't deny it. DDB didn't cut it this year. You're naive to think that it's the work alone that moves medals out there in Cannes. Make s strong alliance and start buying some expensive dinners and drinks for some votes. It will never change. Ogilvy #1!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The uncomfortable truth said:

If the South Americans can stack a jury why can't a network. The European pack votes Euro right down the line. Briefing your WPP or Ogilvy network to vote up our entries is not cheating. It's just look out for our entries and lets go for the big win. DDB will hit it next year HUGE then boycott will be over and it will all go away and we can all be friends again. Ogilvy paid a fortune for their entries this year, if I was a WPP board member, I'd like to know how much. Likewise for DDB. I am sure Cannes won't want to print that infographic. Congrats to the winners who won fairly this year for real roster-client brands.

It's just a show said:

Amir, it's okay, have a Coke.

@fake gold said:

Didnt DDB win last year with Starhub? Proving that they can win with big bad clients too.
The difference this year is that bike shop got golds, colour pencils (a small shop)-bronze & coke hugs-nada.
The game will not change. And if ogilvy sg wanna carry their own weight of metal for the global tally, they better learn to play better or get better creative heads who can actually do the work instead of credit hogs who pad their personal websites with other people's work.

Wait for it... said:

All possible.

Sour grapes, angling for a bigger slot next year, or...telling the truth.

Yeah, DDB are scammy, but will never, ever match the track record of Ogilvy (who can?) - no other network has done as much for-awards-only work in Asia in the last 15 years as Ogilvy. Fact. Absolute fact.

But if the issue is impartiality rather than legitimacy (which is an important but separate debate) then why not give Amir the benefit of the doubt? If 12 people really are willing to say that they were "briefed" on how to vote, why pay Cannes their wince-inducing entry fees in the future? That goes well beyond mutual backscratching, that's serious corruption. It happens in elections, too, but then they don't charge you 500 euros to make a cross on a piece of paper.

Let's wait and see.

Take it back. said:

That StarHub campaign was sort of real, yes. It's as real as the Coke machine sitting on the 7th floor at Ogilvy. Nobody is hugging that thing today. Still CONGRATS to DDB for killing the giant with only a minor fraction of entries. Joji, you are WINNING.

Non designer said:

Can some designer out there do up a superbly nice INFOGRAPHIC on the Cannes entries, the fees spend, which agency spend what, network telly, the result compared to what they spend, etc? That will be one hell of a nice design piece, IMHO.

Aiya said:

DDB Singapore's real work sucks balls. All they seem to be good at is these bike shop type ads. Sounds like a good gig. Fart around all year doing this kinda crap and taking home 6 figures. Nice work if you can get it.

Infographic said:


I really don't want to see that. Too depressing. Did you see how many entries Ogilvy SG sent in? It's a fortune. And only two bronzes. Please, let's not see it in an infographic ever. Good luck to Fiona Gordon with writing that off.

Awards lover said:

give me a break guys, for those who against cannes and awards, try ask yourself: "what did you do and win in the past 3 years?"

Surprised? said:

Shrug. A generation of worldwide ECDs who have risen to their current positions by doing scam ads, realize that now they can scam the whole award shows. It is just the latest stage of the scam virus.

Feet on the ground said:

@Awards lover-
"I got a nice metal lion for a paperweight and a lot more spending money'.
Thanks for asking.
And I still think that Cannes is still a wankfest.
Go figure, heh!

Mee said:

@infographic: Its real easy to write those entry fees off...just fire a bunch of people who do the real work....(but leave the guys who do all the scam alone).

@awards lover: no one's against awards, just the stupid and unprincipled crap its turned into. Who would want to win like this.

nobody said:

only the ones that does it, knows

Stepping Stone said:

The ECDs did it to get to the top. Others followed. Some did it better for sure and some did it worse. Most all of us regret it helping this because it isn't fun anymore. Now we are all tasked contractually to win these things to satisfy a points system inside of Ogilvy. Then when a new guy comes in and says NO SCAM we all breath a sigh of relief. But that dream ends very fast didn't it. In just months after he arrived. Soon he gives in and starts the scamming. Shows us how to make award films and talks the talk. He pulls every favor in the book to feed this Cannes Lion hunger. It isn't fair to anybody and in the end it is self-destructive. And we are all to blame. We let him get away with it. We should have held him tight to his original idea of keeping the agency clean of scam so even if he only won two shortlists at least he can swear that they are not initiated out of thin air to win an award. Then at least he can sleep at night because he stuck to his word. Now we has a bunch of scams and no awards. The next time somebody comes in to your agency and says no scams and no jury games fight like hell to back him up. This game of ours went too far. The cost is too high and I don't even want to think of the examples we are setting for the next suckers down the line or the next ECD crazy enough to take the job.

Amir Please... said:


Is it true that you never once nudged a fellow jury member for a vote? A little look at your ex-colleague when the medal rounds were being voted on? Or a look at your ex-colleague when you raised your hand to raise his entry to a sliver? I am not meaning to accuse you of anything, but I need to point out that this happens and you know it. The crony's that ran press this year did it beautifully. Next year they will be laughing wall the way to the Carlton Terrace about the heist that happened last week. It happens. And it will happen again. Congrats to you for having the mind to speak up because we all desperately need this debate. And we could all use a little less of our revenue going toward this award addiction. It is such a waste of time and money. But I know it won't end. If I ever get the balls to leave this business and go solo I won't enter it ever again. Until then, like you, I will have to play the game. Good luck on your festival appointment next year. They would be so lucky to have you.

Ogilvy client said:

I guess my marcom staff will be going thru the invoices to see whether we are getting charged by suppliers who kowtowed to producing award entries.
We pay for actual work. Not for the production of colour pencil and sugar water clients.
And when we ask for deadlines to be met, we are not gonna accept any excuse that there are no creatives to do the work.
Now that we know what they've been doing during office hours.

Crazy Thread said:

An interesting debate. Thinking we can stop jury stacking is a pipe dream. We can't stop it in the Olympics or in a simple boxing bout. Stopping a bunch of us advertising people looking to further our own careers is impossible. You lost this year. So did my agency, so did all the Singapore agencies except (ironically) DDB.

DDB said:

Hey, so how is that boycott coming? Terry taking you out to dinner yet or is he still at the Ogilvy table? Kidding! It was a joke. You're right about the unfairness. But, you can't change it old friend. We all know it won't change ever. That has got a lot of us where we are today so let it be. What Golds around comes around.

Cannes is Over said:

By the time you read these, all the cheques have cleared and agencies are just now finding out how much money they blew. 1% of the total revenue is the Ogilvy budget we here. So not worth if for what Singapore brought home. Should we take the loses out of creative salaries? This is a real argument o support the Effes instead. At least the entire agency can get behind it lah. Waste money for what.

The Jury said:

You give me a little vote up, I give you a little vote up. You talk up my work in the medal round, I talk up yours in the medal round. The difference between a Silver and Gold is a round of beet at the Gutter Bar my friends. Peace out Amir.

Anticlime Max said:

In 2012, a "rigged competition" was held on the European continent, in which numerous totally unsubstantiated allegations of biased refereeing and poor decisions were made by participants, just before those making these allegations got on their planes and buggered off home.

And besides that, Euro 2012 also took place.

BOXING said:

The jury never makes a mistake. In boxing, in Cannes, in anything. Terry needs to look into this with an open mind and an un-biased point-of-view. Forget all the friendly dinners and invitations for once and get the show right. The results need an audit. The Lions Ogilvy won need verification in at least a few countries. Where did the Faber Pencil Ads run again? It never ran. It still wins a Lion. But do you think the Ogilvy jury chairman will ask for verification? Will Terry ask Ogilvy Singapore for a run once if you're lucky media schedule? No way. Never. So we all are suckers again. We are allowed to win but just not too much because it isn't our turn.

Amir Fan said:

Amir raised a good point. We need to get people in there that can deliver a clean show. People with integrity who won't steal it for their own network. What a disgrace.

Dubai said:

The Lynx award fiasco was a joke the year you-know-who led it. And this year it is the same in Cannes. Don't be holding your head so high in the Carlton lobby old man, it was a very sloppy show. No matter which crony drops positive quotes publicly, behind your back he is rolling his eyes. It's time we all woke up.

Cannes Bronze Lion said:


I wonder, is this as good as it gets? Jury stacking aside, even with our quest for trophies is this really worth it. The big agency pursuit of these false idols is really getting sick.

Amir's Biggest Fan said:

Next year, NO BOYCOTT but you get to be Chairman of Press and Film? Deal? Terry, can you weigh in and support this compromise. It will take a lot to recover from this year.

That would be the point said:

@Amir's Biggest Fan, I have a feeling that it exactly what will happen, and exactly what was meant to happen. At the very least, expect to see a higher proportion of DDB / Omnicom judges in juries. Why is Cannes remaining so silent in the face of WPP and Omnicom complaints? Because they've heard people cry wolf before.

Terry's MIcrophone said:

The sound of silence is troubling. Cannes needs to be more transparent with all of us now. We put a load of money into that show. Ogilvy Singapore is rumored to have dropped the most. I don't know what DDB put into the show but I'm sure it was a lot. Amir was brave to come out and ask the right questions. He should be answered.

Dung Beatle said:

Amir is on the London Fest ticket. That show isn't Cannes but he can make his mark there by being fair. Congrats Amir!

Unfortunately... said:

The question now is whether Cannes even deserves its prestige. Why no official word from them on what Sorrell and Amir have said?

Terry x said:

Good on Amir. DDB may not be loading juries but it sure is loading entries. See Spikes Network of the Year 2011- DDB won on the sheer number of entries it entered and had shortlisted - it was nowhere in the actual medal count. The winner should have been Dentsu or JWT by a country mile. The DDB team looked embarrassed to be on the stage, but their strategy had paid off and they can put Network of the Year on their creds.

And if you really want to see agency manipulation at its best - see Campaign AP's Agency of the Year jury for 2011.

Terry at Ogilvy Tonight said:

Terry and the Ogilvy guys are all just laughing it up tonight. This thing is such a show now, and I mean a show. I bet Terry didn't ask to verify any of the work from Ogilvy SG. The organisers just want Cannes to be a money train, and as long as Ogilvy is dropping huge money on entries and buying Marina Bay Sands Dinners they are fine with it. Look out for a Ogilvy stacked jury next year in cannes.

Two trains said:

Cannes and Spikes equally. And entry money rule$, so nobody will rock the gravy train.

Leave a comment

About Campaign Brief Asia

A blog for advertising creatives in Asia. To pass on news or advertise on the CB Asia blog, or to subscribe to Campaign Brief Asia or Campaign Brief Australia/NZ magazines, or The Work 09 Annual, email: Kim or Michael

Latest jobs

Retrieving latest jobs

House rules for commenting

Here are the ground rules for posting comments on stories: This site is a moderated blog. Comments that are seen to be more abusive than witty and/or constructive will not be posted. Obviously, we do not allow 'hate speech' or comments that are seen as a personal attack, defamatory, degrading or prejudicial to an individual or company. Overly abusive language also adds nothing to any discussion and will not be published. On occasions we will be asking people to contribute work, opinions and views on various topics - you are free to disagree, so long as you observe the above rules and remain constructive.