Jenny Chan 陳詠欣
Jun 18, 2014

MEC Hong Kong gets Zuji account while inappropriate Mandela ad gets pulled

HONG KONG - Zuji has awarded MEC its integrated media planning and buying business on the same day the online travel agency was told to pull a three-column advertisement showing Nelson Mandela.

MEC Hong Kong gets Zuji account while inappropriate Mandela ad gets pulled

MEC will handle Zuji's search and performance marketing duties as well, after a competitive pitch with two agencies that includes incumbent Initiative.

Matt Semple, managing director of MEC Hong Kong, confirmed the appointment.

Hillman Lam, marketing manager at Zuji, said that with MEC's "high-performing tools", the OTA provider will be able to analyse its own media-channel performance as well as that of its competitors more efficiently and effectively.

The front-page advertisement in the South China Morning Post featured a stylised image of the late Nobel Peace Prize laureate in a jubilant, fist-pumping pose with multiple airplane and hotel icons and the word "freedom" below him. It harks back to Mandela's release after 27 years of apartheid jail back in 1990.

But representatives from the South African Consulate in Hong Kong said the use of the image was an infringement of copyright, because "Nelson Mandela's image is never to be used for commercial use", according to political consul Bryonie Guthrie.

"In South Africa, even his own charities are discouraged from ever using his image for commercial use," Guthrie told the AFP.

Charlie Wong, CEO at Zuji Hong Kong, told Campaign Asia-Pacific that the company did not mean to show any disrespect to Mandela and have pulled the ad immediately after receiving the feedback from the South African Consulate. 

"Our original intent was to associate ourselves with the concept of freedom because we offer a wide range of hotels and airlines [to choose from]," Wong said.

"Zuji will be more sensitive going forward in the use of creative," he added. Local agency Sweet Concept produced the ad, and will modify other ads in the series also featuring iconic figures. Antony Yiu, head of search and performance of MEC Asia Pacific, said the media agency was not in a position to comment on the Mandela ad.

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