The Association of Communications and Advertising has suspended MetropolitanRepublic for a year after the agency was disqualified from the 2013 Loeries for an entry that did meet the criteria for eligibility. It will also pay the maximum fine allowed and its representatives have to resign from the board and other industry committees.
The agency won a Grand Prix award for Media Innovation, a Gold for the Ubuntu award for sustainable marketing, and a Gold for Tactical use of Newspaper Advertising at the recent Loerie awards.
“The ACA, as the official association of the advertising and communications profession, sets the highest standards for integrity and professionalism amongst our member agencies and in fulfilling our mandate to self-regulate the profession, it was decided that these sanctions be imposed on MetropolitanRepublic.” says Odette van der Haar, CEO ACA.
The ACA said it received a written complaint over the agency’s actions and a special board meeting was convened to decide a course of action. Van der Haar was tasked with investigating the allegations, in accordance with the ACA’s articles of association.
Chief executive officer of MetropolitanRepublic, Alison Deeb, issued a “formal and unequivocal apology “ for the manner in which the agency won and subsequently withdrew their 2013 Loerie Awards for the Project Uganda entry. The campaign centred around the MTN Everywhere Library campaign that was supposed give school children in remote areas of Uganda the opportunity to read books for free using basic mobile phones without internet connections.
“The agency also formally apologised to the Association and admitted culpability for failing to protect and uphold the ACA Code of Conduct, after calling into question the integrity and ethics of the ACA and its member agencies,” the ACA said in a statement.
Earlier, MetropolitanRepublic said the facts were that while the “overarching conceptual idea and creative executions had been presented and approved by our client, the concept is still in development”.
“As an agency that believes in the integrity and privilege of client relationships and the work they entrust us with, we are sincerely apologetic for our lack of process around how the entries were allowed to go ahead in the absence of formal approval,” it said in a statement.
The Digital Media and Marketing Association, as a member of the Loeries committee, said it was fair to assume that the board of the advertising awards “would not have taken this decision unless there were serious problems with the entry and its claims to have flighted and/or impacted the social good – a key criteria in the Ubuntu Award category for which they won gold”.
It said that as campaigns “become more intrinsically technological in their execution it’s increasingly difficult for judges to differentiate between science fiction and fact.
“We encourage all of our members – and indeed any agency entering digital awards – to do so responsibly and truthfully. This incident damages corporate South Africa’s already fragile faith in digital marketing campaigns and risks them turning their spend back toward traditional media, which is perceived as a safe bet,” it said.
The ACA said the actions of MetropolitanRepublic were deemed by the ACA to be “a profoundly serious transgression of the ACA Code of Conduct. Their actions had brought the ACA and its members into disrepute.
The ACA sanctions are:
1. The ACA will issue a written reprimand to MetropolitanRepublic, regarding the agency’s transgression of the ACA Code of Conduct.
2. MetropolitanRepublic is to provide the ACA with a formal undertaking regarding the agency’s future conduct and support of the ACA’s Code of Conduct.
3. MetropolitanRepublic will be levied the maximum fine allowable in terms of the ACA’s Articles of Association.
4. Metropolitan Republic’s membership of the ACA is immediately suspended for a period of twelve months.
5. Since MetropolitanRepublic’s membership of the ACA is suspended, the agency’s representatives must resign from the ACA Board and its various operations committees.
MetropolitanRepublic has the right of appeal against the sanctions imposed. Failing any appeal, MetropolitanRepublic’s membership with the ACA may be reinstated after the suspension period, subject to a review of the agency’s compliance with the ACA Code of Conduct during their suspension.