Pepsi’s latest ad has roused the ire of an animal rights group because it features a chimpanzee, but both sides stand to gain from the resulting publicity
Pepsi cannot have failed to second guess the reaction in the wake of the banned Puma ad
The traditional showbiz advice never to work with animals has been around for decades. This caution was always recognised as an obvious two-edged sword. On the one hand the cute and furry factor would attract large audiences; on the other hand the animal involved would defecate on you, sink its teeth into your flesh or at the very least upstage you.
The chimpanzee which drives a cab in the latest Pepsi Max campaign is no exception. But despite assurances by Pepsi that the ad’s four-year-old star was treated with the highest level of care throughout filming, it is under pressure to pull it from our screens.
The Captive Animals Protection Society (CAPS), an organisation that campaigns on behalf of animals in the entertainment industry, has said that if the ad is not withdrawn it will have no alternative but to organise a consumer boycott of the Pepsi brand.
Ever since the PG Tips’ chimpanzee family were forcibly retired, we have become hyper-sensitised to the use of wild animals for our on-screen amusement. It seems it is precisely because chimpanzees are so like us that we feel they are being exploited. After all, nobody objected to the Walls sausages ad featuring a dog being ejected through a window.
So, given how we feel, somebody stands to cash in on the huge amount of publicity this potential boycott will generate. Is it a clever move by the Preston-based CAPS, who will reap plentiful column inches? Or an equally clever and horribly cynical move by Pepsi which cannot possibly have failed to second guess the reaction their campaign would cause in the wake of the banned Puma ad featuring a chimp?
Perhaps the advice to those in the entertainment industry should now be “never mess with animal activists”. There’s still a double-edged sword involved but it’s one of a rather more menacing kind. On the one hand if you promote publicity stunts involving blowing up toads, setting fire to slugs or even allowing chickens to cross roads, you will generate huge excitement. On the other hand animal rights groups may in turn tell you they that they intend to assassinate your children on the school run, just as they did to an old client of mine, a circus that featured cat juggling. Something that had to be seen to be believed.
So the executives at Pepsi should enjoy the extra publicity that controversy brings. And invest in some extra personal security.