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Grey Singapore returns Lion won for I Sea app after ‘unwarranted, unfair, unrelenting attacks’

I Sea appGrey Singapore has returned the Bronze Lion it won at Cannes for the controversial ‘I Sea’ app after what the agency has described as “unwarranted, unfair, unrelenting attacks by unnamed bloggers.”

In a statement released last night, signed by global head of comms Owen Dougherty, the agency said:

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 organizations.

Moreover, Grey is one of the most creatively awarded agencies in the world with the highest ethical standards. We won over 90 Cannes Lions this year alone so there is no need for scam projects. However, 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.

The statement comes the day after Alastair Bullock, a Hong Kong-based marketer for Infiniti Formula One, wrote a stinging post on LinkedIn in which he claimed he would never hire Grey Singapore, or any Grey agency, unless the agency handed back the award it had won for the app.

After Grey’s announcement, Bullock said on Twitter this morning that he would be deleting his post, in which he posted a picture of a drowned refugee child and said that he was angry that the agency had won an award off the back of human suffering.

“This isn’t someone passing out at Cannes from to much Champagne, this is no joke,” he said by the iconic picture of the child washed up on a beach. “It was a human life lost for the most tragic of reasons. Hope of a better life. And Grey won an award off the back of this.

The ‘I Sea’ app claimed to help refugees by locating their stranded boats in the Mediterranean, but was proven not to work by tech writers who tested it and called it out as a fake, which was widely reported by the international media.

The app was removed from Apple’s app store and heavily criticised by Migrant Offshore Aid Station, the client associated with the work. Even so, it won a Bronze Lion at Cannes last month.

Grey has defended its work by insisting that it was only a prototype, although in the case study video for the app, which helped win the award at Cannes, the agency claims it can help locate stranded migrants.

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