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Way to ruin Boxing Day, TBS

Seeing as how I was still sick yesterday (and in fact am still sick now) I spent my evening watching dumb holiday movies on cable. So there I was, in my most mindless, vulnerable state, when a commercial for the Humane Society starts playing. My boyfriend says, "Should we send them money?" And then the big mind-fuck begins.

They start flashing video of disfigured animals with huge, sad eyes and talking about how all these animals were neglected and abused. They show a cat with a fucked-up face with words overlaid that read "What did I do wrong?"

For me, this is as if they've hired a sicko marketing psychiatrist to permanently scar me and give me nightmares for life. This is PETA-worthy tactics, I think. (I went to a PETA meeting when I was 18 and haven't eaten pork since. Then they sent me some mail in a plain envelope that was a picture of an elephant with its face torn off, killed for the ivory. Thanks, PETA. 24 years later and I see it in my mind's eye like it was 10 minutes ago.)The combination of visual, audio and text is all designed to say, "Look how needless! Look how I suffer! Look how innocent I am! You should feel guilty and SEND MONEY IN!"

Because what do I have to feel guilty for? Every cat I've ever owned has been a rescue. I've even taken the fish that were going to get flushed down the toilet, the cannibalistic hamster whose owner could no longer look at it, and the rat whose owner was moving to Israel. I gave an extra donation of $50 when I picked up Frankie, the poor kitty who was "returned" because he supposedly shed too much, then paid for the privilege of three courses of antibiotics, another de-worming, and a surgery.

But because these knuckleheads want money, they show this horrifying commercial during prime time, during a lighthearted holiday comedy, and fucking scar me. Not only that, but then my boyfriend and I got into a huge fight because he devolved into super-close-hovering "WHY ARE YOU CRYING?' mode and forced me to REPEAT what I found so abhorrent about the commercial, thereby further cementing the image and words in my head, because I had to re-visualized the abused cat-face and then speak the words, "What did I do wrong?"

Maybe I should send this post to TBS with a big "fuck you" attached.



( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 27th, 2009 11:07 am (UTC)
I hate that commercial. I turn down the volume when it comes on. It is a PETA worthy tactic.
Dec. 27th, 2009 11:10 am (UTC)
I think something about abused animals is more hurtful to see than an animal that's just sick or injured. It hits more guilt-buttons because it's needless.

We went into "change the channel" mode but I had a grilled cheese sandwich in my hand and was unsuccessful.
Dec. 27th, 2009 11:11 am (UTC)
Yes, it does trigger more guilt buttons. I have hitting the mute button down to an art. I've seen/heard that commercial too many times.
Dec. 27th, 2009 11:33 am (UTC)
I wonder if guilt is the word I'm looking for. Maybe it is...but guilt that we're human, and humans do horrible, needless things. But not guilt for anything you or I have personally done or would ever do.

So depressing.
Dec. 27th, 2009 11:35 am (UTC)
Yes it is depressing.
Agreed, not guilt over anything we've done, just what some horrible people have done to innocent animals.
Dec. 27th, 2009 11:24 am (UTC)
Wow, we don't have those commercials but we do get mail from WISPA who so much the same thing. Photos of seriously disfigured animals, the same deal. I do what I can, when I can. The mail goes in the bin, I don't need my animal adoring daughter to see it.
Dec. 27th, 2009 11:36 am (UTC)
I think my marketing background is influencing the state of my anger. I market a non-profit, and the big secret message we try to get across is, "We add value to your life."

Guess we're just ethical that way.

Just because something is non-profit must not necessarily mean it's ethical, I guess.

You're right, your little girl doesn't need to see that.
Dec. 27th, 2009 12:45 pm (UTC)
I'm not particularly vulnerable to the animal charity ads. Not that for one minute would I want any animal to be harmed or abused, but I've rarely owned or had a desire to own a pet, plus I'm so distraught most of the time about the horrors being done to *people*, I have little emotional resonance left for animals. But that tactic seems ghastly. You put it very succinctly - they want MONEY and they tear every vulnerability to get it.

When we get ads like that, they turn up in among kids' programs, and they're repeated EVERY break for an hour, until you feel beaten.

I give to certain charities by Gift Aid and try to increase that contribution whenever I can. Of course I could do more - and try to - but I won't be browbeaten into it. I don't believe there can't be a better, just as effective way to get funds to help. I tend to be suspicious of the motives of charities that attack people with these kinds of ad campaigns.

Son#1 received a very aggressive ad once in his music magazine from Amnesty International about rape in war. Aggressive imagery, horrific language. Understand this, I support the organisation wholeheartedly and agree TOTALLY that this must be fought and defeated. But to put that ad in a mag that's bought by minors, many of whom wouldn't even get the imagery, just be grossed out - I considered it too aggressive and basically ineffective, too. Even Son#1 - who is totally laid-back but actually brought the ad to my attention - was rather stunned (gosh, I am ranting, aren't I? LOL). I wrote to AI and explained this and had a great reply from them, thanking me for my support and my feedback.

I have a lot of sympathy with charities, I admit, having spent many years fundraising for various local schools and scout groups etc. BUt there must be a better way.

And glad to hear you're feeling a bit better! BTW I loved Stroke of Midnight :)
Dec. 27th, 2009 04:52 pm (UTC)
Oh, you don't see humanitarian stuff like that in the US for general population advertisements, I don't think. They save it for the extremely liberal and fairly highbrow magazines like Utne Reader or Ms.

I think the ad industry guesstimates average US intelligence one or two notches above Cro-Magnon. (Though sometimes I'm inclined to agree...it makes me despair to think we're ALL such mindless blobs.) Charity pleas in the US are usually limited to big-eyed animals and small children with flies crawling on their eyelids.

The thought that some jerks at the ad agency will happily crush your spirit to wring a few bucks from you is what's infuriating.
Dec. 27th, 2009 02:33 pm (UTC)
It sounds like the kind of tactic that backfires. It just repels people so much they turn the TV or turn the page. They don't want to think about it and taking the time to donate money would force them to think about it for longer, so they won't.

And like you say, they're trying to induce guilt, when really that's not an emotion the people who would donate to them should be made to feel. Okay, there's an argument about "if you're not part of the solution you're part of the problem", so some people might argue it's a legitimate tactic, but there are other ways. Why try to make the people you want to help you, people who would never wilfully hurt an animal, feel bad? Can't they try to invoke a feeling of "if I give to this charity I'll feel good" rather than just "if I give I'll stop feeling so bad."

I remember a few years ago the RSPCA running an ad campaign about how many dogs they had to put down because they couldn't care for rehome, and used a horrible image of dead dogs piled up, which had definite echoes of similar images from photographs from the Nazi death camps. There was a huge outcry about it. People didn't think it was the kind of tactic that a charity that's actually one of the best supported in the country should be using. They just didn't need that kind of shock tactics.
Dec. 27th, 2009 04:46 pm (UTC)
Yow, I can't fathom the person who got the pile-of-dead-dogs campaign passed by the board and what they must have been thinking.

I'm thinking a lot of my anger came from the feeling I was being manipulated. I have a tendency to get pissed off at harmless (seeming) TV commercials that perpetuate obnoxious male/female stereotypes as well. There's a cold remedy ad where a "mom" has the flu and her whole family can't function without her, and they're clinging to her like a bunch of imbeciles while she roams around in a fog, can't feed or dress themselves because "mom" isn't there to wipe their pathetic asses for them.

There I go getting pissed off again. ;-)
Dec. 27th, 2009 04:06 pm (UTC)
We always turn the channel--or turn the TV off when we're all thumbs. Can't stand to have the images burned into my corneas. We give to the local Humane Animal Treatment Society (H.A.T.S.) and they take care of the local shelter animals in so many wonderful ways...and without soul scarring video!
Dec. 27th, 2009 04:41 pm (UTC)
Agreed. What's nice about giving local is that you can also donate stuff. So I could call my local humane society and say, "Do you need garbage bags? What size?" and donate $20 of garbage bags. That way I'd know that all $20 went directly to filling the needs of the charity and $0 went to ridiculous marketing. (Though our local place doesn't do ridiculous marketing and is also a no-kill shelter. My friend volunteers there so I have the inside scoop.)
Dec. 28th, 2009 03:47 am (UTC)
I hate the idea of making TV ads that are brutal or grotesque. I think a TV ad traps you, and assaults you in your own home. Something you catch a glimpse of on a kiosk or wall isn't the same thing at all. And it's not the same thing when you see individual animals. And that layer of personalization is WAY overboard.

Sometimes, I think people need to see things like junkfood_monkey describes, though. I think it should be mandatory viewing after your second run at 'recycling' a pet (our Humane Soc. and every other I know have recyclers, people who drop a dog off every 12-18 months or so because it's 'not trainable', on their way to pick up the next one). I might even go for that in general just on a poster in b/w, because I think people need to know the level of horribleness that's going on. I think it needs to become socially questionable to buy from a breeder -- and I say that as someone whose family has bought from breeders and also rescued dogs, and as someone who will probably buy one or two more dogs from a breeder in their lifetime. But the TV ads -- which can be seen by ppl in a vulnerable state, or children who don't have an adult present to mitigate the impact -- are off the scale of decency.
Dec. 28th, 2009 10:36 am (UTC)
How true, there is something more invasive about the ad coming into your home rather than being seen. I think the personalization thing you mention is spot-on, with the text overlay of "What did I do wrong?" and the pleading, disfigured eyes.

I was going to call it anthropomorphism, but come on, I do the same thing in the way I interact with my own pets. It just seemed like a particularly cruel and underhanded tactic.

I'm not sure what to make of the recyclers. There's another type of owner that says, "We can't keep this animal, let's put it to sleep." Evidently when I was born my grandmother did that to the sweet, gentle family St. Bernard because "the dog and the baby were too much." So I get to carry that guilt around now.

My cat Puffy was one of those. Its owner heard me lamenting the illness and death of my cat at the time and offered him to me. Every now and then I think, "She almost put you to sleep because her grandson is allergic...oh God."

And a couple years later she got another cat and argued that it was fine since it was a shorthair. (It's the SALIVA that's an allergan, you fool. Not the hair.)
Dec. 29th, 2009 12:59 pm (UTC)
I've long felt the same way. My sister and I call them the "emotional blackmail adverts".
Dec. 29th, 2009 09:46 pm (UTC)
Emotional blackmail--yes, that's perfect.
Jan. 3rd, 2010 07:43 pm (UTC)
That ad has also ruined the song they play in the background for me - forever. Grrrr.
Jan. 3rd, 2010 08:09 pm (UTC)
I could have sworn it was set to a chorus of wails that went, "Where's the remote? Change it! Change it!"
( 19 comments — Leave a comment )

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