Ogilvy Vietnam gives back two Cannes Lions due to 'an error in judgment'

By    July 29, 2016 | 08:33 pm PT
Advertising agency Ogilvy in Vietnam has returned a pair of Lions awards without any outside pressure.

Ogilvy & Mather, one of the biggest PR agencies in the world, has decided to return two awards that its Vietnam branch won at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity last month, said the agency in a statement on Friday.

Ogilvy Vietnam gave back to the Festival a silver Direct Lion and a bronze PR Lion for its “Saving Africa’s last wild rhinos, by poisoning them” work for the Rhino Rescue Project.

The campaign aimed at curbing Vietnamese people’s demand for rhino horns with a health scare by injecting them with a substance that is harmful to humans but not to the animal.

The agency surrendered both Lions of its own accord after finding that some elements of the campaign material "did not run in-market" as stated in the submission video without specifying which elements were in question. 

In its statement, Ogilvy & Mather said it has made "an error in judgment" and is "deeply regretful of any embarrassment". The agency has also sent out its "sincerest apologies" to both its client and the Cannes Lions Festival.

“To tell you the truth, [the campaign] was not for profit. It is a pro bono work for public benefit,” said Ogilvy Vietnam Managing Director Nguyen Dieu Cam. The agency pledged that it will continue to join forces with non-governmental organizations in addressing the ongoing problem of rhino poaching and rhino horn consumption.

She hoped that the incident will not adversely affect the agency’s business.

The Cannes Lions International Festival had "nothing else to add to this” following the release of Ogilvy's formal statement, the festival's PR officer Isobel Diamond told VnExpress International in an e-mail.

For Ogilvy, the two Lions were among a total of 120 prizes won by 31 offices around the world, making it the Network of the Year for the fifth year in a row at Cannes, said the agency in a press release last June.

Reflecting on the event, Ogilvy client Lorinda Hern from the Rhino Rescue Project told Advertising Age "We can only hope that the agency, and perhaps the industry as a whole, would have learnt a valuable lesson from this debacle: clients' stories deserve to be told in a way that is truthful and fully representative of what they stand for. We most certainly did not expect our story to be bolstered with inaccuracies. The reality of rhino poaching is devastating enough as it is."

Ogilvy Vietnam was established in 2009 following Ogilvy & Mather’s major investment in local public relations agency T&A Communications.

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