Grey Singapore’s migrant-saving app shortlisted at Cannes Lions called out as ‘terrible fake’

Tweet on Migrants appAn app created by Grey Singapore that supposedly enables the user to scan the Mediterranean ocean for stranded refugee boats has been called out for being non-functional and made only to win an award.

The “I Sea” app was billed as a revolutionary way to save refugees lost in the Med in a large volume of international press coverage generated over the last few days, but a tech writer has written off the app as an “in-progress intern proof-of-concept… pushed as finished.”

The app – which is a product of Grey’s philanthropic arm Grey for Good that has been particularly busy in recent months – supposedly takes real-time satellite imagery of the Mediterranean, splits it into plots and allows users to search their plot for refugee boats in distress, flag their GPS coordinates, and report sightings to aid stations.

I SeaHowever, tech security writer Taylor Swift, who uses the Twitter handle @SwiftOnSecurity, argued yesterday that the app was fake, and said that journalists had been fooled into believing the intention behind I Sea was to save refugees. Media outlets including Newsweek, Wired, Mashable, Reuters, Huffington Post and Channels NewsAsia covered the story.

In a series of tweets, Swift, who has 131,000 followers on Twitter, pointed out that the app – which supposedly works in real time – was presenting an image of the Mediterranean at the wrong time of the day and has a bogus weather reading, while others questioned the viability of an app that can source high-resolution, real-time imagery of an entire ocean.

The writer pointed out that an image that was presented as live in the app was identical to an on-boarding screenshot, casting serious doubt over the credibility of the app. She also observed that the app was lacking a copyright notice for the framework and weather API.

“Tried it, the app is completely non-functional. It’s a marketing stunt for the developer to get press articles,” Swift wrote, who was later advised by others on Twitter of advertising agencies’ fondness for phoney do-gooding ideas at this time of year.

“It’s also nighttime in the Mediterranean right now. And light in the app! Great! Screw these guys. This is disgusting,” she wrote.

“I intuitively knew this app was fake within 20 seconds of using it. It screams unfinished interface mock-up, doesn’t act right.”

“It seems this sham app about helping refugees was submitted to an advertising awards show,” she tweeted yesterday, but covered later herself by conceding: “I’ve got to be wrong on this somehow. There’s no way this is a sham for attention. Someone correct me please and I’ll delete and apologize.”

Alex Kent, a software developer, called the app “a terrible fake.”

“My ‘live’ satellite image is same as in all the screenshots,” he noted.

The app has been shortlisted at the Cannes Lions awards show this week, in the Promo & Activation Lions category. The client is the Migrant Offshore Aid Station.

Cannes Lions shortlist

Update: The ‘I Sea’ app has been awarded Bronze Lions at Cannes overnight, but has been withdrawn from the Apple Store. Mumbrella has approached Cannes for comment.

Grey, which posted a case study video for the idea last week, has not responded to Mumbrella’s request for comment.

The news emerges a few weeks after Grey’s global creative head Per Pederson defended a recent flurry of well-publicised awards-friendly campaigns claiming to be doing good, including a mosquito-killing umbrella in Malaysia, English-teaching candy sellers in India and a way to reduce the temperature of rural Bangladeshi homes using a grid of plastic bottles.

“We never do anything just for award shows, but use them as a launch pad and testing ground for ideas,”  said Pedersen , who uses the term “solvertising” to describe work that tackles social problems.

Grey was in the running for agency of the year at Cannes last year, coming third behind Ogilvy and BBDO to the accolade of the most awarded agency at the festival.

Pedersen said at the time that he was “annoyed” when doubt was cast over an Ogilvy entry that was called out by a Singapore creative for passing off someone else’s idea as their own. Cannes stood by the entry, Lucky Fish Project.

“We found ourselves close to network of the year. I was annoyed. Ogilvy got points from a Geometry entry that was called into question. I thought, it seems to be scam to me, and I asked [the organisers] what’s going on.”

“Normally I don’t give a shit, but this year we were competing for network of the year. It felt like trying to win the Tour de France without doping. It’s kind of difficult when you realise that everyone around you is cheating. That was the feeling I got when I saw those stories. It’s sad,” he said.


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