For 82 years, accounting and consulting firm PwC has enjoyed a reputational boon from handling the balloting process at the Academy Awards.
Now its hard-won image as a reliable partner is below threat.
The business has apologized for a colossal error at the 89th Academy Awards on Sunday evening when actors Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty wrongly announced the major Oscar went to "La La Land," rather of "Moonlight."
The presenters, it turned out, had been given the wrong envelope by tabulators PwC, in this case the one awarding Emma Stone for ideal actress for her function in "La La Land." The representatives from PwC, formerly known as PricewaterhouseCoopers, at some point corrected the mistake on air but it is not clear however how the incorrect envelope ended up in the hands of the "Bonnie and Clyde" stars.
Whatever the purpose, it is been a cue for endless jokes and hilarity about the world.
For London-headquartered PwC, it's anything but funny.
According to Nigel Currie, an independent London-primarily based branding specialist with decades' worth of industry expertise, this mistake is "as negative a mess-up as you could envision."
"They had a quite straightforward job to do and messed it up spectacularly," he mentioned. "They will be in deep crisis talks on how to deal with it."
Brands go to extraordinary lengths to safeguard their image and reputation and to be noticed as great corporate citizens. History is littered by examples when a difficult-won reputation nosedives — from sporting legends Tiger Woods and Lance Armstrong to enterprise giants like BP following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster and Volkswagen immediately after its emissions cheating scandal.
Crisis managers say PwC has no other alternative than to front-up instantly and explain exactly what happened to contain the damage to its reputation and brand and plot a way forward where there's no repeat.
"There will certainly have to be accounting for this error," stated Jeremy Robinson-Leon, principal and chief operating officer at New York-based public relations firm Group Gordon. "The onus will be on PwC, assuming they remain as partners, to institute controls to make certain this does not take place once more."
PwC, which originated in London more than a century ago, was fast to apologize to the films involved, Beatty, Dunaway and viewers, but has however to completely clarify what happened.
"The presenters had mistakenly been provided the wrong category envelope and, when found, was quickly corrected," it stated in a statement. "We are currently investigating how this could have happened, and deeply regret that this occurred."
In reality, it took more than two minutes on air, through which time the "La La Land" team gave 3 acceptance speeches, just before PwC corrected the mistake on stage.
PwC's representatives had been Brian Cullinan, a partner at the firm — and, according to his bio on the company's site, a Matt Damon lookalike — and Martha Ruiz, the second woman to serve as a PwC Oscars tabulator.
Cullinan is the lead companion for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which includes the annual balloting for the Oscars ceremony. He has been portion of the balloting group since 2014.
Ruiz, a 19-year veteran at PwC who specializes in offering tax compliance and advisory services to entertainment customers in southern California, joined Cullinan as the Oscars balloting co-leader in 2015.
In a promotional video on the company's site ahead of Sunday's show, Cullinan stated he and Ruiz are the only two who knew who the winners had been on the evening of the awards.
"There are 24 categories. We have the winners in sealed envelopes that we hold and preserve throughout the evening and hand these to the presenters before they walk out on stage," he said.
According to Mike Davies, PwC's director of global communications, both Cullinan and Ruiz would have had a briefcase on either side of the auditorium to hand out the envelope for the category to be announced. Every briefcase would have had 1 envelope of each and every category winner.
In his remarks prior to the show, Cullinan had mentioned PwC's connection with the Academy Awards is testament to the firm's reputation in the market for being "a firm of integrity, of accuracy and confidentiality and all of those factors that are really important to the part we have with the Academy in counting these ballots."
"But I assume it is seriously symbolic of how we're believed of beyond this part and how our clientele assume of us and I feel it is something we take pretty seriously and take a lot of pride in."
Robinson-Leon mentioned it was essential to remember that counting ballots is not PwC's core company but that it will have to be critical about dealing with the aftermath of Sunday's embarrassment and media fallout.
"This can take place once and there will be relative forgiveness but it can't take place twice," said Group Gordon's Robinson-Leon. "If they had been to do this once more, that could have an influence on the brand. If this is an isolated incident, the long-term impact on the brand will be minimal."
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