AdAge reported yesterday that the holding company worked with Cambridge Analytic during a pitch for the U.S. Army account.
WPP confirmed working with Cambridge Analytica as a “potential sub contractor” on an unspecified pitch.
“Cambridge Analytica were involved in a pitch process with WPP as a potential sub-contractor, but are no longer part of our engagement with the client,” a WPP spokesperson said in a statement.
Cambridge Analytica is, of course, currently embroiled in a scandal over its use of Facebook users’ personal information without their permission. CEO Alexander Nix has been suspended during an investigation over possible misuse of the data during the U.S. presidential election.
Cambridge Analytica’s PR firm has yet to respond to our request for comment.
The U.S. Army extended its relationship with McCann last July, after initially disqualifying the agency from the review. Department of Defense employees already pronounced that review “compromised” in an email obtained by Adweek, due to an alleged “conflict of interest” resulting from an apparent personal relationship between Army Marketing and Research Group director of marketing James Ortiz and a former executive at McCann, incumbent on the account. An Army spokesperson told Adweek that Ortiz was subsequently removed from that position and reassigned.
A subsequent audit claimed “ineffective marketing programs” had wasted millions in taxpayer money. Deputy assistant secretary of the Army for marketing, director of the Army Marketing and Research Group Elizabeth F. Wilson briefed congressional staffers about the audit last month.
Further news has emerged this week about alleged ties between Cambridge Analytica and Blackwater founder Erik Prince.
The Washington Post reports that records show that Nix also serves as director of Emerdata Ltd., a company incorporated in August, 2017 which also counts Johnson Ko Chun Shun among its directors. Shun also deputy chairman for Frontier Services Group, a Hong Kong company where Prince serves as chairman.
Medium also reports that Julian Wheatland, chairman of Cambridge Analytica U.K. parent company SCL Group Limited and Cambridge Analytica chief data officer Alexander Tayler initially owned substantial stakes in the company, with Wheatland still apparently serving as a director.
The nature of the work that Cambridge Analytica did for WPP is unclear at this time—as is the status of the never-ending Army review.