BBDO Pulls All ‘Scammy’ Bayer Work from Festival

By Erik Oster 

Yesterday, we wrote about a controversial Almap BBDO Brazil outdoor ad for Bayer aspirin, which received a bevy of criticism online for its perceived sexism. The ad in question read “”‘Don’t Worry Babe, I’m Not Filming This’.Mov” — seemingly referring to non-consensual filming. 

Earlier today, Adweek reported that Bayer has distanced itself from the work, claiming that Almap BBDO ran the ads with the sole intention of winning awards. Bayer also claimed that Almap BBDO actually paid for the ad to run in “limited placement” in Brazil itself, which the agency confirmed.

“The concept was presented to our local marketing team in Brazil by BBDO as one of several campaigns that the agency intended to submit for this year’s Cannes Lions festival,” Bayer said in a statement. “In order to meet the requirements for submission to Cannes, BBDO paid for limited placement in Brazil. Bayer has not advertised Aspirin through any channel in Brazil for several years. We have asked that BBDO discontinue any further use, dissemination or promotion of this campaign.”

“This was a proactive, local campaign idea that AlmapBBDO brought to and had approved by the local client in Brazil,” an agency spokesperson told Adweek. “The agency covered the cost of media. AlmapBBDO deeply apologizes for any offense caused and takes full responsibility for the creation of the work.” 

JWT CCO Ricardo John, who served as president of the Outdoor jury which awarded the ad, issued his own apology to the publication, saying, “The jury, which [included] seven women, did not feel that this campaign, when looked at as a whole, was offensive. Even so, as the jury president, I would like to apologize for those who took it as such.”

Upon learning of the chain of events, BBDO global CCO David Lubars asked Almap BBDO to withdraw all its work from the festival, which they did. 

“I learned last night that one of our very own agencies had a pretty scammy ad in the festival, and it won a Lion,” Lubars said from a Debussy Theatre stage. “I told them to return it. Because I don’t want that kind of Lion. BBDO doesn’t want that kind of Lion.”

“All Bayer work created by AlmapBBDO has been withdrawn from the Festival,” added a BBDO network spokesperson, in a statement. “The work was approved by the local client to be run in Brazil. However, the media was paid for by AlmapBBDO, which contravenes the Cannes entry regulations.”

The controversy follows an issue earlier this week in which another ad’s eligibility was called into question. Grey Group Singapore’s “I Sea” app was removed from the Apple Store for not working as intended shortly before winning a Promo and Activation Bronze Lion. The agency wrote in a June 19 blog post that the app “is currently in a testing mode” and will soon be fully operational. Yesterday Cannes Lion issued a press release confirming that it is reviewing the eligibility of the Grey Group Singapore entry.