working towards great client service

Archive for the category “Ethics & Compliance”

Half of the truth

Truong Nam Phuong – s3394158

As a student in Communication major and future PR practitioner as I hope, ethical issues are always one of my major concerns. However, I find it really difficult and complicated to apply ethical theory on practical PR, especially in Vietnam context. Therefore, I come to Mr. Hoang Hoa, a really well-experienced PR practitioner from a well-known and reputable agency in Vietnam, Ogilvy Vietnam (Glass door, n.d.). In this interview, he shares with me his opinion towards this topic, his experience throughout 7 years in the industry and an example case study which I find quite typical.

2013-12-20 16.33.04

 Figure 1. Proof of life (taken by author)

Theory vs. Practice

At first, he listens about my concern, about how we, as students in Communication major, have always been lead to be completely ethical in real life career. Just as I read in an article of PRSA (Gombita, J 2013), generally, a PR practitioner is required to always be responsible, honest and accurate in all communication, act for the best interest of the public, always present fully truthful information, protect confidential and private information, and avoid conflicts of interest. However, it is so difficult to always be completely ethical like that and even if it is possible, is it worth?

He thinks about my question for a while, and then he responds firstly that being ethical is surely worth. PR is the service of trust, built on trust and to gain trust. However, it is really complicated in practice.

Specifically in Vietnam context, with 7 years working in the industry, he thinks that ethical issues have been underestimated in Vietnam. The reasons are the public in Vietnam tend not to care a lot, what they care most is the price and then the quality of the service or products they receive; therefore, when the public do not care, client do not want to seriously put effort in and as a result, PR agency do not feel it is a need to be completely ethical. He shows me the article of Professor Phan Thanh Lân (n.d.), who has the same opinion that ethical issues in Vietnam have been outweighed by profits and interests.

The case study from Vinamilk

To clarify his point, he gives me a case study from Vinamilk. Vinamilk has been known as one of the biggest milk company in Vietnam with great trust from consumers (VTC news, 2010). Vinamilk has been marketed its products as 100% fresh milk, implying that most products from Vinamilk are all fresh milk from high quality cows. However, the fact is that about 70% of its products are ‘sterilized reconstituted milk’ (Dairy Vietnam). And instead of being completely honest with the public, PR representatives of Vinamilk are required keep this information from them. So what did they do? Being ethical, honest, deliver fully truthful information but to displease the client Vinamilk, or satisfy the client but against the ethical requirement of PR practitioners?

The decision of the PR is between the lines, telling ‘half of the truth’. They support Vinamilk to use confusing names such as UHT milk and pasteurized milk, which are not lies but Vietnamese consumers generally do not understand fully their meanings. Frankly, it is not a serious damage problem since sterilized reconstituted milk is also good for health. The problem here is Vietnamese consumers prefer to think that they are consuming real fresh milk and that can raise the profits of the client Vinamilk and satisfy them; therefore, even when the truth is not horrible, the PR agency still decides to follow the client, telling ‘half of truth’.

When I ask Hoa whether he thinks the PR agency of client is right or wrong, he tells me: ’Half of a bread is a bread, but half of the truth is not the truth.’

Word count: 630

Reference list

Dairy Vietnam, ‘Định nghĩa về các loại sữa’, viewed 10 January 2014, <>.

VTC news 2010, ‘Vinamilk – DN Việt Nam đầu tiên được Forbes vinh danh’, VTC news, 14 December, viewed 10 January 2014, <>.

Phan Thanh Lân n.d., ‘Đạo đức kinh doanh trong cơ chế thị trường VN’, Trường Chính Trị tỉnh Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu, viewed 10 January 2013, <>.

Gombita, J 2013, ‘There’s No Spinning It Differently: Ethics in Public Relations Takes Ongoing Work’, PRSAY, 12 September, viewed 10 January 2014, <>.

Glass door n.d, ‘Ogilvy Public Relations Reviews’, Glass door, viewed 10 January 2014, <>.



Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is a very important part for every business. Have you ever wondered why this company/business is more successful than others? I believe the question is not so difficult to answer. It is all about how to build and maintain the good relationship and satisfy your clients’ needs. In addition, once you can effective utilize this model, it leads to increase your sales or at least maintain stability in revenue (ForicomIT 2013).

In a sunny afternoon, I had an appointment with Mr. Bui Viet Ha who is the founder and CEO of Green Life organization. He worked for many companies and now is running his own organization. Despite of tight schedule of work, he still tries to take some time to contribute in my paper. I would like to say thank you to Mr. Bui Viet Ha for supporting me in my project. With 4 years’ experience in marketing industry, he shared with me many examples to clarify my questions about the topic. He said: “As a client/customer, we always expect the best and good services. Therefore, we also have to understand the clients and do the best for them”. He explained, being a bridge between clients and the company is very hard because different clients have their own criteria about the work. Maintaining and building long-term relationship with them are much more difficult. It takes time and effort. Then he showed me 3 tips to reach the goal.

Emphasize trust by ethical behavior

Trevino and Nelson (2007) stated that the fundamental core of employees and organizations is ethics. Therefore, an agency should practice ethical behavior inside out to shape a solid mind set. There might be no reward from doing right thing. However, “As human being, we should care enough about people because we also want them to treat us as the way we treat them”, Mr. Ha said.  In fact, the commitment, solidarity and satisfaction can bring by high quality of ethical behavior. In contrast, unethical practices damage company’s reputation. The relation between ethical and reputation is very close; it explains why this behavior is very important for companies and individuals (Ha 2013)


(Figure 1. Reproduced form: Ethical Framework)

If there are some unethical practice which represent by members of company, the agency lose its reputation and clients’ belief. He explained the fundamental role of our work is to protect integrity and the public trust to enhance the reputation. Many years ago, when he was working for IKEA, there was a difficult decision of cutting off a big client when they were attempting to influence his company to against other clients. To maintain the reputation of trust and moral standard, ethical behaviors are needed even saying “NO” to clients. In addition, talking about communication industry which includes PR and advertising, he stated, people are lack of knowledge about the industry. They assume it with journalist or sales. Therefore, they have some misunderstanding about the job.  People said that the industry teaches practitioners to tell lies and cover mistakes. Therefore, they would never believe in what communication practitioners say. Thus, we cannot drive that thought. In fact, we did not intend to do so. Johnson and Ridley (2008) cited that the most important element of professionals is ethics. Thus, every company has its own Code of Conduct which guide employees and measure the behaviors of its staff. Also, workshops and trainings are offers to enhance our knowledge as well as motivate our moral standard. Therefore, it is fair to say that the industry make people life more comfortable and convenient when serving new products and services.

Get to know your client’s business

Understanding your clients helps build and maintain good relationship with them (Ipsos MORI 2009). Clients’ information can be collected by clients’ profiles, previous client’s data, personal meetings, etc. Ha pointed out some reasons that emphasize the important of doing this step. Firstly, collecting information from clients can help to improve your products and services. Based on the information, your current and future activities will somehow enhance to fulfill clients’ needs. By the way, you achieve your goal and your clients get what they expect. Therefore, win-win relationship is built. Secondly, clients can tell you things that you do not know. Actually, not every clients give comments about this. They just tell their friends about their bad experiences. Ha emphasized that personally he does not talk directly to the manager when using bad services. Even though there is a suggestion box to collect customer’s feedback, he never uses it. He suggested: “Clients might tell your mistakes through performing your enthusiastic and proactive in consulting with them”. Mostly important, if you want to win client-agency relationship, you have to listen more than talk (Solomon 2008). As a communicator, we would like to hear the opinions and feedback from client. However, effective communication comes from two-way discussion. Mr. Ha stated that discussions and questions are needed, based on that, we have more understanding about our clients and they also get to know more about us.Image

(Figure 2. Reproduced from: Liez 2013)

Be respectful

Love needs compromise and mutual understanding to blossom.  Client-agency relationship is the same. The fundamental factor of a strong relationship is respect (Crosling 2008). In business context, respect means to control your emotional behavior when the conversation leads to conflicts. Also, it means carefully listen and effectively respond to clients’ concerns, said Mr. Ha. For example, when the disagreement occurs, it is better to control your personal emotion to have a calmly discussion about the issue. If you and your partner/client cannot make the same decision, take some time to think and walk away from the situation and come back with appropriate and professional performance. Fripp (2003) believes that individuals in the company are the face of the business/organization. Moreover, Mr. Ha emphasized not only your business but also your personal brand is displayed through your actions. Therefore, the relationship is built or destroyed based on your performance. Furthermore, even though people do not know each other or do not have close relationship, a respect environment encourages sharing opinions and experiences between parties. For communication practitioner, it is a very helpful tool. Therefore, you have to make sure that you behave in a dignified way and gain positive criteria from clients.

After going through the three points, they share same perspective of being honesty and integrity. On the other hand, the tips can be different form each person. However, it emphasizes the same goal of producing and serving better products or services. Building and maintain good relationships with clients is a long process.  “It is hard to build but easy to destroy”, Mr. Ha said, “Always put your client’s benefits in the top of mind and see what you get back”, he smiled.

ImageFigure 3. Proof of life (Taken by waiter)

Words: 1,109

Written by Nguyen Thi Hong Thuy (s3312596)


Crosling, R 2008, Building Highly Effective Relationship, viewed 3 September, <;.

Ethical Frameworks, ‘What is ethics?’, ethical framework, image, viewed 5 September 2013, <;

Ipsos MORI 2009, Understanding your stakeholders: A best practice guide for the public sector, Social Research Institute, London.

Fripp, P2013, ‘Everyone Represents Your Company’, Fripp, viewed 3 September 2013, <;

ForicomIT 2013, ‘CRM – The importance of Customer Relationship Management’, Foricomit, 2 January, viewed 5 September 2013, <>

Johnson, CE 2007, Ethics in the workplace, Sage Publications, USA.

Liez, K 2013, ‘How to Tell Your Clients Their Mistakes’, image, naldzgraphic, viewed 5 September 2013, <;

Solomon (2008), R 2008, The Art of Client Service, Kalan Publishing, NY.

Trevino, LK &Nelson KA 2007, Managing Business Ethics, 4th edn, John Wiley & Sons, USA.

Viet Ha, Bui 2013, interview, 20 September 2013.


When someone is holding a leader position, it does not necessarily mean they should. Sometimes, a good leader is defined when there is a bad one, so how can we identify a bad leader and why does it matter?

Consciously, you will feel uncomfortable when working with non-organized and messy people. Thus you try not to be like them by organizing and putting yourself into his/her shoes, then think ‘if I were him/her, I would do this’ in order to improve yourself. Similar to leadership, a bad leader will teach you how to be a good leader. I will introduce my audience three ways to define a bad leadership. Those might be obvious, yet apparently are not.

It is such a deep conversation with my interviewer Tran Nguyen Lan Khanh (Ms), who is currently a Card Operation Manager at HSBC for more than four years. At this position, she has to lead 30 members in the team Card, the biggest team she ever had. In a cozy and quiet space, our conversation become more interesting with Khanh’s stories regarding her leadership lessons, which she has collected in 20 years working in bank industry.   Image

Reproduced by: Nguyen Hoang Minh Thi 2013

Leaders who don’t care about other faces, probably won’t be good

When Ms. Khanh had just graduated, she worked in a front line service officer for a French bank. She met her most memorable boss because her boss was very aggressive. The boss usually approaches her employees by commenting and giving negative feedback directly immediately among others. Khanh shared that this was giving negative feedback is a sensitive issue, yet her boss did it in publicity, without a concern of employees’ attitudes, feelings and faces. If you did not care and respect employees faces, you shouldn’t expect they to respect and protect yours.

“Just because you are a leader it doesn’t mean you have power to abuse your followers”, Khanh said. Importantly, this was a front line service and customers were not willing to hear those things.

This is an example of a bad leader, have you ever done it before, if yes this is time for you to choose a different and effective approach. Apparently, it does not relate to cultural issue, because her boss is Vietnamese, it is inappropriate leadership style. Basically, I would love to show you a good approach that my audiences should practice. It will be a process, buffer-reasons-bad news-positive close (Thill and Bovee 2008). Closing the message positively, yet still honest and respectful manners will convince followers and employee commitment (Robert 2006).

Without knowledge a leader cannot convince followers, even themselves

The music seems to be gentler when Khanh started her second journey in a different bank. This is when she realized that knowledge was a leader’s power to persuade and gain respect from employees.

This time the boss was a secretary and because the head officer assigned so she becomes the brand manager without professional skills and knowledge for career advancement. Khanh told me that there was a time Khanh was given to writing a plan to solve a bank problem.  Ironically, the brand manager wanted Khanh to do what she said, which was illogical, and Khanh could not say anything. Hence, she decided to propose her plan to the head office in Hanoi, and het approval. She told me that she had ever in this situation before, it was a dilemma, and she was standing between the head office in Hanoi and her boss. Ten years ago, the communication channel was limited and obviously you cannot tell everything to the head office in Hanoi. The boss still did not allow Khanh to implement the plan even it was approved and that lady did not have any professional skills regarding account and finance.

In a nut shell, I hardly believe a leader, who lack of professional skill, could lead a team well, and this was not a good leader, Khanh highlighted the point in her conclusion.

Bring personal issue into work place and treat employees unfairly, a good leader won’t do this

Are you a personal who can tell everything to your leader/boss?

Are you a boss/leader who can tell everything to your employees?

As you can see the point here, in work place there is still a boundary between work and personal stories. Khanh continued her career in Vietnam Airlines and she thought that this will be the last station for her to sustain the career. She cooperated well with her boss, contributed impressed performance and could not expect there was the second good leader like this. One ordinary day, Khanh told her that she was going to marry and gave her the invitation. My boss face was darker and since then my work did not run smoothly, we didn’t talk much as usual, Khanh shared. Working in a same office, no communication, no response and Khanh could not hold that feeling too long, so she decide to meet her, yet thing was not improved.

Taking a deep breath and ‘if you were failed to lead your anger and jealousy then you would not get commitment and respect from followers’, Khanh summarized.

Push and pull leadership style

‘Those stories that I told you was about how a bad leader should be, if you were not in the list. ‘Well congratulation!’ she talked with a smile. Finally, Khanh introduced a leadership model that she has used to lead 30 employees at currently bank; she said it was PUSH and PULL model. Immediately, I gave a pencil and paper for Khanh to demonstrate the model. When leaders prefer ‘push’ style, it means they mainly focus on results, pushing followers to get things done. While, ‘pull’ regards encouragement, support and motivation, Khanh explained what she has learnt in the training course a few weeks ago. Hence, although she clearly pointed out the goals for employees, she tended to apply ‘pull’ leadership style.


Reproduced by: Nguyen Hoang Minh Thi 2013

Coincidentally, there is similar leadership model, which includes two variables ‘concern for people’ and ‘concern for result’, the Blake and Mouton leadership grid (Dunphy 1996). Here is the model. It’s more implicated when compares to Khanh’s model.

Blake and Mouton leadership grid

Blake and Mouton leadership grid

Unfortunately, time flies and we ended the interview in a promising feeling about another talk toward this kind of leadership. If you feel interested in the Blake and Mouton leadership grid, my next article is waiting for you to explore. Before leaving the blog, ask yourself – Are you a bad leader?


Word count: 1079

Nguyen Hoang Minh Thi_s3324418


Dunphy, S M 1996, ‘The Entrepreneurial Grid’, Journal of Business and Entrepreneurship, vol. 8, no. 2, pp. 69-76.

Robert, J V 2006, Employee Engagement and Commitment, SHRM Foundation, Alexandria.

Thill, J V & Bovee, C L 2008, Excellent in Business Communication, 8th edn, Pearson Education Inc, Upper Saddle River.

PR ethics in a blogger’s eyes: Would you sell your soul to the clients?

By Nguyen Thi Thuy Linh – s33099990

Growing up, I was always the troublemaker in my family. Mom’s punishment back then used to be my best friend; we hung out together almost every day. Yet the only time Mom made me cry was when she accused me of stealing her money, which later turned out to be an experiment. Not only did the incident help my Mom verify that distraction could immediately stop the hiccups I was having, but it also made me realize how strongly I detested unethical behaviors prompted by the greed for money. That personal value, however, has constantly been challenged during the twenty years I have been living in this materialistic society. Knowing that the battle between ethics and money will get even fiercer once I enter the workplace, I decided to seek for advice from one of the top three most prominent bloggers in Vietnam, who is now the founder of Robbey Communications PR agency – Robbey Le (Cimigo 2011). In a room filled with the delightful fragrance of tea, we had a long talk about life in attempt to find the answer to one of its hardest questions: how can we protect our ethics in a profit-driven business world?

Figure 1. Reproduced from: Le 2012

Ethical blogging: I do not love the way you lie

Defined as the set of values that we should embrace along with the responsibilities and actions we take in order to manifest these virtues, ethics is one of the key issues in any modern societies (Theaker 2004). In the context of public relations, ethics can be measured in terms of honesty and integrity (Bishop 2009). However, with the rise of social media which empowers blogging to function as an effective PR tool, companies are paying bloggers to write positive articles about their products, which is argued to consequently tarnish the credibility of PR (Duke & Davila 2009). As a blogger himself, Robbey looks at this issue in a rather more flexible manner: ‘Ethical blogging means the opinions must truly be yours’: no matter whether the blog entries are paid for or not, their content must be trustworthy and newsworthy, and also reflect the writers’ beliefs. Letting out a sigh, Robbey shared that there are some bloggers in Vietnam who tend to badmouth brands that do not ‘bribe’ them. ‘But the readers are not fools. With the sea of information nowadays, it is not impossible for them to check if you are lying. Unethical blogging will leave a permanent stain on your reputation’, he remarked.

Ethical behaviors help protect reputation

Money is not the most valuable asset

Acknowledging his position as an opinion leader – a person who is capable of influencing others (Lamb, Hair & McDaniel 2008), Robbey is also aware of the responsibility that comes along; thus, before accepting any client, he always does research on the company and their campaigns to see if they match his values and interest. ‘I only work on projects that I truly feel passionate about’, he said. When asked why he did not take advantage of his influence to take on as many clients as possible, he just laughed. Then all of a sudden, the famous blogger told me in a sincere tone: ‘Once you start chasing after money, you will gradually start losing your personality, your values, and your taste. Money only shows short-termed results. It is your own colors that determine your success in the long run.’

Personal values over money

PR ethics: An honest agency-client relationship 

The relevance of ethics as well as the concepts of honesty and integrity applies to not only the relationship between the PR practitioner and the audience or between the PR practitioner and himself/herself, but also his/her relationship with the clients. In the business context, ethics is tightly linked to professionalism (Parsons 2008; Pratt 1991), which manifests itself in the agency-client relationship as mutual respect (Bivins 2006). From the perspective of the agency, it refers to the autonomy needed to fulfill their role as a trustworthy partner and advisor: the agency should be given the right and the freedom to come up with solutions that they deem as most appropriate for the client instead of being forced to follow the clients all the time (Bivins 2006). ‘Some clients tend to consider the agencies their pawns’, Robbey shared. ‘But they must realize that influencers are those with strong personalities, and strong personalities won’t put up with that kind of treatment’.

Clients should no longer treat agencies as their pawns

His opinion falls in line with that of Salacuse (2000): a great advisor is one who knows when and how to disagree with the client. That explains why Robbey hardly ever bends to the clients’ demands: he refuses to deliver anything but what he believes is the best for their campaigns, even if it means conflicts. ‘Aren’t you afraid you will lose clients?’ I asked out of curiosity. ‘No big deal. I’ve argued with some of my clients before, but when they launch new campaigns, they still call me. I believe if you work with ethics, the clients will return,’ he remarked. However, it does not mean that Robbey opposes to Solomon’s statement: ‘There is no no in your client vocabulary’ (2008, p. 105). In fact, both of them emphasize on the importance of negotiation: ‘To convince someone to follow your ideas means to put yourself in their shoes and look at the issue from their perspective before trying to explain why your ways are better. Even when you are right, never allow yourself to look down on them,’ Robbey stated. ‘That is also the code of ethics of a PR practitioner’.

‘It’s not about the money, money, money…’ (Jessie J 2011)

Not only did our long talk on that rainy Saturday afternoon reinforce my belief that ‘Price tag’ is indeed the theme song of my life, but it also brought about precious lessons regarding the dignity of professional communicators: our personal values are not for sales. Much as money is important, there are more valuable assets that we need to treasure: honesty, integrity, respect for ourselves and for others, all of which are essential in building strong client-agency relationships. With the main focus put on creativity and ethics, agencies should hold on to their values when encountering clients who use money to win the upper hand in the relationship. For me, when caught in situations where I waver, I shall recall the words Robbey said that day as a mantra: ‘Personality is a creative person’s most valuable asset. Don’t trade it for some mere checks.’

(Word count: 1086) 

Proof of life



Bishop, B 2009, ‘Authentic communication: A new PR litmus test for corporate ethics’, Public Relations Tactics, September, p. 19.

Bivins, TH 2006, ‘Responsibility and accountability’, in C Bronstein & K Fitzpatrick (eds), Ethics in Public Relations: Responsible advocacy, SAGE Publications, California, pp. 19-38.

Cimigo 2011, Cimigo youth report – Vietnam’s Generation Z, Cimigo, viewed 21 August 2012, Cimigo database.

Duke, WT & Davila, RJ 2009, ‘Point/Counterpoint: Does social media affect the PR profession and ethics negatively?’, Public Relations Tactics, September, pp. 18-19.

Jessie J 2011, ‘Price tag’, Who you are, audio CD, Lava, New York, US.

Lamb, CW, Hair, JF & McDaniel, C 2008, Marketing, Cengage Learning, Ohio, US.

Le, R 2012, conversation, 1 September.

Le, R 2012, ‘Portrait’, image, Facebook, 25 July, viewed 1 September 2012, <;.

Parsons, P 2008, Ethics in Public Relations: A guide to best practice, Kogan Page Publishers, London, UK.

Pratt, CB 1991, ‘Public Relations: The empirical research on practitioner ethics’, Journal of Business Ethics, vol. 10, pp. 229-236.

Salacuse, JW 2000, The wise advisor: What every professional should know about consulting and counseling, Greenwood Publishing Group, Connecticut, US.

Solomon, R 2008, The art of client service, Kaplan Publishing, New York, US.

Theaker, A 2004, The Public Relations handbook, 2nd edn, Routledge, Oxfordshire, UK.

‘Mad Men’(*) for a Sane Audience: Advertising Ethics in an Adman’s Eyes

by Hoang Tran Bao Quyen

My eyes fixed on the view outside the window through which beams of bright sunlight from a baking hot afternoon shone directly into my eyes, making it hard for me to see the person sitting in front of me, who’d just posed a question that I should respond in the next two or three seconds. I could hear buzzing sounds of people busying working on my left, and on my right, that of the air-conditioner. OK, time to provide the answer, and as much as I’d love to articulate a response opposing to the one I was about to give, I couldn’t. I said to him: ‘It has something to do with the brand.’

The person then proceeded to elaborate on the different images about he and I that were projected through our own choices of shoes – his, Jack Purcell, and mine, Chuck Taylor. This person is George Nguyen (**), the Managing Director of TBWA Vietnam (***), and the question he’d asked me before was ‘Why do you choose to wear the shoes you’re wearing?’ It wasn’t a proud thing to confess, but during my interview with him in TBWA Vietnam’s office, in which I was the interviewer and him the interviewee, this scene of his raising questions back to me happened a lot.

Figure 1. Reproduced from Converse 2012

Figure 2. Reproduced from Converse 2012

–>Can you tell the difference brand personalities between a pair of Jack Purcell and a pair of Chuck Taylor?

Now my dear readers, I’d like to pose the same question to you: Why do you choose to buy and wear the shoes that you have? Your answers vary, but my guess is they all more or less correlate with communicating your self-images to the world via the products or brands that you purchase. And advertising, indisputably, is one the major sources that shape your ideas about brands and products.

The world’s $490-billion industry (WPP 2011) has long been coming under constant social and economical criticisms centering around ethical themes such as invading consumers’ consciousness, provoking desires as well as promoting materialism, envy, anxiety, dissatisfaction, etc. (Fowles 1996). But for you and me, dear readers, we’re entering the industry not only as mere consumers but also as future admen/ad-women; the ethical issues we’re about to face aren’t solely confined within the message that we deliver to the consumers, but including the interplay of integrity between our agencies and our clients. In my opinion, knowing early where you stand personally on these issues will help you stay strong when influxes of ethical dilemmas coming at you in reality. Therefore, by presenting to you George Nguyen’s perspective on this matter, I hope his ideas can inspire you to determine your very own way.

No Logo by Naomi Klein
Figure 3. Reproduced from Naomi Klein 2012

In 1999, Naomi Klein, a Canadian award-winning journalist, published the book ‘No Logo’, in which the target of her criticism is none other than branding. In her influential book, she demonstrates the negative effects of the practice of branding on consumers, whose private minds and public space are voraciously invaded by branding activities and hence, leaving consumers no sense of freedom (Klein 1999).  Needless to say, her ideas continue the long-held tradition of attacks on advertising by scholars from humanity and social sciences. These attacks are summed up in the three following statements by Jerry Kirkpatrick’s In Defense of Advertising (2007, p. 23):

  • ‘Advertising coercively forces consumers to buy products they do not need or want.’
  • ‘Advertising is offensive.’
  • ‘Advertising is a tool of monopoly power.’

Regarding Naomi Klein and her book, George believes the author wrote that book for attention-seeking purpose and judging by her photograph, she clearly does pay attention to her image/appearance in public. Regarding the so-called accusations of advertising, he responded: ‘No one is that stupid to watch an ad on television and then runs out to buy that product immediately.’ From what I got in the interview, he has a very strong faith/belief in the rationality of the consumers. His ideas of countering the criticisms are very similar to the arguments that Kirkpatrick (200) set forth in his book in order to defend advertising and in some way, to defend the consumers: The criticisms in many ways deny the consumers of their intelligence, sensibility, and free will to ultimately choose what they want to do or buy.

If you visit the TBWA Worldwide website, you will encounter this philosophy of theirs:

Figure 4. Reproduced from TBWA 2012

Also, that advertising fabricates lies about products and gives them illusory values is in reality, a myth. George used the example of a woman put on her makeup and all to impress her male friend, ‘She becomes more beautiful thanks to makeup, but can we say she isn’t the same person?’ he said. ‘Advertising is about finding the best features of a product and presenting them to the consumers. We don’t force them to buy, we provide them with a means to choose between an iPhone and a Nokia when they need to buy a phone’. After all, how can you hope to sustain your business when you employ the method of cheating and lying to the consumers?

In his words, ethics is ‘treating people fairly and openly, and honesty in doing business’ and it should be the second-most- important thing in doing advertising – the first one is Having fun! Nonetheless, dear future ad practitioners, according to George, the reality of ethics in the business environment in Vietnam can be a shock to you and me. ‘It’s terrible’, so he told. Still, he believes in our young generation that we can make it better. If you happen to enter an agency with unethical practices that go against you conscience and values, his straightforward advice is you should quit.

My dear readers, I entered the TBWA Vietnam’s office with a tint of doubt about the nature of the industry I’m going to be a part of, after the conversation with George Nguyen, I left with a firm conviction about the brighter picture of advertising. My guess is because I’ve already believed in the idea of human’s free will and rationality; I was easily persuaded by his talks. In the end of the day, as George said, can you imagine how boring and grey the world would be without brands and other means to express our personalities? Would you rather have a variety of shoes with different attributes to wear or you want to be all the same as the person next to you? I’ll leave the answer to you.


Wordcount: 1087   


(*) Mad Men: A famous television series about advertising that takes in the 1960s in America.

(**) For George Nguyen’s profile: Please visit this link:

(***) About TBWA Vietnam: Please visit this link:



Converse 2012, ‘Products’, image, Converse, viewed 11 May 2012, <>.

Fowles, J 1996, Advertising and Popular Culture, Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks.

Kirkpatrick, J 2007, In Defense of Advertising: Arguments from Reason, Ethical Egoism and Laissez-Faire Capitalism, TLJ Books, California.

Klein, N 1999, No Logo, Picador, New York.

Naomi Klein, ‘No Logo’, image, Naomi Klein, viewed 11 May 2012, <>.

TBWA 2012, ‘Disruption + Media Arts’, image, TBWA Worldwide, viewed 11 May 2012, <>.

WPP 2011, ‘GroupM forecasts 2012 global ad spending to increase 6.4%’, WPP, viewed 11 May 2012, <>.

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: