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Shark Dies During Kmart Ad Shoot
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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Kmart is re-entering the national advertising scene, but not in the way it anticipated.

Kmart, which is a brand of Sears Holdings, was working with an advertising agency and production shop out in LA to shoot one of its new commercials. One of the main components of the shoot was a live shark.

Now, when brands and agencies use live animals for advertisements, there is usually a lot of behind-the-scenes activity that the common public is unaware of. Depending on where they were shooting, they probably needed insurance protecting the talent, the workers, and the venue. Waivers and indemnification agreements were probably signed. And for the animals, advisors and trainers were more than likely on the scene to make sure the animal was properly cared for.

In this instance, the American Humane Association was on the scene. The AHA is the organization responsible for the "No Animals Were Harmed" certification in movies. The AHA was making sure that Kmart and the other parties treated the five-foot-long white-tipped shark they shipped in from NY to LA.

The shark didn't make it; after some of the shoot, the shark was placed in an above-ground pool and started showing signs of stress. The shark died that afternoon.

What's the lesson here? Well, of course PETA got into the mix and started throwing accusations at the AHA and the others, but other than that nonsense, Kmart, Sears, and the agencies are going to evaluate exactly what happened.

Working with live animals in environments not native to their own is a tough thing to do. Kmart et al. could have done everything right, and this unfortunate event still could have happened. 

No matter how well we plan ad shoots, something can — and usually will — go wrong. It this case, Kmart had to substitute the live shark for an animatronic hippo. When the ad goes live, watch it and try to imagine what they were trying to do with the shark. No doubt some of the copy may have changed, but it could be a blessing in disguise — statistically speaking, there are more records of humans being attacked by hippos than by sharks.

Kmart handled the situation well. As well as they could. We'll be more interested in the actual campaign when it starts.

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About the Author
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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