For Pete’s Sake Choose PR Wisely
Yesterdayanimal activist group PETA cooked up a very divisive message, in Sydney’s CBD. Maskedas pretense to promote veganism ahead of Australia Day, a dog that looked veryreal to passers-by was seen heavily charred over a barbecue adding one slogan, “If you wouldn’t eat a dog, why eat a lamb? Go vegan”.
Controversyand shock value are often used by brands as an attempt to hijack the news cycleand generate viral attention. Brands over the years have been able to executethis successfully – finding that sweet spot between causing offense to somepockets of the market but not the core.
PETAinternationally is no stranger to this tactic, overthe years it has stirred offerings from sexism, discrimination,cruelty to war-driven angles. Campaigns have been banned and sparked fury fromcommunities around the world.
However there are many reasons – this violent activation failed as a PR approach.
Pitt Street’shigh traffic strip was selected for this stunt. This enabled the activation tobe observed by young children who were visibly upset at the display and wouldnot be able to separate and compute any other message but violence on aninnocent pet. It would not just be children who would be disturbed by this actand it could have a profound effect by other members of the community.
Enacting sucha vehement demonstration alienates much of the market. This was an opportunityfor PETA to entice a wider circle and win the population currently aligned toveganism. There is heavy doubt that any vegans would endorse the PETA messagethis way.
In addition,acts of violence (even those that are staged), do not promote against violence– they have the exact opposite effect.
Those that areagainst animal cruelty and align to PETA for these messages, are likely to haveand protect pets. This campaign would have convulsed this audience and shiftedtheir view of PETA for the worse.
While the CBDis a heavily populated location, much of the demographic would be educated onhealth messages. In fact, the plant-based diet is gaining momentum andAustralia is marketed as the third fastest growing vegan market in the world.Australia’s packaged vegan food market is valued at $136 million andforecast to rise to $215 million before 2020. It is also why many ofthe health food retailers succeed in the city.
The media andpublic sentiment are irrevocably negative. There’s not a single storythat has branded PETA’s act in a positive way. Even the news storiesincorporating PETA’s spokesperson has tarnished the organisation and the intentof the campaign has been completely lost.
Leveraging theAustralia Day period makes sense as the nation fires up the barbecue, howeverhad PETA portrayed the message more sensitively, it could have won its share ofvoice more effectively through inoffensive education. Aussies are patrioticaround this time and this portrayal is completely misaligned to the culture.
Gaining mediaexposure is challenging, however gaining coverage at the expense of brandpreservation is naïve and destructive.