Flashback to Cannes lions and the Gold winning PR entry called Tramp A Benz which consisted of a man who hitchiked through Germany, but only in Mercedes Benz. He blogged about it, he facebooked it, there was even a book printed in the end showing all the nice drivers who picked him up. He was Stefan Gbureck, a former Hugo Boss model and 'emerging street photographer and performance artist from Berlin'. It all seemed to be his idea, even if he used the classic Mercedes line "The best or nothing" on his brown paper cardboard as he hitched. There was no real reveal at the start of this campaign that it was an ad campign, though some German bloggers weren't fooled as Olaf Kolbrück at Off The Record smelled a rat already in December 2010 and called him the "falsche Tramper".
Fast forward to the Cannes winning moment, now it's a Jung von Matt idea, and a glorious lion is handed to the campaign. All is well? Not quite. This statement from the German Council for Public Relations outlines how the campaign was misleading and to top it all off, infringing, since there was no transparency and clarity of the sender as Stefan Gbureck kept stating it was his personal project from the start. That Jung von Matt and the client Mercedes-Benz was actually involved wasn't made clear until much later. They are recommending the withdrawal of the lion award in PR for this campaign, as "Overall, [it's] a blatant violation against the requirement of transparency Code de Lisbonne DRPR and the Directive on the PR front-line". Off the record calls it Social Media with stealth and the statement from Germany's PR Council "a slap in the face for Jung von Matt, and an embarrassment for Mercedes-Benz."
And the "infringing" part? The picky hitchhiker idea has been done by Grey in Denmark for Peugoet back in 2008, which ironically only won a bronze Cannes lion. Fair enough, it competed in a different category, but still.
Update: But wait, there's more! Wuv.de comments on the trouble with the hitchhiker in "the silence after the public relations complaint" stating at the very end of the article that: Auf Anfrage teilt das Festival mit, dass man erst das Gespräch mit Jung von Matt abwarten will. Even if you don't speak German you know this means that the Cannes Lions Festival reps are having a word with Jung von Matt about it. What will happen next? More silence? Probably.