I was expecting the letter.
Although we had not anticipated any issue with the fire community about the TV commercial, we had spent considerable time talking about the parakeet. (If this blog makes no sense, please read the entry from a few days ago called, "When the air is on fire")
We expected some nutjob would protest that the man might have saved his pants before he saved the bird. Even though the bird is shown safe and sound at the end of the spot.
So, when an envelope from the good folks at P.E.T.A. showed up on my desk, I was ready.
Love 'em or hate 'em, you have to hand it to the folks in that ugly little building in Norfolk, Virginia. They know how to get noticed. They know how to use the media. They have a strategy and they execute it.
One of their ways of creating a ruckus is their annual bad behavior awards. The mainstream media just love to cover them.
Their modus operandi is to review advertising that depict animals in any way. They then determine whether or not in their estimation it is a positive or a negative depiction. If it is negative, they then send a "threatening" letter to the advertiser stating that said company and agency risks getting a Litterbox award if they don't stop running said ad. So if you don't bow to their threat, they get you. If you do bow to their threat, they also get you by announcing your willingness to negotiate with terrorists.
I already had my response letter written in my head. Not only had we saved the parakeet, we had already pulled the commercial so as to be kind to humans! And we had done it BEFORE we ever heard from P.E.T.A.
Their letter started as expected. Yep, we risked being on P.E.T.A.'s naughty list.
But then I was thrilled when I read what had them upset.
It wasn't about the parakeet at all.
We had offended cats.
In a magazine ad directed at young men, we had written something to the effect of, "The only bad thing about having a girlfriend is having to allow her cat to sit on your khakis."
The folks at P.E.T.A. said that cats were "sentient beings". Our ad had the potential to cause many a cat hurt feelings.
I still remember the note back to them. We explained that we had tried to focus group the ad with cats, but they showed total disinterest.
And we made a commitment. No more cat jokes, on one condition.
P.E.T.A. had to show us at least one cat that could read.
Still waiting on their response.