Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide
Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide
A Corporate Profile
By Corporate Watch UK
Completed July 2002
4. Corporate Crimes
- 4.1 Manipulating Perceptions & Promoting Consumerism
- 4.2 Greenwash
- 4.3 Distorting Democratic Processes
- 4.4 Former Ogilvy CEO managing Propaganda War
- 4.5 O&M managing US government’s anti-drugs propaganda
- 4.6 Ignoring human rights abuses: Ogilvy in China
4.1 Manipulating Perceptions & Promoting Consumerism
With their manipulative skills big advertising companies such as O&M aim to ‘manage the hearts and minds of global populations’ for their transnational corporate clients. The fundamental aim is to change people’s behaviour and get them to buy (more & more) products. Since we are already overstretching the world’s natural resources, promoting consumerism can be considered a serious crime. Especially when taken into account that more and more useless products are flooding the world. In addition, advertisements can create false needs and unremitting pressure to buy luxury articles. The psychological effects of advertising are very disturbing. How moral is advertising that appeals to the emotions, feelings like belonging or self-esteem?
Some perceive advertisements as serious cultural pollution. Big corporations increasingly take public space to promote their products, their identity and worldview.
A tremendous amount of resources and creativity goes into advertising. Critics argue that, ideally, creativity should be used to impinge on people’s imagination, and not to serve corporate interests and the creation of a global consumer culture. Big corporations with their enormous budgets can promote their big brands far more easily than small corporations can promote their smaller, local brands. Branding is therefore one of the many factors perpetuating unfair competition. Libel and copyright laws are a brand’s best friend.
One should be aware that advertising is a political act. By promoting corporate goals, ad firms contribute to the economic and political empowerment of big corporations.
The ones benefiting most from global branding, advertising and marketing are those with the biggest budgets (be it large corporations and/or governments). Generally speaking, the ‘big budgets’ pursue common goals such as so-called liberalisation of trade, privatisation, promotion of consumer culture, promotion of biotechnology, etc. (all practices and processes that generate profits and sustain the status quo). As been said, ad firms have grown beyond advertising; they are involved in practices that are even more obvious political by nature, such as the management of public affairs (for governments) and public education campaigns.
By managing reputations Ogilvy enables multinationals to greenwash their practices. Two of the world’s biggest polluters and contributors to climate change, oil company BP and car manufacturer Ford Motor Company, turned to Ogilvy for refurbish their image.
Ogilvy PR Worldwide provided BP with their new visual identity, the flowery-shaped logo. Aim of the so-called global branding initiative was to define the company as environmental responsible. More specifically, Ogilvy aimed at positioning BP ‘as a new type of Energy Company that confronts such difficult issues as the conflict between energy and environmental needs and takes actions beyond what is expected of an oil company.’
Read more: www.ogilvypr.com/casestudy/admin/showtime.cfm?num=191&headtop=3
(Ogilvy PR Worldwide website, Corporate Case Study: BP)
Ford Motor Company
Consumers are sceptical of how corporations (especially car companies) respect the environment, Ogilvy observes. People’s distrust of (car) corporations with regard to their environmental record seems justified, since car culture (and everything that comes along with it, such as big road schemes) is tremendously polluting. Ogilvy created an educational and information source for Ford Motor Company via a “Heroes for the Planet” campaign.
Read more: www.ford.co.za/news/news050400.html
(Ford Motor Company website, Ford News, 5 April 2000)
4.3 Distorting Democratic Processes
“At Ogilvy PR, we understand public policy ? who influences it and who decides it. We also understand how to communicate effectively about policy.”
The power to manipulate democratic political processes through managing public opinion resides in marketing and PR conglomerates such as WPP (of which O&M is part) and Omnicom. Factually, money can buy policy outcomes. Politicians increasingly turn to PR professionals to manage their media and/or public relations.
4.4 Former Ogilvy CEO managing Propaganda War
Former Ogilvy CEO Charlotte Beers (see Board of Management section) is assigned as Under Secretary of State for public diplomacy and public affairs by the US Department of State. She has been asked to sell the US and its war on terrorism to an increasingly hostile world. Her skills attained in advertising prepared her for this job. “The whole idea of building a brand is to create a relationship between the product and its user,” she explains during an interview with BusinessWeek. “We’re going to have to communicate the intangible assets of the United States – things like our belief system and our values.” Beers draws a parallel between her current assignment and her $500 million, mid-1990s campaign [whilst being Ogilvy CEO] to help IBM shake its reputation as an arrogant, out-of-touch powerhouse.
The appointment of an ad woman to this post raised some criticism but Colin Powell, the secretary of state, shrugged it off: “There is nothing wrong with getting somebody who knows how to sell something. We are selling a product. We need someone who can re-brand American foreign policy, re-brand diplomacy.” In an interview with The Guardian Naomi Klein argues why one needs to be wary of mixing the logic of branding with the practice of governance. What it comes down to, Klein argues, is that diversity and debate are the lifeblood of liberty, whilst branding is all about uniformity, sealing of debate and silencing opponents.
Charlotte Beers’ Toughest Sell’, BusinessWeek online, 17 December 2001
America is not a hamburger’, by Naomi Klein, The Guardian, 14 March 2002
4.5 O&M managing US government’s anti-drugs propaganda
Ogilvy and Mather administered a controversial anti-drugs campaign for the US government. The White House program financially rewarded television networks for anti-drugs messages embedded in sitcoms and dramas. Critics say the program was born in secrecy, and embodied a controversial chapter in the government’s efforts to combat drug abuse with a pricey advertising campaign. After receiving much criticism, the programme has been quietly terminated.
Read more about how the White House secretly hooked network TV on its anti-drug message: www.salon.com/news/feature/2000/01/13/drugs/index.html
Ogilvy overcharging US Gov’t
In its effort to support the government’s anti-drugs propaganda, Ogilvy & Mather deliberately overcharged its client. Mid-June 2001, the Government Accounting Office issued a report on allegations that Ogilvy & Mather falsified billing records for the program after the contract failed to meet the agency’s revenue projections in 1999. The GAO concluded that Ogilvy altered timesheets on 3,100 hours of questionable work billed to the government and also overcharged for contract employees.
In March 2002 Multinational Monitor reported that the US subsidiary of O&M had agreed to pay the United States $1.8 million to resolve claims that the company overcharged the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP).
Using fear of terrorism to pursue war on drugs
In spite of the over-billing scam (see above), the US gov’t again turned to O&M for another anti-drugs campaign. Shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, the drug office contacted Ogilvy asking for ideas on how to link the war on drugs to terrorism in an ad campaign. The drug office knew that the Taliban was partially funded by sales of opium, which can be refined into heroin. What followed, said Tony Kaye, who produced the ads, was ‘unprecedented’ fact checking between the drug office and government agencies, including the FBI, DEA, CIA, and the departments of Defence and State.
The ads aired in February 2002. The two ads, which cost nearly $3.5 million to place during the widely watched Fox television broadcast, claim that money to purchase drugs likely ends up in the hands of terrorists and narco-criminals. ‘Where do terrorists get their money?’ asks one of the ads, which portrays a terrorist buying explosives, weapons and fake passports. ‘If you buy drugs, some of it might come from you.’
The ads kicked off a four-to-six-week nationwide campaign, which also included ads on radio and in 293 newspapers (including The Washington Post), an augmented Web site (www.theantidrug.com) and teaching materials to be distributed to middle and high school students. Estimated cost: $10 million. Even before they aired, the ads drew criticism from groups that favour drug decriminalisation and treatment programs instead of harsh criminal penalties. Another disturbing point is the fact that the ads draw attention away from the real, fundamental causes of terrorism, many of which can be traced back to US foreign policies and global inequality.
4.6 Ignoring human rights abuses: Ogilvy in China
Ogilvy is reportedly about to make the first ever move by a foreign public relations firm into the Chinese PR market. Such an investment has only been possible since China joined the World Trade Organisation (WTO) at the end of 2001.
Olympic games 2008 in China
Beijing’s victory in the battle to host the 2008 Olympic Games is worth a lot of money to Western businesses. The Beijing and Chinese governments will spend more than $20bn to get the city ready for the games. Big deals will be on offer; deals that will reach into every sector of the economy – tourism, information technology, broadband internet, advertising, water purification, a light rail link. China-based multinationals have been lining up to sponsor Beijing’s Olympic bid committee. Ogilvy has acted as an advisor on the Olympic bid. In China, like anywhere else, sponsorship brings brand recognition and possibly other ‘conveniences’.
Corporate Caes Study: BP, Ogilvy PR Worldwide website: www.ogilvypr.com/casestudy/admin/showtime.cfm?num=191&headtop=3 accessed 28 May 2002
 See: Carbusters, Action Against Car Culture, Carbusters website: www.carbusters.ecn.cz/
 Follow the links to Ford Motor Company on the Ogilvy website [www.ogilvy.com/] -Our work – Agency portfolio- Ford motor Company -the Campaign, accessed 28 May 2002
’Public Affairs’, Ogilvy PR website: www.ogilvypr.com/pa.cfm accessed 6 June 2002
 ‘Charlotte Beers’ Toughest Sell. Can she market America to hostile Muslims abroad?’, BusinessWeek online, 17 December 2001, BusinessWeek online, at: www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/01_51/b3762098.htm accessed 24 May 2002
’America is not a hamburger’, by Naomi Klein, The Guardian, 14 March 2001, The Guardian website: www.guardian.co.uk/Archive/Article/0,4273,4373814,00.html accessed 24 May 2002
’The quiet death of prime-time propaganda’, by Daniel Forbes, 30 June 2001, Salon.com: www.salon.com/news/feature/2001/06/30/ondcp/print.html accessed 24 May 2002
 ‘Wasteful spending by the ONDCD media campaign,’ by Preston Peet, Special to HighWitness News , HighWitness News website: www.hightimes.com/News/2001_08/SYNC.html accessed 24 May 2002
’Taking the drug Czar’, Multinational Monitor, March 2002, Vol. 23, No. 3, website: http://multinationalmonitor.org/mm2002/02march/march02names.html accessed 6 June 2002
’Marketing and advertising: using fear of terrorism to pursue war on drugs’, by Frank Ahrens, The Washington Post, 4 February 2002, website: http://loper.org/~george/archives/2002/Feb/89.html accessed 6 June 2002
’WPP is first to venture into China’, business news, story filed: 10 June 2002, Ananova website: www.ananova.com/business/story/sm_604347.html?menu=business.latestheadlines accessed 12 June 2002
Beijing win is big business’, by Mary Hennock, BBC News, 13 July 2001, BBC News website:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/business/newsid_1436000/1436911.stm accessed 12 June 2002