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Ogilvy finally returns Gold Effie won for rhino horn project that made false claims

Ogilvy's 'Saving Africa’s Last Wild Rhinos, By Poisoning Them' case film

Ogilvy Vietnam’s ‘Saving Africa’s Last Wild Rhinos, By Poisoning Them’ case film

Ogilvy has finally handed back an effectiveness award it won for a campaign to curb the rhino horn trade in Vietnam because bogus claims were made in the case study video.

Effies president Neal Davies told Mumbrella this morning that the “correct decision” had been made, and Ogilvy had returned the Gold Effie the agency won in April for the ‘Saving Africa’s Last Wild Rhinos, By Poisoning Them’ project.

“We always expected Ogilvy to do the honourable thing, and that is exactly what they have done,” he said in an email.

Ogilvy APAC announced one month ago, at the end of July, that it would hand back the Lions it won at Cannes for the project, claimed to be an attempt by the Vietnam office to reduce rhino horn consumption by infusing the horns of African rhinos with poison.

An Ogilvy spokesperson said that the Effie was handed back much later than the Lions as each award entry was different and merited a separate investigation. Cannes is mainly a creative awards show, while Effie is about proving the work actually works.

A statement from the agency about returning the Effie will not be made “as we don’t have more to say over and above our original statement,” the spokesperson said.

In a statement released in July, Ogilvy APAC noted 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.”

Claims made in the video include the campaign website getting hacked, rhino horn consumption in Vietnam dropping by 77% since the campaign launched, and a press conference that connected the Vietnamese media with the poison treatments happening in Africa via live satellite.

YouTube comment on Ogilvy case film

YouTube comment on Ogilvy case film

Update. WildAid, an NGO that works to curb the rhino horn trade in Vietnam, commented on the campaign’s false claims: “Our primary concern with this campaign and subsequent Cannes entry was its use of survey data showing a significant decline in rhino horn demand within Vietnam, and that the campaign had a causal role in such declines. As has been widely reported, many conservationists have been highly skeptical of this survey’s accuracy. We have much work to do to achieve significant reduction in consumer demand for rhino horn, and it’s of course premature to be touting any perceived victories. We agree with Ogilvy & Mather’s decision to return these awards.”

A report by Save the Rhino about horn poisoning to curb the trade has raised doubts about its effectiveness, suggesting that rhino poachers do not care whether or not the horn is tainted, and the treatment may be even raise the price of horn making it even more desirable for poachers and consumers.

Ogilvy’s Vietnam’s rhino horn campaign helped Ogilvy reach the top of the APAC Effies index. The removal of points won for the Rhino Rescue Project idea will not affect the agency’s position at the top of the table.

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