Sun, Dec 29, 2002 - Page 2 News List

British brewery says its sorry for advert debacle


Three senior executives of Diageo paid a visit to the ROC representative office in London on Friday to extend an apology to Taiwan's representative to Britain Tien Hung-mao (田弘茂) for an advertisement defaming the image of Taiwan products.

"As the Diageo executives have expressed full sincerity in meeting our requirements, I have accepted their apology on behalf of our government," Tien told a press conference after meeting with the Diageo executives.

During their one-hour meeting with Tien, the three Diageo managers -- Tony Mair, group director of international trade, Allen Edwards, managing director of the commercial department and Isabelle Thomas, corporate communications manager, said their company had no intention of offending Taiwan and that all of the offensive ad posters had been removed from tube stations in London.

Moreover, they said their company is scheduled to put out an advertisement extolling the positive image of Taiwan products of the same style and size as the previous offensive one during the upcoming Lunar New Year season.

The new ad posters will be put up at the same places at the London tube stations from late January as Lunar New Year Day falls on Feb. 1.

Diageo, the world's largest brewery, put up an advertisement Dec. 16 for a Smirnoff vodka-based drink in 70-plus tube stations in London for several days, containing in red print the words: "Warning. This gift will break down on Christmas morning. Replacement parts available from service center Box No.260 Taiwan. Allow 365 working days for delivery."

The ad poked fun at Taiwan's former reputation as a producer mainly of shoddy plastic goods, a reputation long since superseded by the country's global recognition as a supplier of high-quality high-tech products.

Immediately after learning of the offensive ad, the Taiwan representative office in Great Britain lodged a protest with Diageo. Major Taiwan trading and cultural centers in London and Taiwan business associations also organized a delegation to visit the company to express their anger and protests.

In response, Diageo issued a statement saying that the controversial ad posters would all be removed by Dec. 26. The company also placed ads in major Taipei newspapers apologizing unreservedly for the controversial ad and expressing deep regret over the incident.

In addition to offering an apology to Tien in a letter dated Dec. 23, the company sent three senior executives to apologize to the de facto Taiwanese ambassador to London in person on Friday to signify its regret for the hurt it caused to Taiwan's national dignity and product image.

Tony Mair, Diageo's group director of international trade, said the company has stringent regulations for advertisement screening. He said he couldn't explain why the controversial ad had been put out. He said there must be something wrong in the design and screening process. "We'll carry out an overall review," he added.

Mair stressed that Diageo had no intention of defaming Taiwan because such action is not in the company's interest. Diageo products, such as Johnny Walker Red Label, Johnny Walker Black Label and J&B whisky, all enjoy brisk sales in Taiwan. "We treasure this important business relationship very much," he added.

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