Corporations that use animals in their ads attract PETA's (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) attention, and the ensuing complaints and protests usually result in pulled or revised advertisements.
For some reason, reporters from the Los Angeles Times decided to get involved in a seemingly innocuous commercial Wieden+Kennedy (W+K) created for Dodge in July.
The story began when a reporter saw a car commercial promoting Dodge's "Tent Event." New models of Caravans, Journey's, and Chargers emerge from tents and line up in a midway-like area; the announcer, Michael C. Hall, star of Showtime's "Dexter," handles voice-over duties in his "no-nonsense," unemotional manner.
While the cars zip around, he explains that customers who choose one of the three featured models are allowed to return the car after 60 days if they aren't satisfied, during which time, Dodge will cover their payments. Hall's sounds bored as he announces, "This event could not be more amazing."
At this point, the camera pans left, focusing on a chimpanzee dressed in white who walks toward a plunger. "Oh, wait. There's a monkey," says Hall.
The chimp reaches the plunger and pushes it. A tiny explosion follows, and a weak display of confetti showers down in anticlimactic fashion. The narrator announces, "I stand corrected."
As far as car spots go, it's pretty good, a bit of well-placed humor and an easily understood promotion.
Enter the reporter and his pro-animal rights co-worker. The slow news cycle, I suppose, led the two reporters to send the spot to PETA in an effort to get the group's "take" on the spot. PETA published their response a few day's later in the paper's Unleashed (animal rights) column. Written by the activist group's primatologist (primate researcher), it's clear the tame Dodge spot offended the activist group.
It condemns and threatens and is high-handed work. In other words, it is 100 percent PETA.
"Most top ad agencies in the country won’t even consider producing an ad featuring a great ape these days given the well-documented abuse that young chimpanzees and orangutans suffer in the entertainment industry. This abuse starts when they are prematurely removed from their mothers and continues when they are trained to perform through savage beatings, denied even the most basic necessities, transported and housed in barren steel cages, and then discarded at seedy roadside zoos around the age of 8, even though they can live into their 60s. You won’t find a great-ape trainer without a history of Animal Welfare Act violations and a reputation for dumping animals when they’re no longer profitable.
"After watching a video narrated by Anjelica Huston about the use of great apes in entertainment, savvy ad agencies such as BBDO, Young & Rubicam, Grey Group, Draftfcb, and Saatchi & Saatchi made the compassionate decision not to exploit great apes in future ads. Dodge isn’t going to dodge a bullet on this one. It needs to pull the ad -- and we’ve contacted the company asking it to do just that."
PETA submitted another letter a few weeks later; this time, it was their PR arm, crowing over PETA's "grand" victory: Dodge revised the spot.
The reporter who initiated the conflict called Dodge to confirm, and yes, they agreed to remove the chimp from the commercial. In response to what they'd done wrong, Kristin Starnes, head of Dodge's brand communications, responded: "The ad was an innocent act only trying to be humorous. In no way did the brand intend to promote any questionable practices. With the planned modification, we are simply taking some sound advice and altering direction in respect of PETA's initiatives."
The revised version, "Dodge Tent Event: Invisible Monkey," met PETA's goofy demands; no visible chimpanzee can be seen. In light of this ridiculous mess, it serves as a thinly veiled "screw you" to PETA. Take a look.