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Rob MacLennan: Jury voted with their 'gut'

December 12, 2012 - 10:31 -- Bart G.J. Knols

Yesterday, BBC's William Kremer published an excellent article about the myths surrounding ultrasounds as repellents against mosquitoes. We both talked many times about these myths and he researched the matter thoroughly. Nothing but praise for this piece of great journalism. But for us here at MalariaWorld the story isn't over yet, because the Cannes Lions Festival is simply waiting for the media storm to blow over and then move on with business as usual...

In spite of repeated requests by journalists to comment, they refuse to admit that they awarded a Grand Prix to an advertisement that is doing nothing more than giving people a false sense of protection - through a 15 kHz signal broadcasted during a radio programme that supposedly repels mosquitoes. In spite of all the evidence that has been put in front of the jury, the Festival's Chairman Mr. Terry Savage, and its CEO Mr. Philip Thomas, they refuse to take corrective measures.

But cracks are showing, particularly since the President of the Cannes Lions Festival radio category, Mr. Rob MacLennan, spoke out (quoted in the BBC article) by admitting that the jury "voted with their gut". This is certainly a sign to acknowledge that a serious mistake was made.

Next, the BBC article also mentions that CONAR, the Brazilian organisation that overlooks the advertising industry in that country, is exploring the option to investigate the matter, and is evaluating whether Talent, one of its members that made the advertisement, actually breached the advertising industry's self-regulation code.

There is little doubt that this happened. MalariaWorld has studied the code in detail and found that Talent breached 13 articles from this self-regulation code. We show one (article 27) here:

Article 27, paragraph 1: All descriptions, assertions and comparisons relating to fact or objective data shall be capable of being substantiated, and advertisers and agencies shall supply the documentary evidence whenever so requested’.

Talent, nor the Cannes Festival, have ever provided any evidence whatsoever to demonstrate that the ‘Repellent radio’ actually repels mosquitoes. Repeated requests for information remained unanswered.

Article 27, paragraph 2: No advertisement shall contain text information or visual presentation that may, directly or indirectly, by implication, omission, exaggeration or ambiguity mislead the consumer concerning the product being advertised, the advertiser or its competitors or concerning the following: [...] d. purpose.

Talent omitted information about the efficacy of the Repellent radio from information that they put in the advertisement in spite of having had access to it. They used specific lines from an online source but left out information that did not serve their purpose.

Article 27, paragraph 7: a. The advertisement shall not refer to a survey or statistic that has no identifiable and responsible source. b. the use of partial data of a survey or statistic can not lead to distorted findings or to conclusions opposed to those that would be reached through the use of all available data. Of the three sources of information used by Talent to substantiate their claim, none is scientific.

Talent did not consult any reliable source of information or consulted experts to back the validity of their claim. In fact, two sources were online Q&A forums (eHow and Yahoo), and a third was a ‘fun website for mobile applications; Umnet).

Article 27, paragraph 8: The advertisement shall only use pertinent and defendable information expressed in a clear manner even for laymen.

None of the information provided by Talent has been defendable in scientific terms. In spite of repeated requests, they never provided a shred of evidence that the ‘Repellent radio’ actually repels mosquitoes.

The entire list of 13 articles that were breached, and how these were breached, was sent to the Cannes Lions Festival, but Messrs. Savage and Thomas never responded to this information. Instead, they claim, this is entirely a Brazilian matter. Not so, claims MalariaWorld, as the Cannes Lions Festival's regulations dictate ‘Any entry which, up to and including the final day of judging, has infringed any of its country of origin’s voluntary or regulatory codes of practice, is not eligible.'

The simple fact alone that Talent never provided any evidence that their 'Repellent radio' actually works meant that it breached article 27, paragraph 1, and should have been sufficient proof for the Cannes Lions Festival that its own regulations were breached. It should then have retracted the prize from Talent.

Then, Lions are to be awarded to unique and novel advertisements, and plagiarism should certainly not get you a Grand Prix... But then how is it possible that Talent made the following poster:

After all, the idea of using ultrasound during radio broadcasting was already tried (at least) three times before. Check out these links and convince yourself that the claim 'First radio broadcast that repels mosquitoes' is false:

1) 1985, in Canada.

2) Then it was tried in Austria, in 2007 (this is even a YouTube movie!)

3) And again in 2010, in Romania.
It was also tried in Poland and Germany at some stage.
So, if it gets to plagiarism...and the claim that Talent was the first to add ultrasound during a radio programme, then you judge. But if I can find this information after Googling a few minutes, then why did the Radio jury not do the same?
Last year the Festival had to retract two prizes after these were awarded, so apparently the juries are not impeccable when it gets to their professionalism and ability to judge entries.
Our next hope is CONAR. If this is a professional organisation that takes its role serious and will not be afraid to stand up against the internationally acclaimed Lions Festival, then this story is by far not over yet.
You will remain informed.