THE BIG QUESTION: What makes a client conflict unacceptable? - Shandwick recently lost an account with the International Fund for Animal Welfare because of a client conflict promoting whaling for the Japanese Government

ED VAIZEY, Consolidated Communications

ED VAIZEY, Consolidated Communications

'As someone once said, two clients in the same area is a conflict, three is a specialism. Working with the Countryside Organisation and Agoraphobics Anonymous can be tricky, especially when choosing whether to use the small or large meeting room. As a Tory, lobbying the Government makes me feel in a permanent state of conflict. Actually, these days 'client conflict' is a much more fluid science. There are ethical considerations - we recently decided not to work for tobacco companies - but there are also benefits in having similar clients, because you gain enormous industry expertise which adds value to all of them.'


'As part of law firm DLA, we are obliged to run formal conflict searches to prevent clashes between clients in a similar sector - but these also help trigger our awareness on the hot issue of conflict of ethics. The moral dimension is causing some headaches. It is increasingly essential to align your values as a consultancy to the values of your clients. There is no room any more for value-free agencies: we've had Ethical Banking, Ethical Investment and now Ethical PR is here to stay. Plenty more global players are going to have to sharpen up their act to avoid further embarrassment as inflicted on Shandwick.'

JACK IRVINE, Media House

'A conflict arose during our handling of the Section 28 debate earlier this year. As a political columnist for the Mirror, the Scottish Parliament was a gift because disasters happened almost on a daily basis. When the Section 28 battle started I found myself in head-to-head conflict with senior Government ministers. Yes, it was legitimate for a columnist to attack these ministers over their handling of the health service, roads, drugs and the soaring costs of the Holyrood Parliament. However, there was a clear conflict in that the Keep the Clause campaign was paying me handsomely to attack them over their handling of the Section 28 repeal. That wouldn't have been fair to the Mirror, so I quit.'


'I think agencies could have a lot of fun by juggling conflicts. Embracing alternative points-of-view is part of the wider learning experience. How about an agency charged with boosting the profile of the Papacy - and working on a campaign to promote contraception in the Third World? Or one charged with developing New Labour's PR strategy in the run-up to the next election - only to be given the opportunity to pitch for the launch of Mo Mowlam's (allegedly) kiss-and-tell memoirs? There is clearly no consistency on this subject as yet. Clients range from the 'absolutely no way' brigade to those who welcome similar brands into the fold because they recognise it adds insight and understanding. Above all, however, no agency should ever undertake work which goes against its own code of ethics and an ethical way of being.'

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