PR agencies shy away from Ashley Madison as marital affairs site sets Singapore launch date

Ashley Madison: launching in Singapore this month

Ashley Madison: launching in Singapore this month

A number of Singapore’s top PR agencies have said they would not work for marital affairs dating website Ashley Madison on ethical grounds.

The controversial site, which has 22m users globally, is looking for a PR agency in Singapore ahead of its launch in the citystate later this month, Mumbrella revealed earlier this week.

And the site has just registered a Singapore domain name, it emerged today, despite heated opposition from members of the public and a senior government official to the launch.

But a number of the country’s top PR agencies have said that they won’t work for the site, saying that it could damage their relationships with existing clients.

Andy Oliver, Asia Pacific SVP of Lewis PR, told Mumbrella:

It’s a decision each business owner will need to make for themselves.

In this situation, we have a service which promotes infidelity, which raises moral questions and in many peoples’ eyes, will be frowned upon.

As an agency boss, you need to make sure the clients you have will maintain the reputation and credibility of your firm, enhance your ability to win more clients and grow your business.

It’s not our job to moralise. But it’s our job to do what’s in the best interests of the business.

You don’t want to have clients which could possibly damage your business or reputation, or raise eyebrows when talking to existing clients or prospects.

Ultimately it’s a business decision. For example, this could be an interesting client for an agency that specialises in crisis communications.

For us, let’s just say that it’s not the type of organisation that falls into our area of expertise.

John Kerr, regional boss of Zeno, said:

Zeno Group would not work for a client like Ashley Madison. As a Daniel J Edelman company, we have strong guidelines in terms of ethics and industries that we wouldn’t work with – e.g. tobacco. Also, in seeking to always create trusted relationships between consumers and brands, I believe it would be tough to do this for Ashley Madison consistently over time.

It’s a high profile brand and will be an interesting brief, so good luck to them and whoever they end up partnering with.

Weber Shandwick also said it would not work with the company, while another agency told Mumbrella it would be foolish to work for a client that has been publicly lambasted by a senior government official.

Ashley Madison declined to tell Mumbrella whether it had received any positive responses from the agencies it had approached.

Meanwhile, industry body the Institute of Public Relations of Singapore has said that agencies should make up their own minds according to their own ethical principals.

IPRS president Stephen Forshaw, who is the corporate communications chief for state investment fund Temasek, told Mumbrella in a statement:

IPRS doesn’t have a view on agencies working for clients like Ashley Madison specifically: on questions of the ethics of businesses they may be asked to represent, agencies should make their own assessments according to their own principles.

Some agencies choose not to work for tobacco companies, for companies involved in the manufacturing and distribution of munitions, or companies involved in carbon-creating businesses.  That is their right, and the same ethical questions would apply to working for this client.

If a business operates legally, then agencies should be free to make their own determination on whether they work for them or not.

IPRS would take a dim view of agencies acting contrary to the expected ethics of the practice of public relations. Practices such as astroturfing and failing to disclose they represent a client when speaking on issues of importance to that client have been known to occur in the industry – fortunately, few in Singapore in my experience. IPRS would expect its members and other agencies to conduct themselves to high standards when representing their clients.

Last month, agencies in Hong Kong expressed mixed views on whether they would work for Ashley Madison, which has just set up its website in the territory.


  1. Chris Reed
    8 Nov 13
    5:10 pm

  2. What hypocrites! Why is working for a dating site worse than working for a fast food brand that gives the world obesity or a sugary fmcg brand that send kids loopy and makes them fat or an oil brand that pollutes or a cigarette brand or an army/navy brand that kills people or a religious brand that brainwashes people to give away all their money…the list is endless….

    why the hypocrisy over

    marketing people are not here to judge they’re here to market

    read my blog on the subject on Singapore Business Review

  3. Swaying reeds
    11 Nov 13
    9:03 am

  4. Normally I don’t argue with fools but the above foolish statements need to be rebutted.

    1- Ashely Madison is not a ‘dating site’. It’s a purpose built site to enable and encourage married spouses to cheat.

    2- Obesity and pollution are side-effects of the fast food, soda and petrol chemical industry. It is not their core business model. Nevertheless there are health and environmental acts in place to guide how there do business.

    3-Like Ashely Madison, cigarettes are expressly harmful and exploit human weakness, hence they are subject to marketing controls.

    4-While there has been a few bad apples, the beneficiaries of many religious organizations who provide food, roof, study grants, marriage counseling, addiction control, build orphanages abroad and rebuild neighboring countries struck by natural calamities would disagree with your blanket cynicism about religion.

    5-The excuse that marketing people are here ‘to market and not judge’ is insulting to marketeers with intelligence and principles.

    Some people make outrageous comments based on a belief of selected facts. (e.g. Fox News)

    Some make bloody-minded contentious statements in the name of entertainment -to cause a chuckle such as the rascally Jeremy (I-can’t believe-what-he-just-said!) Clarkson.

    And there are those who do it for the vain glorious attempt at attracting attention.

    Your shameless plug to read your blog confirms which camp you belong.

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