“make that a double portion of sea kittens, please”
November 25, 2009
or: “How To Use PR to Make People Do the Opposite of What You Want”
PETA, the animal rights group, has launched a campaign to get us to stop eating fish – by giving them a cute image. Armed with nothing but the Power of Words, and some fairly sickmaking Saturday-morning-style cartooning, they have decided to make us love fish as if they were kittens. Here’s the blurb:
People don’t seem to like fish. They’re slithery and slimy, and they have eyes on either side of their pointy little heads—which is weird, to say the least. Plus, the small ones nibble at your feet when you’re swimming, and the big ones—well, the big ones will bite your face off if Jaws is anything to go by.
So, basically, don’t take anything we say too seriously. It’s only pretend anyway. That sharks are sea kittens who’ll only scratch your face. Even the very first sentence invites the reader to retort, “Well, I like fish.”
Of course, if you look at it another way, what all this really means is that fish need to fire their PR guy—stat. Whoever was in charge of creating a positive image for fish needs to go right back to working on the Britney Spears account and leave our scaly little friends alone. You’ve done enough damage, buddy. We’ve got it from here. And we’re going to start by retiring the old name for good. When your name can also be used as a verb that means driving a hook through your head, it’s time for a serious image makeover. And who could possibly want to put a hook through a sea kitten?
Who is this aimed at? Why is the key message the very last thing the reader gets to? And that’s only the plucky reader who can wade through “fire the PR guy – stat” – whatever that means – and Britney, and “you’ve done enough damage, buddy,” and “retiring the old name,” and then a rather interesting point about the verb “to fish” – which is only, however, implied, not named – before finally, finally, gasping with the effort of keeping all of that straight, stumbling upon the words “sea kitten.” Ohhh. Thinks the reader. And then (if PETA is lucky) reads it again to see what the hell it was all about.
I know PETA is all about the shock tactic, the skinned crocodiles and fur coats dripping blood, the in-your-face posters on the tube, all that. But sea kittens? Is this aimed at kids? Who else is going to want to make their own sea kitten? I really don’t think the twenty-something vegetarians are going to get that stoned that they want to come home and read the unintentionally funny Struwwelpeter-meets-Lemony-Snicket “Sea Kitten Stories” before their comedown. And I don’t think they’re really suitable for children.
Part of me wants to like it. Why not be silly? You ca n just picture the meeting. But this lacks focus, it lacks a strong central message. They buried their central message under a ton of jokes aimed over their audience’s heads.
And everybody I’ve run it past so far has said it makes them want to eat fish. My brother said, “I’d order a double portion if there were sea kitten on the menu!” (And he has two kids. And a cat.)
Fire the PR guy – stat!
(And many thanks to Brokenbottleboy, who alerted me to the campaign in the first place.)