SBD/Issue 204/Olympics

TBWA Worldwide Under Fire In China Over Amnesty Int'l Campaign

TBWA Catching Heat In China
Over Latest Amnesty Int'l Campaign
Omnicom Group's TBWA Worldwide in recent weeks has "been working on both sides of China's global image," and the ad agency "could face a backlash in China" as a result of one of its campaigns, according to Fowler, Vranica & Ye of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. TBWA has been running a campaign on behalf of adidas ahead of next month's Beijing Games "focused on Chinese pride, showing Chinese athletes supported by throngs of fans," but the agency's Paris office at the same time has been "working on another ad campaign on behalf of Amnesty International that showed Chinese athletes being tortured by Chinese authorities." In one Amnesty print ad, a person has "been attached to a target normally used in the shooting competition at the Games," which reads, "After the Olympic Games, the fight for human rights must go on." Chinese bloggers now are "calling for a boycott of all TBWA ads, among other measures." Amnesty's London HQs "decided weeks ago to spike the ads from its Olympics campaign, which is focusing more on positive change that might come from the Games." TBWA CEO Tom Carroll said that the agency's N.Y. HQs "wasn't aware of the campaign." Carroll: "Had TBWA management known about this ad ... it would not have been produced." Fowler, Vranica & Ye note the conflict comes "at a delicate time for TBWA," as the agency is "competing for renewed business" from IOC TOP sponsor Visa. And while TBWA's relationship with Amnesty "has been fruitful for the agency in terms of publicity and honors," a source indicated the relationship is "now under discussion" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 7/14).

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