Monday, July 14

Advertising Conflict: TBWA Worldwide


Omnicom Group Inc.'s TBWA Worldwide is discovering just how difficult it can to be a global company without a consistent message. Two of its offices produced two different advertising campaigns for the Olympic games.

As covered by The Wall Street Journal, its Beijing office is running a campaign on Chinese pride for Adidas while its Paris office worked on another for Amnesty International that showed Chinese athletes being tortured by Chinese authorities.

According to the story, Chinese bloggers, spurred by a report in state-run media of the Amnesty campaign last week, are now calling for a boycott of all TBWA ads, among other measures.

While Amnesty International decided not to run the ads throughout the Olympics, they did give permission for the agency to run them one time so the agency could enter them in the Cannes competition. Yep, another award blunder. The TBWA ad won a Bronze Star at Cannes.

TBWA’s headquarters in New York has since dismissed the advertisement as “the action of one individual at our agency working on a pro bono account." But some people have pointed out the obvious. More than one person was credited with the Cannes win. And that is nothing compared to the timing of the debacle — TBWA’s major stake in the VISA account is undergoing a global ad review.

Times are changing. As advertising becomes more personal (in part because of social media), consumers seem to want the message makers to be as transparent or at least as authentic as the clients they are writing for — a trend that originally began with consumers scrutinizing which marketers supported (or did not support) which television and radio programs. I’m not always sure this is such a good thing, but it is what it is.

Even more obvious to me, once again, is that agencies and clients lose anytime the decision to do something is tied to awards. Awards are easy. Results are not. While these ads were creative, all they really succeeded in doing was damage everyone involved. And no matter how you spin it, that is not very effective at all.

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