O&M threatens to pull out of Cannes

LONDON - Neil French, the worldwide creative director for Ogilvy & Mather, has announced that the network is to boycott this year's Cannes International Advertising Festival.

The news coincides with the Festival's appointment of the Austrian born Franz Prenner as the successor to its chief executive, Romain Hatchuel.

French, who has a maverick reputation, said the network would not be submitting any entries for this year's Cannes Lions as he was unhappy with the awards' new focus on tracking down "scam" ads.

French said: "I am in principle opposed to anything like that. I think it is disgusting. By nature it focuses the jury on witch-hunting rather than looking for good work. I am against this politicisation of advertising. By doing this they exclude small agencies and you don't even know if you have been excluded."

Last year the network submitted approximately 1,500 pieces of creative work for judging; if the boycott holds true, it will be depriving the event of $500,000 in submission fees. A boycott would also see the Festival deprived of the registration fees for a slice of O&M's delegates - the network sent 175 in 2001.

French had been in talks with Hatchuel over his objections to the blacklist. "He wouldn't back down," he said. "I went to all my agencies and asked them what they thought. They all thought it sucked and said let's pull out. So we are and we will continue to do so as long as the blacklist is in place. Unless they scrap this, we're not interested. Now Hatchuel's resigned, we have to see if they carry it on."

Last year's jury president, Saatchi & Saatchi's Bob Isherwood, introduced "The President's Log" - a list of entrants guilty of submitting work that has never run. French added: "Ogilvy was not on the list. The fact we are exceedingly kosher in the way we do things allows me to take this stand. People say 'this is a small client and it ran once in a small magazine and therefore it's not worthy to be judged'. I take grave exception to that. This is a growing trend and it just has to stop. If you have a client, and he has paid you for the ad, and it has appeared - then I can't see the problem."

At present it seems that O&M will be making a lone stand on this issue with no other networks joining French in his action.

Hatchuel has decided to pursue his own interests in Paris. His father, Roger Hatchuel, remains the chairman of the Festival. Prenner, who was approached for the chief executive's task last summer, comes from an agency background but was most recently the managing director of ORF Enterprise, the sales house of the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation.

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