Modern Marketing

Ogilvy in spotlight over 'propaganda' film promoting border detention centers

By Jennifer Faull | Deputy Editor

July 5, 2019 | 4 min read

Ogilvy is facing criticism over its relationship with the US Department of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) following the publication of a video seemingly promoting a Border Patrol processing center.

The non-profit Raices, which provides legal support to immigrants, highlighted a video which was published hours earlier by the US CBP in Arizona on Thursday (4 June).

It shows chief patrol agent Roy Villareal telling viewers he wants to "dispel some of the misinformation out there on our detention facilities" before giving a tour of the supply room and a cell "which has fresh water".



It was published 24 hours after the Department of Homeland Security issued a warning about "dangerous overcrowding" and "squalid" environments in Border Patrol facilities.

Raices described the response video as “state propaganda” and called out Ogilvy for supporting the PR efforts.

Ogilvy has since faced mounting backlash over its ties to the government department.

The agency declined to comment.

The Drum understands that Ogilvy was not behind the production of the video published on the @CBPArizona account.

However, the WPP-owned advertising firm does have a contract with US Department of Customs and Border Control after winning a brief last September to provide 'Marketing and Advertising' services.

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According to published documents, the value of the account currently sits at $12m but the “potential value of the award” is nearly $40m and may not end until September 2021.

The services Ogilvy has been tasked to provide include writing, event planning and management, media relations, radio and television analysis, and press.

It is understood that the launch of a recruitment campaign was among its first tasks, with a specific remit of bringing more diverse applicants to work across the different parts of the department.

Some have suggested staff and clients should boycott the agency in light of Ogilvy's ties to the government division.

According to its website, Ogilvy’s London arm has worked with clients including the United Nations and Amnesty International in the past, including a campaign to find a "global solution to the urgent refugee crisis."

The US agency's current clients include Instagram, Brand USA, the Washington Post, Poland Spring and Mattel.

It’s not the first time that the advertising shop has been in the spotlight over its work with controversial clients. In 2017, it was criticized for lobbying the US government on behalf of the National Rifle Association alongside fellow WPP PR firm Prime Policy Group.

The Drum was awaiting comment from CBP at the time of writing.

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