Ad agency swipes 'unnamed bloggers' for calling out its cynically fake 'save a refugee' app

Hands back ad award, says attacks were unfair

Ad agency Grey Singapore has thrown a tantrum and handed back the Cannes Lion bronze award it won for its now-infamous “I Sea” app.

As we previously reported, the WPP-owned ad agency, under its Grey for Good brand, had boasted that the app would crowd-source the search for refugee boats adrift on the Mediterranean Sea.

The only problem: the app did nothing of the sort. It was completely bogus, presenting all users with the same ancient image of the ocean, and was called out as bogus by people following the SwiftOnSecurity Twitter account.

Ultimately, the supposed partner and beneficiary of the app, the Migrant Offshore Aid Station, told The Register it had nothing to do with the app.

While that was unfolding, however, the Cannes ad awards committee, apparently oblivious to the mounting controversy, handed Grey Singapore an award for the app – drawing equal measures of outrage and laughter in the ad industry.

Now, the agency has handed back the award, blaming critics of the app – among which The Register is proud to number itself – for the imbroglio.

The agency has passed a statement around the ad industry media saying “During Cannes we said the app was real and its creator, Grey for Good in Singapore, is a highly respected philanthropic unit that has helped numerous non-profit organisations.”

And it's all the fault of “anonymous” critics, apparently: “given the unwarranted, unfair, unrelenting attacks by unnamed bloggers, we are putting an end to this and returning the Bronze Lion so there is not even the hint of impropriety or a question of our integrity. The saying no good deed goes unpunished is apt in this case.”

Our hearts bleed. ®

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