Grey Singapore grudgingly hands back Bronze Lion won at Cannes for controversial ‘I Sea’ App


I Sea app.jpgAfter weeks of controversy, and without admitting any wrongdoing, Grey Singapore has reluctantly handed back its Bronze Lion won at Cannes last month for its ‘I Sea’ App.

The agency released this short statement overnight: “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.”

Grey Group Singapore’s Bronze Lion win in the Promo + Activation Lions came under fire following Apple iTunes decision to pull the app from their store. The ‘I Sea’ app came under investigation following criticism of the app first raised by @SwiftOnSecurity, who tested the app.

The App won a Bronze Lion in Cannes but when it won media reports called the app a “fake” and “bogus”

The Gawker reported that the app was a fake. Mashable, who were a media outlet to first cover the launch of the app, also reported that Apple had pulled the app. The Register, a UK IT blog covered the story with the headline: “Sea of outrage after ‘migrant-spotting app’ turned out to be bogus”.

Criticism of the agency intensified this week when Ali Bullock, a Hong Kong-based marketer wrote an open letter to Grey Group, saying he would never hire the network.

In response at the time Grey posted a statement on their website saying that the app is in “testing mode”.

I sea.jpgGrey’s statement was as follows: “On World Refugee Day, Grey for Good wants to thank all those who are helping us develop the I SEA app. I SEA – an app developed by Grey for Good in support of MOAS – aims to bring humanitarian and technological efforts together in order to have a concrete impact on the continued refugee crisis at sea. Currently in its testing period, the app is a tool which crowdsources the ability to scan the sea for migrant vessels in distress. With global forced displacement having reached an all-time high (65.3 million people at the end of 2015), any efforts to help those fleeing war and persecution are greatly welcomed.


“The I SEA App is currently in a testing mode. At this time it is loading and mapping satellite images to its GPS coordinates and users are able to report an anomaly in their plot of sea. The report function is sending out an alert whenever a user flags something in the plot of sea they are watching. During this testing period, the satellite images available are not in real-time. Grey for Good are still working to optimise the technology, but we are proud of what we have achieved so far and are grateful to all those who have shown interest in helping to improve the app further. The continued interest and suggestions from people who have already tried it around the world, especially on this, World Refugee Day, are all valued opinions which will be incorporated into the final product.”

Perhaps the most damning was a statement released by a client spokesperson, The Migrant Offshore Aid Network:

“The Migrant Offshore Aid Network did not develop the app with Grey for Good nor do we feel that there [are] any advantages to having the public scan old sat images for potential disasters that in reality unfold in seconds.”

“MOAS has performed life and death rescues in real time using two ships, commercial drones and Search and Rescue Crews in the Central Mediterranean since 2014. The majority of our rescues are coordinated in real time from the Rome Rescue Coordination Center in which MOAS often takes the lead. Saving lives is a serious business, with serious consequences for not maintaining the highest standards of professionalism.

“All we can say on the developers’ behalf is that the App probably sounded interesting in concept form but failed miserably in execution. We were asked to support the launch of the app in concept only. So we were included in a press release,” added the spokesperson.

The client further added this quote in a story in The Guardian: “We were dismayed to discover that real time images were not being used. We have since discontinued our relationship with Grey for Good and spoken candidly about our disappointment to the media.”

@SwiftOnSecurity, who first started questioning the app, tweeted about the failures of the app since she started testing it. She also tweeted about Grey’s Lion win.


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