There’s an Anonymous Petition to Ban COVID-19 Ads From Awards Shows

By Erik Oster 

Cannes Lions may be officially postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, but at least one ad professional is concerned that the two may meet again with COVID-19-related entries plaguing the annual awards show.

A creative at a major holding company agency, who wishes to remain anonymous, is starting a petition entitled Cannes We Not? to prevent capitalizing on a world crisis from Cannes consideration. The petition calls on all major awards shows to place a ban on all COVID-19-related entries. After all, brands are already responding to the crisis in questionable ways.

“With COVID-19 affecting businesses and advertising plans, brands are using it as another opportunity to get likes, shares, engagements, coverage, and awards,” the petition reads, reminding readers that with many around the world dying, “healthcare systems are being overwhelmed, xenophobia is running rampant” and as a major economic crisis looms, “we should be thinking about how we can help people. Because this is not an ad. It’s not the Super Bowl, or a new holiday. This is not a ‘cultural moment.’ It’s a humanitarian catastrophe.”


The petition argues: “If we can get the major award shows to place a ban on COVID-related entries, we will send a stronger message about how our advertising budgets should be spent during a global humanitarian crisis.”

Agencies and brands have certainly been guilty of mining issues for entries designed more for awards than altruism in the past. In fact, that tendency became the point of parody last year with Cannes U Not, a card game from copywriter Amanda Burger and art director Colleen Horne mocking supposed “brand activism” designed with the ulterior motive of winning Cannes Lions.

Such a move would be in particular poor taste if applied to COVID-19, which has already killed more than 20,000 people around the world. At the same time, would you really rule out an agency trying to pull off a made-for-Cannes “activism” campaign around the issue (or Cannes judges actually awarding it a Lion)?

So, if you agree that positioning a global catastrophe as a “cultural moment” to be mined for awards-bait should be off the table, head over to Cannes We Not? and add your name. Any personal information shared will remain confidential.