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Advertising Ethics

Edelman ditches US prisons client connected to migrant controversy


By John Glenday, Reporter

August 1, 2019 | 2 min read

Edelman has seen off a PR crisis of its own making after dropping a US prisons client it worked hard to win amid an internal employee revolt over its association with the operation of controversial border detention centres in the US.

Back in May, the PR firm pitched its services to The GEO Group, a private prisons provider, as it became embroiled in a media storm over its role in separating migrant children from their parents at the Mexican border in line with US government policy. At the time Edelman pledged to ‘proactively correct the record’ but the controversy continued to gain traction in the media.

The handbrake turn was sparked by fear that news of its involvement would be leaked to the press by disaffected employees amid heightened tensions over the hardline immigration policy, with executives electing to sanction a clean break.

Confirming its volte-face in a short statement to the New York Times, Edelman said: “Edelman takes on complex and diverse clients. We ultimately decided not to proceed with this work.”

Mirroring divisions in broader society Edelman staff appeared split along ideological lines with some reportedly critical of their ‘pearl-clutching’ colleagues and others said to have been ‘beyond disturbed’ by the moral implications.

Edelman has made great play of its ethical credentials by refusing to work with clients dealing in tobacco, coal and guns.

Advertising Ethics

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Edelman staffs more than 600 creatives and planners globally. Edelman has served as creative lead on a number of campaigns for brands like Sonos (Nasdaq Bell), HP...

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