Agencies & bloggers face pressure from China

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A couple of print campaigns which did the rounds of creative showcase ad blogs have come under pressure. The first one is for Doc Morris Pharmacies condoms, which are pitched as an effective way to prevent creation of um, er…certain world figures. Those include Osama Bin Laden, Adolf Hitler and Mao Zedong. The ads, created by Grey Worldwide, Germany came under flak from Chinese officials, so much so that so Grey has issued an apology and a statement disowning the ad. See a glimpse of the ad and more about this episode over at BNET. Ads of the World has also pulled down the posts showcasing the ads.

The other campaign in the news is for Amnesty International, created by TBWA Paris. The campaign claims that human rights violations in China continue, even after the Olympic Games are over. Amnesty has disowned the campaign and Omnicom fired the much-celebrated Creative Director behind the campaign. The Amnesty ads have generated a lot of heat over at Ads of the World, even though Amnesty has distanced itself from the campaign finally. Curiously, the URL of Amnesty is and not as mentioned in the ad.


The public apology by Grey for the Doc Morris campaign seems to be related directly to business interests. Who would want to jeopardize the business prospects of the agency and the agency network in China over an obscure campaign released on the net? It’s not really about believing so strongly in a concept that you are willing to taken on any flak. About the Amnesty ads, I feel that ads drive home the message of creating awareness about Human Rights, if the client has not ‘endorsed’ them, then showcasing them for awards is tantamount to scam work.

I think the genesis of all this is simply the hunger to produce what is considered among a section of the advertising community, to be ‘award-worthy’ stuff – everything else be damned. Brands like Amnesty, WWF and Greenpeace have become the favourite options for producing ads for the awards. Not to mention social causes like anti-smoking and drunk driving. Every major creative award show will definitely feature ads for all of these. Ads like the ones for Doc Morris condoms thrive on being blogged about, not through paid media. This viral nature of blogging is what bothers Chinese officials. I think taking down such ads from the creative showcase blogs is a good thing. And saves the agency much embarrassment and potential trouble in an important market. What say?

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  1. Mao Zedong, L K Advani and Prabhakaran and the likes are iffy figures. For some they are revolutionaries and for others they are terrorists. But no matter what it’s public opinion. And democracies allow you to express it. The very fact that China chooses to make a big deal out of an ad campaign which was not not even done in China is a violation of the right to express public opinion. In that respect, the amnesty campaign makes sense somewhat.

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