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T&A Ogilvy distances itself from consumer body after being linked to arsenic fish sauce saga

taT&A Ogilvy in Vietnam has distanced itself from its involvement in a highly controversial report which sparked concerns over the safety of fish sauce and led to 50 Vietnamese media outlets being fined for publishing false information.

A Government minister named T&A Ogilvy as having sponsored the report from the Vietnam Standards and Consumers Association (Vinastas) which suggested unsafe levels of arsenic in fish sauce was rife.

Vinastas was subsequently accused of releasing its findings in a deliberately misleading way which led to the organisation issuing a public apology, while media organisations were hit with fines.

T&A Ogilvy’s involvement emerged after the agency was named as the report’s sponsor.

Quoted in local media, minister Mai Tien Dung, chairman of the Government Office, said: “The survey was carried out under the sponsorship of the T&A Ogilvy JVC Ltd, contravening the rule that it be independently conducted.”

vinastasBut T&A Ogilvy told Mumbrella Asia that it was not behind the research and only worked with Vinastas on an “exchange of information basis”.

“Our PR team in Vietnam has an upcoming report called Consumer Opinions and Information about Vietnam’s FMCG Market in 2016,” a spokesman said. “In preparing this they collected and analysed opinions from local consumers related to several industries including the fish sauce industry.

“While compiling this report, the team found that Vinastas held information from 2015 about fish sauce products and was planning to carry out further research for release at the end of 2016.

“As this seemed to be both a credible source of information and relevant to our own report, we arranged for an exchange of information with Vinastas. Given the controversy of the Vinastas research, we have decided not to use this information as part of our own report when we launch it in 2017.”

He stressed the partnership between T&A Ogilvy and Vinastas has been reported to government regulators and was a “straightforward information-exchange basis that complied with all applicable laws and regulations”.

ogilvyT&A Ogilvy managing director, DieuCam Nguyen, insisted the “facts of the case do not support any negative interpretation of our involvement” and stressed there were no repercussions for the agency after consideration by the government.

Asked if the agency played any role in the research itself, its content, how it was presented or distributed, Nguyen said: “To reconfirm, as a PR agency, we only assisted and arranged for an exchange of information with Vinastas.

“As reported to the relevant Government regulators, the partnerships between T&A Ogilvy and Vinastas is in a professional set-up and ethical manner, complying with applicable laws and regulations.

Explaining further, she added: “Ogilvy Vietnam has a professional partnerships with a variety  of third parties, and this includes Vinastas. The purpose of this partnership is for us to collect consumer data to produce market reports on key local categories i.e fish sauce, an iconic product in the Vietnam market. We intended to provide this to our clients as part of a wider product in 2017.

“Given the controversy of the Vinastas report, we have decided not to use this report for our communication services going forward.”

The controversy comes five months after Ogilvy handed back two trophies the agency’s Vietnam office won at Cannes for a project to save endangered African rhinos.

It later transpired that some claims made in the supporting case study video were deemed to be false.

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