Rewriting the History of the History Channel Ads

Somebody is lying.

This is an update to my previous story regarding the anti-American ads designed by Ogilvy & Mather. I mentioned in that article that History Channel parent A&E Television Networks has been issuing cease & desist letters to websites and others who were running the Ogilvy designed advertisements that featured the History Channel logo. This afternoon, I found one website which has already received a letter: MarkLives.com.

MarkLives received a cease and desist letter from AETN, parent company of The History Channel, demanding we remove advertising material for The History Channel from this site. For the record, the campaign in question was submitted by Multichoice agency Ogilvy Johannesburg, along with the information in the copy still below to MarkLives.com who published it in good faith.

The AETN letter read in part;

AETN is the owner of numerous trademarks associated with its History network, including the world famous marks THE HISTORY CHANNEL and the H logo (which are the subject of numerous trademark registrations worldwide).

Neither the use and display of AETN’s trademarks nor the purported advertisements themselves were authorized by AETN. As such, your display and hosting of this unauthorized content violates our rights under relevant law and constitutes, among other things, trademark infringement, dilution and tarnishment of our brands and marks, misrepresentation, interference with contract, and unfair business practices.

A&E is not taking this apparent abuse of their brand lightly, nor lying down. Please note the date of the original post at MarkLives is yesterday, presumably prior to my article at 9pm last night.

It also seems clear I’m not the only person who can’t get a response from Ogilvy.

Normally we would stand firm against such editorial interference. However, in an email to AETS, Ogilvy Johannesburg and MarkLives.com, Graham Pfuhl, Marketing and Sales Director at Multichoice, stated that the campaign in question was in fact rejected by Multichoice, and confirmed “no History Channel ads can be published without the prior authorization of AETN.”

Would an ad agency really go ahead and produce a campaign without some sort of authorisation? The point remains unclear as no official correspondence was received from Ogilvy Johannesburg at the time of publication.

That’s certainly the question, isn’t it? Multichoice is a major Cable/Satellite television provider. But the big news comes at the end of the article. MarkLives.com has posted the copy provided to them along with the ads, by Ogilvy Johannesburg:

George Orwell once observed that: “History is written by the winners.” This thought proves only too true when looking at little known facts of history, when compared to more well-known facts, especially in the realms of conflict, conquest and civilization. Every story has two sides. In keeping with the History Channel’s slogan of “Know the story” Ogilvy Johannesburg created a campaign that showed well-known historical facts alongside lesser-known facts that are in direct relation.

The campaign was featured in national newspapers and magazines and in-store at outlets selling DStv, the satellite network that broadcasts the History Channel in South Africa.

Art Director: Mike Martin, Kamohelo Chakela
Copywriter: Alison Hingle
Creative Director: Mike Martin, Jonathan Beggs
Executive Creative Director: Gerry Human, Fran Luckin
Model Maker: Greg
Photographer: Stock, David Prior
Retoucher: Grant Moore
Account Manager: Sharleen James
Client Representative: Lafedi Maja, Graham Pfuhl

Emphasis added. I will remind you that both A&E and Ogilvy gave me on the record comments that the campaign was never run. In fact, Ogilvy was quite clear about it:

The ads were part of a creative exploration made pro-actively by Ogilvy Johannesburg but were never produced commercially.

It is for that reason that the ads were removed from the CLIO Awards site. Yet the agency sent the very campaign to multiple advertising related websites as a promotion of their work, and claimed the campaign “was featured in national newspapers and magazines and in-store at outlets selling DStv,” which is a Multichoice brand. Multichoice being the group which claimed to have rejected the ad. In fact, you’ll note that Graham Pfuhl of Multichoice is listed in the copy sent by Ogilvy as the Client Representative.

I haven’t been able to reach anyone at Multichoice for comment, but the picture is certainly coming into focus. It would appear the campaign ran, possibly at the behest of Multichoice, seemingly without the permission of the History Channel or AETN, and was then submitted for CLIO consideration by the clearly proud Ogilvy Johannesburg.

So the question remains. Did the ad campaign run? Ogilvy not only claimed the campaign ran, but presumably represented so to the CLIO Awards. AETN says the campaign never ran. Were they lied to by Multichoice? Or were both Multichoice and AETN duped by Ogilvy? In all, only Ogilvy is reluctant to explain what happened and, in all, they are ultimately, and by their own admission, the company who designed the anti-American ads, proudly promoted them, widely distributed them, and entered them in the CLIO Awards competition.

Click Here if you wish to contact Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide about that.

– Caleb Howe, Redstate