PETA Threatens PR Agencies

Jon Bailey // May 14 // Insights

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Yesterday I got an email from PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) urging me not to represent Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus (no relation), and I gotta tell you I'm impressed with the approach. Now I don't like being threatened any more than the next guy, and I do not always agree with PETA's tactics. However, I do have to applaud them for their unique strategy in targeting PR and marketing firms.

PETA's basic premise is this: if you represent Ringling, you risk your own reputation. "No amount of PR can make beating baby elephants sound good". Yep, they've got a point on that one.

In the email, they quote PETA Executive VP Tracy Reiman. "Ringling Bros. is a public relations nightmare waiting to happen. There's not a PR team in the world that is slick enough to sell the beating of baby elephants, the whipping of tigers, and the use of chains, bullhooks, and electric prods on animals - all for the sake of a few cheap tricks."

This effort coincides with a full page ad in PR News with the same theme, geared at letting PR people know what they might be getting into when they sign a contract with Ringling. I also got a phone call from a PETA representative to follow up on the email.

As a marketer, I don't recall ever being targeted with this kind of effort. I think many people are affected by PETA's tactics, and not always in supportive ways. Some of my friends are very turned off my their scare tactics and strong-armed veiled threats. Others are sympathetic to the cause, and to the animals PETA seeks to protect. I don't know anyone that is FOR animal cruelty, but when does PETA and other similar organizations take it too far?

If you want to know more, here's PETA's website devoted to the Ringling issue. A word of warning - it's not for the squeamish or faint of heart. But then again, I don't know anyone in the marketing business I would define as faint of heart.

What do you think about this approach of preemptively targeting marketing firms?

*** Note: BG would not be interested in representing Ringling Bros. - animal cruelty or not. Our business is enough of a circus as it is, and we don't need clowns and tightrope walkers to remind us.

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