On Monday morning, we noticed that a broadcast spot was uploaded to Ads of the World from PETA. Depicting graphic imagery of the controversial seal hunt set to the Canadian national anthem, the spot calls on tourists considering Canada as a vacation destination to “explore elsewhere.” (Link. Warning: Explicit Content)
The spot fits into the longtime attempt by advertisers of all stripes to shock complacent audiences into action concerning their particular cause. Putting a link to the PETA spot out on Twitter, we received some divided response to it, and decided to ask two of the respondents — Ted Rouse, Graphic Art Director at Canadian Stage in Toronto and Ben Tingley, President/CEO of Bravo Tango in Regina — to expand on their thoughts in a “head to head” post.
Their takes on the spot, after the jump.
Ted Rouse – Graphic Art Director, Canadian Stage
Impactful? Sure. Effective? Perhaps. Sensationalist? Definitely. Misleading? Undoubtedly.
Let me make a couple of things clear before I begin: I am not “pro-seal hunt,” I am not a right-wing redneck who wraps bacon around his steak for breakfast lunch and dinner, and I really truly hate SUVs. I recycle, regularly vote Green Party, and am proudly against the fur industry.
Putting all politics of the seal hunt aside (more on that here), this current spot from PETA strikes me as little more than sensational exploitation of both the seals and the occasional violent nature of an undoubtedly questionable practice that is no stranger to controversy.
Scrolling through the comments below the spot on Ads of the World, the impact of the ad is undeniable. Comments predominantly span from rage at the hunters depicted to anger at Canada as a whole. However, a closer look at the ad reveals it to be little more than a ham-fisted attempt to incite a reaction that panders to our basest instincts and utilizes cheap tactics and boorish imagery with no context, no insight, and no clear message.
The misleading use of heart-warming images of the “whitecoat” seal pups at the beginning amount to little more than an outright lie. It’s notable that they’re not depicted at all through the rest of the ad and likely serve little purpose other than a hook to trap cute-animal lovers around the world and then shock them with the brutishness that follows. The gratuitous use of violence and blood that follows is a tacky ploy that exploits the very animals that PETA is so ardent to protect.
Is this the best PETA can do on this subject? Lie to us, then try to shock us with lots of blood? I firmly believe in advertising’s power to do good in the world; however, when we stoop as low as to deliberately mislead the public and sensationalize violence, we leave the realm of responsible advertising and enter the world of cheap, dishonest propaganda.
Ben Tingley — President/CEO, Bravo Tango
Leave it to PETA to be in your face and controversial with their marketing. Considering the heavy dose of advertising out in the marketplace nowadays, one almost has to be out of the ordinary in order to garner attention and turn some heads. That’s why I like the latest PETA spot. I think this commercial is effective at stirring discussion and encouraging people to talk about the subject matter — one of the ultimate goals of advertising.
I like how the ad agency uses actual seal clubbing footage to highlight their agenda. The spot starts off with a 10 second close up of the world’s cutest and cuddliest seal, setting the stage for that “awwww” reaction, but almost immediately crushes that warm fuzzy feeling with an unedited death blow, followed by various scenes of whimpering seals covered in blood. It’s very disturbing, and that’s why it works.
PETA’s ultimate goal of this spot is to tarnish Canada’s image, so what better way than to juxtapose the national anthem with all of the bloody scenes? That’s great brand association, and may very well affect tourists’ opinions of the country.
Seal clubbing is a heavy topic in Canada and very political, leaving little room for tip toeing around the issue. When dealing with legislation and politicians, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. So good on you PETA for being loud and visible.
It’s a clever ad. And simple too.
What are your thoughts on the spot? Feel free to comment below.