Ogilvy APAC returns Lions won by Vietnam office after claims made in Rhino Rescue Project case study film deemed false

Screen Shot 2016-07-26 at 4.24.27 PMOgilvy has handed back two trophies the agency’s Vietnam office won at Cannes this year for a project to save endangered African rhinos, because some claims made in the supporting case study video were deemed to be false.

In a statement shared with Mumbrella, Ogilvy’s regional headquarters conceded that there were some elements presented in the case study video for the project ‘Saving Africa’s Last Wild Rhinos, By Poisoning Them’ that did not actually run in-market, and the agency was “deeply regretful” of the embarrassment that errors may have caused to the client, Rhino Rescue Project, and the Cannes Lions festival.

Lorinda Hern featured in Ogilvy's case film

Lorinda Hern featured in Ogilvy’s case film

Mumbrella received a tip-off last week that Ogilvy would be handing back the awards, and contacted the head of the Rhino Rescue Project, Lorinda Hern, to verify the claims made in the film.

In the two-minute case study video, the strategy behind the campaign was detailed, including the launch of a press conference that connected the Vietnamese media with the poison treatments happening in South Africa via live satellite.

Warnings of the poisoned horns were plastered across Vietnam as fly posters, and soon after the main website for the project was hacked, it was claimed in the video.

The video also claims that the Vietnamese government labelled the campaign “divisive” but later reversed its decision and ran its own campaign to combat the rhino horn trade.

The video, which contains some upsetting scenes, has been deleted from its main Vimeo channel, but is still viewable on other sites.

Exactly which of the claims made in the film were false has yet to be clarified.

Claims made in Ogilvy Vietnam's case study video

Claims made in Ogilvy Vietnam’s case study video

Mumbrella asked Hern if the claims made in the film that fewer than 2% of the rhinos treated since the campaign began have been poached, and that rhino horn consumption in Vietnam has dropped by 77%, were in fact true. She had not responded as Mumbrella went to press.

Mumbrella has also been in touch with WildAid, an anti-wildlife trade charity that works to combat the trade in rhino horn in Vietnam. The charity says it is preparing a statement to clarify the claims made about the campaign.

Rhino Rescue Project has been publicly supportive of Ogilvy’s work to date, tweeting the agency’s success at Cannes where it won a Silver Direct Lion and a Bronze PR Lion.

Ogilvy Vietnam at Cannes tweet

Rhino Rescue Project

This campaign won gold at the APAC Effies in April, although it is unclear whether Ogilvy will be returning this award too. Effie has clarified that they had not had any contact from Ogilvy concerning this matter. Mumbrella has asked Effie if they will be withdrawing the award, and the organisation responded that they are “looking into this matter.”

The statement in full from Ogilvy:

Ogilvy Vietnam has decided to return awards that they recently received at the 2016 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. The Silver and Bronze Lions the agency won for the Rhino Rescue Project will be given back to the Festival based on knowledge that the Ogilvy & Mather Asia Pacific management team acquired after the Festival. We determined that some elements of the campaign material created to support the NGO’s efforts to reduce Vietnamese consumer demand for rhino horns did not run in-market as stated in our submission video to the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

Ogilvy & Mather sends our sincerest apologies to both our client and the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. We are deeply regretful of any embarrassment this error in judgement has caused. While our agency has a long history of pro bono work for various causes including rhino horn protection, we do not condone any work done in opposition of the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity regulations and guidelines.

Our client on this particular campaign, along with many other conservation groups, are doing important work on an ongoing basis to combat the continued problem of rhino poaching. We deeply believe in this cause and Ogilvy Vietnam has pledged to continue to work on a pro bono basis helping any and all NGO’s who share in that belief.  Towards that goal, the agency will be hosting a roundtable on the topic, to which it will invite interested NGO’s and other stakeholders to discuss the ongoing problem of rhino horn consumption in Vietnam.

Mumbrella has asked Ogilvy what the repercussions will be for those involved in the making of the film. The agency responded that the act of returning the awards “sends a clear signal”.

“We have a creative charter that sets clear guidelines for our teams, and in this instance after review – it just didn’t pass the test,” the agency stated.

Ogilvy is the third agency to hand back awards to Cannes Lions this year.

Grey Singapore gave back the Bronze Lion it won for the ‘I Sea’ app after it was exposed as a fake by a group of tech writers, albeit with a terse statement that did not concede any wrongdoing. Grey has also deleted its supporting case study video for that campaign.

BBDO also returned a trophy it won at Cannes this year, with global creative chief Dave Lubars calling out one of his own agencies from the stage. He said: “I learned last night that one of our very own agencies had a pretty scammy ad in the festival, and it won a Lion. I told them to return it. Because I don’t want that kind of Lion. BBDO doesn’t want that kind of Lion.”


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