WTPR?! Why Do Some PR Agencies Value Profit More Than Peoples’ Lives?
Jul 26, 2019 / By Danny Saba
Blame the corporate machine, but recent happenings in the news highlight an unfortunate truth: large, publicly listed agencies are in a tricky position when it comes to balancing the demands of shareholders with the values of the people who work for them – or peoples’ lives in general for that matter.
Uh oh… seeing a problem? We are too. And so, evidently, are the bright minds working at world-renowned, iconic agencies like Ogilvy.
Several Ogilvy employees recently questioned their CEO John Seifert about the company’s newly revealed work with US Customs and Border Protection, according to an internal meeting recording obtained by Buzzfeed News.
And what followed left the team here at ThinkInk thinking…
The CBP has been one of the agencies charged with responding to the flow of adults and children into the US from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
The employees expressed frustration with working with a client they believed went against their personal and professional values. They’re referring mainly to the dire conditions at the US border, and subsequent unfortunate casualties.
“We are a business of morals and influence, and our perspective can’t just be economic. This is about people, not just about money,” said one employee.
“We’re willing to work with companies that are allowing children to die and that are running concentration camps,” another employee said.
But Seifert said the work would go ahead. In his response, among other things, Seifert touched on how Ogilvy’s work with CBP was limited to helping the government agency recruit applicants.
“The assignment they wanted for us to work on was very progressive,” Seifert said. The work focused on helping CBP recruit diverse candidates. “I can’t get global entry without their services. I can’t come into the country without their services. We can’t stop drugs and other things coming into the country without what they do. They do many good things.”
Citing the agency’s work with BP, tobacco companies and Coca-Cola, Seifert also said “There’s almost no client who walks a perfect line of doing nothing but good for the world.”
These examples are serious stuff. But the core principle is relevant to agencies of all industries and campaigns of any type.
Agencies Walk the Blurred Line Between People and Profit
As agencies (and humans!!!), where do we draw the line when it comes to the clients we serve and the brands we represent?
We’re thinking, planning and doing at a time where brands take political stands and are more human than ever. Because this is what connects us consumers on an emotional level and fosters deep loyalty. But to deliver these types of campaigns effectively, we need to be emotionally invested ourselves in the work we produce.
This means agencies should evaluate how their clients’ values align with their own – and everyone who works for them. Profit shouldn’t be the only factor when we rely on great people to produce great work. Because people work with (and for) brands with causes they stand for. And this is where niche, specialized agencies can have the upper hand.
As loyalty technology specialists we’re immensely proud of the clients we represent, because they help consumers connect with and engage with the brands they love in novel, exciting and better ways. They don’t hurt anyone and they don’t destroy families. We’re inherently passionate about loyalty and tech, and value the infinite benefits they can bring to consumers’ lives now and in the future. And so does every one of our clients.
Would we work with a client that didn’t share this common vision or who went against some of our deep-seated, most intrinsic values? No. Because smaller niche agencies who aren’t beholden to meeting share prices or stakeholders’ financial interests have the openness, the nimbleness and the humanness to say no.
It’s clear the future of agency/client/brand relationships is at a crossroads. And we believe the winning ones will be those who walk a clear line in favor of people over profits first.
Do you share our values? Let’s stay in touch.
Sign up for our insights on the convergence of business and PR