“During the PR campaign that lasted for several weeks, blogger Stefan Gbureck and Jung von Matt purposefully placed brand messages of the agency client Mercedes-Benz and contributed to the branding of the company. At the same time, neither the responsible agency, nor the company itself were identifiable as the sender and financial supporter of the campaign. Thus, national and international PR principles were violated.”“From our point of view it would be best if the jury in Cannes decided according to international standards,” added DRPR chairman Richard Gaul. Cannes Lions has opted to do nothing. A festival spokesperson points out that “the work abided by all the conditions of entry into the PR Lions so the Lion remains in place.” That is undoubtedly so, but the issue in question must be whether those regulations have been designed with the PR discipline in mind. It would not be the first time that the competition has attracted scrutiny for attempting to shoehorn PR entries into a more advertising-minded template. Jung von Matt, meanwhile, declines to comment. We reached out to MSLGroup Germany CEO Wigan Salazar who expressed his agreement with the DRPR stance. “The Tramp a Benz campaign did not comply with our industry standards with regard to transparency. It's really a pity, since the campaign idea is good and would have worked had it been done in a more transparent fashion.” If Jung von Matt were to comment, it might defend the campaign based on its use of an element of surprise. If I’m not mistaken, NAB Bank’s PR Grand Prix winner began with a ‘fake tweet’ that, soon enough, was exposed as being part of the company’s marketing campaign. Does that defence apply to the Mercedes-Benz campaign? I’m not so sure.
The SABRE Awards is the world's largest PR awards program, running across six continents. 2016 details now available.