Mystery clouds McDonald’s digital agency appointment in Vietnam

Image from McDonald's Vietnam's website

Image from McDonald’s Vietnam’s website

Confusion over whether or not a pitch happened has clouded the appointment of a digital agency by McDonald’s in Vietnam, revealed yesterday by Campaign Asia magazine.

The digital business was awarded to a recently merged local digital agency Riverorchid Notch. Social media duties were handed to GroupM’s Clickmedia.

Initially, an anonymous source informed Campaign that the business was awarded after a pitch. However, soon after the news emerged, the agencies stated to have taken part in the pitch denied any involvement.

Campaign has since removed mention of a pitch from their story, and footnoted the piece with a correction.

The press release about the win, from Riverorchid Notch, makes no direct mention of a pitch having taken place. However the marketing lead for McDonald’s Vietnam, Thai Nguyen, said in the release: “We evaluated several options and chose Riverorchid Notch for their commitment, reliability and stability.”

McDonald’s is one of the most coveted pieces of business in recent years in Vietnam. The burger giant announced its late entry into the market in July of last year.

Since then, agencies have been circling the business.

McDonald’s uses three ad agency networks globally – DDB, TBWA and Leo Burnett – and some local agencies in each market.

In Vietnam, the marketing for the McDonald’s franchise is run by Thai Nguyen, a well-connected businessman.

Mumbrella received an email earlier today from a source with the subject heading “Fake pitch for McDonalds Digital in Vietnam..?”

The email suggested that a close personal relationship between Thai Nguyen and Quan Nguyen, the founder of Notch – now River Orchid Notch – was the reason for the agency selection.

A second email contained a selection of 20 photographs that showed the two individuals together at various social functions over the years. According to the source, the men have known each other for over a decade.

Thai Nguyen and Quan Nguyen

From source: Thai Nguyen & Quan Nguyen

The email reads:

Three multinational agencies were surprised to learn of a digital pitch for McDonalds which none of them were part of.

There wasn’t actually a pitch.

Instead the account has been awarded to a personal friend of the marketing lead at McDonalds Vietnam.

This seems highly out of character for McDonalds.

Mumbrella has approached McDonald’s Asia Pacific, but the company has yet to comment on the story.

Tarun Dhawan, MD of Riverorchid Notch, told Mumbrella: “I can confirm that as far as we are aware this was not a pitch, and that our press release on this appointment made no mention of a pitch having taken place. After conducting their own assessment of the market, the client appointed two agencies to handle their digital duties, dividing the assignment between ourselves and Clickmedia – with whom we have no relationship and who are a competitor of ours whom we respect.”

McDonald’s new agencies worked on McDonald’s website and its Facebook page.

The fast-food brand uses DDB as its lead agency in Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, and Singapore, TBWA in China and Leo Burnett in Korea, Japan (where lead duties are shared with Dentsu), India, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Indonesia.


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