When it comes to manufacturing buzz, no one does it better than PETA

Love ’em or hate ’em, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) ranks among the most skilled media manipulators anywhere. PETA’s publicity machine makes the best Hollywood flacks look like rank amateurs.

What makes PETA so good at creating headlines? First, they pay attention to current events, then they make stuff up. That “stuff” often involves gorgeous naked women, and that always gets my attention.

Actress Charlotte Ross earned plenty of exposure for her appearance in this PETA ad.

I’m not saying PETA lies or fabricates. The group simply understands how to re-frame a story and give it a creative spin. Most times, PETA’s publicity supports organizational objectives and fuels the fundraising machine, too.

Most PETA stories are deliberately outrageous. And the media, starving for content to fill their news hole, eat it up. Most often, the stories aren’t newsworthy at all — just unusual. Or in the case of Ms. Ross — very, very hot.  (Here’s the latest nude beauty to star in a PETA campaign, in case you’re interested.)

Some other recent examples:

PETA says Uga VIII should be a robot. Following the untimely death of Uga VII, the beloved mascot of the University of Georgia Bulldogs, PETA called on university officialsto put an end to the cycle of suffering endured by dogs who are brought into the world solely to represent the school’s ‘brand.'” PETA Assistant Director Kristie Phelps said, “By choosing a humane alternative to the use of live animals as school mascots, UGA can show that compassion always wins.”

In addition to being the focus of my all-time favorite joke (see end of post*), Uga is a godhead symbol to UGa students and alumni. And we all know that Uga VIII will be a living, breathing bulldog, not some robotic facsimile, no matter what PETA says. I mean, this ain’t Georgia Tech.

PETA’s re-framing of the story illustrates two axioms every good publicist understands:

1) Stories that tie in with existing news are more likely to get picked up.

2) Kids and dogs almost always get the attention of media gatekeepers ’cause they’re cute.

NBC Affiliates ban PETA’s Thanksgiving Day TV spot. Seems that some stations objected to the commercial that depicts a young girl saying grace at the Thanksgiving dinner table and thanking the Almighty for “the turkey farms where they pack them into dark, tiny little sheds for their whole lives.” The girl also gives thanks for all the “chemicals, dirt and poop” that come in our holiday birds. Bon appetite!

Last year’s banned Super Bowl Ad, titled “Veggie Love,” generated millions in publicity, even though the ad never aired. Still, it gave this red-blooded American blogger a new appreciation for asparagus. Whoa!

Go on. Click the link! But you should know that the vegan propaganda that follows the spot is a bit insulting, depicting meat-eaters as vile murderers and immoral fiends. So unless you buy into PETA’s harangue, click it off after the girl with the pumpkin. It goes downhill after that.

I don’t get the political message of vegetarianism. I do get the health message. Given the poisons added to commercially grown meats and the horrors of factory farms, it’s easy to get turned off by those tubes of country sausage in your supermarket and those big ole Butterball turkeys.

But maybe, just maybe, these healthy urban carnivores have found a better way. Check this story from the Dining and Wine section of the New York Times.

* Now, as promised, my favorite joke of all-time:

Bubba and Earl win field passes to a University of Georgia football game, from a radio call-in promotion. One week later, they’re standing at midfield of Sanford Stadium in Athens.

Shortly before kickoff, the team’s bulldog mascot, UGA, is marched onto the sideline where he promptly sits down in front of the starstruck Bubba and Earl and begins to lick his privates. (Hey, dogs do that, you know!)

Bubba: Gee, Earl. I wish I could do that.

Earl: Are you crazy, Bubba? That dog’d bite you!

The joke works best when dialogue is delivered in a thick Southern drawl 🙂

9 Responses to When it comes to manufacturing buzz, no one does it better than PETA

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by BillSledzik, Focus Communications. Focus Communications said: RT @BillSledzik: Today I'm blogging about PETA and Charlotte and Bubba and Earl — and takin' none of it seriously. http://bit.ly/7Glv7j […]

  2. Andy Curran says:

    The water’s cold. Yeah, and it’s deep, too! Southerners have the best punchlines and they wear the funniest t-shirts.

  3. Bill Sledzik says:

    Since I know you’re a fan of this film, let’s celebrate the “men pee from bridge” joke. It can’t be any more gross than the PETA girl’s prayer!

  4. Isn’t it interesting how this group protects animals but doesn’t seem to mind glorifying a Playboy-view of women? A universal truth: Sex sells.

  5. todd says:

    Yes, God willing, we’ll be able to hunt those elusive free range chickens some day.

    Agreed, successful delivery of the joke requires a proper “dog’d”

    Should we be anticipating a “Tiger-Gate” post from you at any point? The man has managed to maintain a flawless image over a lifetime of being in the spotlight. This recent incident surely has his people scrambling, as he’s yet to do any more than post a few comments on his website. I’ve tried to pull related comments (video) made by Crisis Management Expert Mike Paul (MPG, NY), but I’m getting “server errors,” so I guess I’m not the only one.

  6. Bill Huey says:

    Y’know, I’ve come to notice that there are Crisis PR Vultures circling around every story like Tiger Woods that arises in the media. Eric Dezenhall is the best of them, but there are at least 57 Varieties, all pushing their brand of crisis management.
    As for PETA, they are talented at stunts, but when it comes to pervasive presence, nobody can beat the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Have you noticed that big pink thing outside the White House?
    Finally, Georgia needs to get a REAL mascot, like an LSU Tiger. A dumb ugly dog that keels over every few years just doesn’t cut it.

  7. Bill Sledzik says:

    Thanks for the comments, all…

    @Mark. You make a great point about PETA exploiting sexism. But then, if they didn’t put beautiful naked girls in their ads, I wouldn’t be writing about ’em would I? Sex sells. Another tried and true axiom of marketing.

    @Todd. PETA is not cool with free-range anything — though their ads do encourage the sowing of one’s wild oats. As for your note on Tiger Woods, I don’t believe there’s room to feast on that carcass. It’s been covered with “Crisis 101” know-it-alls since about Sunday and they continue to pick his bones. I’ll take a Mulligan — or maybe he should!

    @ Bill. Always enjoy your comments. I read Dezenhall’s book and was disappointed. And you’re so right about the pink ribbon. The Komen Foundation is so good that it causes real problems for other charities. As for Uga, I got no love for bulldogs. I just love the joke. Bubba, that dog’d bite you.

  8. Kathy Boone says:

    Good point, Mark Schaefer. Check out The Onion’s take on PETA’s mistreatment of women – pretty funny.


  9. […] wrote about PETA last November and won’t rehash my thinking here. While I know PETA people care about animals, they often […]

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