You don't often see the words "reasonable" and "animal rights activist" in the same sentence. Most people love animals. And most people don't want to see them exploited. But those same people are often turned off by tactics of more extreme groups like PETA. So it's nice to report on a reasonable animal rights activist that actually had her reasonable demands met by a reasonable large corporation. (Reason, FTW!)
Monkeys dressed as daredevils? Droll narration? Ironically underwhelming explosions? Finally, a company that takes my suggestions seriously!
Anyway, Dodge got a bunch of YouTube comments and e-mails after airing the ad. Some complimented the commercial's wit. But others, like one sent by Sarah Baeckler, executive director of Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest, were less effusive. Here's the e-mail Baeckler sent to Dodge's CEO, Ralph Gilles.
Hi Ralph,Now, in a more cynical world, this is where our story would end. With the CEO ignoring the e-mail from the eminently reasonable do-gooder, green lighting an ad featuring dozens more mistreated creatures, and then taking his kids to the zoo to laugh at the Great Apes while lighting a cigar using dried orangutan pelts.
I understand Dodge is running an ad with a chimp in it for your "tent event" campaign. I'm sure you've already heard from folks who disagree with using chimps in media. So I thought I'd just throw in my two cents.
I run a chimp sanctuary in WA. We care for chimpanzees discarded by the research industry, but two of our residents (Jamie and Burrito) were also former 'actors.' I would love to have the opportunity to introduce you to these guys - after meeting them I'd bet money you'd never consider allowing Dodge to use chimps in ads again. So if you ever find yourself in the northwest, please do let me know.
On top of that, I investigated (undercover) the training industry for over a year (before going to law school - big career change from primatologist!). I saw pretty brutal stuff - baby chimps being kicked, hit, and punched as part of their training. Though the trainer I investigated is now safely out of the chimp business, I can say that such training methods are an industry-wide practice and these chimps' world is pretty dismal. It looks like the chimp in this ad is Suzy.
Her trainer has a history of Animal Welfare Act violations, not to mention a less than stellar reputation. He's been trying to sell his chimps for years (see here: http://www.cbc.ca/fifth/cruelcamera/documents/lawyerletter.pdf), attempting to bully true sanctuaries into giving him a retirement package, a crude effort to make a buck off the animals people in this industry repeatedly refer to as parts of their family. Would you offer to sell your kids? Do you want to be associated with someone who has?
Please consider dropping this ad, or at the very least commit to ban these types of ads in the future. With so many top ad agencies refusing to put apes in their productions, I don't think it'd be a big leap for you.
I appreciate the time it took to scan this email and would be happy to chat further if you're interested. Feel free to give me a call (direct # below) or drop me an email if that's easier.
But, props to Ralph here, he actually wrote back. Not only that, he told Sarah he had no idea about Suzy's plight and said he'd do something to make it right. Specifically, he had Dodge's ad agency airbrush the chimp out of the commercial and then re-run it, which somehow made it even funnier.
As a companion to the now invisible chimp commercial, Dodge set up a website called "Where's the monkey?" that explained why Suzie went missing. Kind of impressive follow-through for one of those big, faceless corporations we're all told to loathe. Almost impressive enough for me to go out and buy a Dodge. (If I wasn't broke.) But certainly enough for me to go the company's Facebook page and say "way to be." (Hint, hint.)