According to an article on The Straits Times, Mediacorp has "refuted speculation" about POKKA brand ambassador, Vivian Lai's rumoured million dollar endorsement fee. When asked by Marketing on the matter, Karen Yew, head, corporate marketing and communications, said: “Reports about Lai’s endorsement fees are speculative and we do not comment on speculation.”
She added that when asked for further clarification about a 2012 media report, which suggested what the value of the contract, her response was: "The contract value is confidential information. Artiste earnings is confidential information. We respect the confidentiality of these matters.”
The statement also comes shortly after Mediacorp said to Marketing late last month that the contract between Lai and POKKA remains unchanged - despite an internal audit done in the company which saw Lai’s husband, former CEO step down. It added that Lai is “highly popular” being named at Star Awards 2015 as an All-time Favourite Artiste, an accolade given to artistes after they receive the Top 10 Most Popular award for the tenth time. “She’s witty, engaging, hardworking and professional and makes a great brand ambassador,” Yew had said.
POKKA also confirmed that there has been “no decision with regards to its future marketing strategy”. The brand added that a new CEO had been put in place who was committed to ensuring the continuity of POKKA’s business operations and to ensuring there is no impact on POKKA’s customers of the management change.
Despite the numerous probes and prods by the media, Mediacorp has remained somewhat mum on the matter, garnering it the appreciation of PR professionals. One PR professional said under anonymity that the matter is more of a legal one than a PR issue. She said that while there might be a conflict of interest given Lai's husband was the former CEO, if her representation was cleared by both Mediacorp and POKKA 's legal team, Lai is able to represent POKKA in Singapore. She added:
While the negative publicity it has generated is justified, as a legal matter, this must be dealt with internally between the two companies before any response can be made public.
"As for the disclosure on the artiste's fees, the confidentiality is 100% justified. The matter is about representation which falls under legal jurisdiction," she added.
Marc Bakker, marketing director of Right Hook Communications added that in terms of the damage caused to reputations while the investigation is ongoing, in the absence of more concrete facts, the parties involved can only hold the line they've been holding so far and let the audit run its course. “Instead, they can use this time to prepare their statements for when the final conclusion is reached,” he said.
He added that PR situations always become sticky when investigations are ongoing and fresh stories are developing. “In such circumstances it is very important to keep a close eye on the confirmed facts and to give the story time to breathe and develop. So far the parties involved have done a good job of doing that,” he said.
According to Edwin Yeo, GM of SPRG Singapore, while Mediacorp could probably have issued a better statement to clarify its own involvement (with regards to the negotiations of Lai's deal with Pokka without revealing the specifics of the deal), by and large this incident sheds more of a spotlight on POKKA and the former CEO than Mediacorp.
"I don't think Mediacorp's reputation should be hurt in any way. The company represents the artistes and it is their duty to get them the best deal possible for their endorsement and services. What it simply needs to do is to show that there have been no untoward deals made on its part in Lai's contract with POKKA, which is the crux of the suspicion right now given her husband's removal as CEO," Yeo said, adding:
This incident should not have a great impact on Mediacorp's reputation.
POKKA also confirmed to Marketing that it is undergoing changes to its management team after an internal audit. This saw Rieko Shofu coming on board as acting CEO for POKKA International. Prior to the move, Shofu served as group CEO and director of POKKA Corporation (Singapore), and director of POKKA International. Shofu replaces former CEO Alain Ong, Lai's spouse, and takes over all his current roles and responsibilities while the audit is taking place. Ong, has been tipped to join F&B property management group Kimly.