PETA Ad Dubbed Too Sexy for Super Bowl

The animal-rights group doesn't want people to eat meat, but they don't mind treating women like it.

Update:There is a new interview with a PETA Campaign Coordinator at the end of this story.

Hot, sexy, steamy ... vegetables? PETA's latest ad, "Veggie Love," which combines scantily clad supermodels getting intimate with bushels of broccoli and bundles of asparagus, has people talking.

The ad is as horrifying and insulting to women (and men, for that matter) as any Victoria's Secret or Budweiser ad, the catch being that instead of trying to sell overpriced undergarments or a drink that increases your likelihood of calling up your ex, PETA's ad is touting the positive effects of vegetarianism. Namely the sexy positive effects.


"Studies show," the ad reads as a hard-core rock song plays and the women frolic with foliage, "vegetarians have better sex." (Actually, the ad is really just knocking meat eating, as the studies they are talking about link meat consumption to impotence.)

Watch it:

 "Veggie Love," PETA's Web site says, was for a coveted Super Bowl ad slot, so the hypersexed imagery could be taken as a tongue-in-cheek poke at all the other football adverts that try to draw a correlation between really hot babes and Dr. Scholl's insoles. But even if that is the case, it doesn't change the fact that PETA is objectifying women to get attention. (Yes. I know. Attention such as articles like this one. I am aware.)

This isn't the first time PETA has treated women like meat to get people to stop eating it. PETA has a long history of using "conventionally attractive" women as sexual tools to get their messages across. And "Veggie Love" is no different. Many more intelligent (and more gender appropriate) authors have tackled this issue. The main point with this ad is that it is offensive. To be strictly equal the ad could have at least objectified a few dudes.

Seriously PETA, you couldn't find one guy with a smoking hot six-pack to make out with a potato in the buff? More appropriately, PETA should have found a way to express its message that doesn't include any fantasy models enacting pornographic images with throbbing music in the background. I don't care how tongue in cheek PETA thinks its being. Super Bowl or no Super Bowl, "Veggie Love" is sexist.

But sex(ism) sells; and this ad is no different. Despite being rejected by NBC for a Super Bowl ad slot, "Veggie Love" is being talked about by everyone from Whoopi Goldberg on "The View" to the New York Times (Whoopi actually went as far as to re-enact the ad with a lettuce head because ABC refused to let "The View" air "Veggie Love").

This type of buzz is, of course, what PETA set out to accomplish with its risqué ad. Thanks to the Internet, a new type of marketing is quickly becoming popular. Called by some "parasite" or "leech-media tactics," the concept is simple: Create buzz for your product or message by creating a video that is controversial or provocative, release it online, watch it scream across the intertubes, and soon thereafter the corporate media.

"Veggie Love" is another in a long list of viral videos, but these new types of videos push merchandise or ideas, not just hamsters on pianos or dramatic chipmunks.

PETA isn't the first to use leech-media tactics though. In fact, these types of videos were about the only thing Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign was good at. The campaign made sure that every offensive smear "ad" it created about Obama got covered by the corporate media outlets. "Celeb," "The One" and many others were videos that the campaign never actually aired on television because it didn't need to.

Why pay for ad space that cable news will gladly give you for free? This is the type of thinking behind PETA's marketing success, "Veggie Love."

And who can blame it? Online, print and television news outlets find it hard to pass up such a juicy title as "Too Hot for TV: PETA's Rejected Super Bowl Ad." Cubical workers all over are watching the ad despite warnings of NSFW (which stands for "not safe for work"). It's like the Internet's parental advisory sticker -- it just makes the kids want it more. It helps that NBC released a titillating list of reasons for rejecting the ad:

* licking pumpkin

* touching her breast with her hand while eating broccoli

* pumpkin from behind between legs

* rubbing pelvic region with pumpkin

* screwing herself with broccoli (fuzzy)

* asparagus on her lap appearing as if it is ready to be inserted into vagina

* licking eggplant

* rubbing asparagus on breast

Now, whether one is offended by the material, a horndog who likes the idea of turnips and tits, or just a curious bystander, your average person is likely to find "Veggie Love" and watch it as soon as their boss leaves to go get a latte.

Which begs the question: Are the marketing folks at PETA geniuses?

Perhaps. PETA had not gotten back to us by press time to answer our questions, namely "Did it ever want this ad to be accepted by NBC in the first place?" By going viral, the ad is having much more of an impact. Instead of being lumped in with the always-predictable "crazy Super Bowl ads" that run after game day, the ad is now out ahead of the pack and getting its own individual attention (again, thanks to articles like this one).

As the entire mainstream media take a moment to go "Look, boobs and broccoli," surely PETA is pleased by the attention being paid to "Veggie Love," and perhaps a rejection was what PETA was after all along.

If you watch "Veggie Love" on PETA's site, it is immediately followed by a much more serious, and a much more clothed, video.

"Chew on This" lists reasons to become a vegetarian, which includes "because heart disease begins in childhood," "because eating meat and dairy makes you fat" and "because in every package of chicken there's a little poop."

The video shows animals being killed in gruesome manners, factory chickens living in squalor and pigs being stood upon while they die slow, painful deaths.

"Chew on This" made me feel a lot worse about the pastrami sandwich I had for lunch than the ad where a mega-babe licked a pumpkin.

Watch it:


"Chew on This" also brings up studies about meat-eating leading to impotence in older men. Remember, this is the reasoning behind the vegetable/bikinied ladies ad as well. So, if the undressed women draw attention to the much more serious "Chew on This," with its valuable information and more-shocking-than-scandalous imagery, do the ends justify the means?

Of course not. From a strictly marketing outlook, the fact is that people are only talking about and showing the first ad. When you embed "Veggie Love," it only shows that ad and doesn't show "Chew on This." So no one is really talking about "Chew on This." No one is really talking that much about how consuming meat is linked impotence.

No, most people are talking about how NBC denied the ad a Super Bowl slot because it's "too hot." Like this commenter on PETA's blog:

Okay ... one of the hottest ads I've seen in 41 years! Going out to get more veggies ... right now! Great job, PETA! Shame on you, NBC!

Or this one:

OMG! That ad is soooo hot! I love it. NBC is so lame for not accepting it.

Another way to put it is that most people, as well as the mainstream media, are too busy going, "Look, cleavage and cucumbers," to really talk about anything else.

Which brings us back to the objectification of women. Just because using women's bodies as virtual stand-ins for sex gets you attention doesn't make it right. We may have come to expect that from beer companies, but not organizations fighting for justice.

Bottom line: PETA has no business stepping on women's rights in the name of animal rights.

But tell that to PETA's marketing department.

Update:Below is an interview with Ashley Byrne, a Campaign Coordinator for PETA. Unfortunately I did not hear back from Ashley in time to incorporate her responses into my story (no fault of Ashley's, the story was fast-tracked). Here, unedited, is the interview:

Q: What did PETA hope to accomplish with this ad?

A: The ladies show that a healthy relationship with veggies can be exciting, pleasurable and fulfilling. The message here is: "Studies Show: Vegetarians Have Better Sex," which is true. Eating meat clogs the arteries to all of your organs, not just your heart. Meat consumption has been directly linked to impotence. Besides, eating meat is a total turn-off. there’s nothing sexier than someone who is passionate and compassionate.

Q:The message you all are putting out is that NBC wouldn't air this because it's too "sexy." But others -- average viewers -- have noted that it's also sexist. How do you respond to critics who say the ad objectifies women, uses their bodies as virtual stand-ins for sex and essentially treats them like meat, presumably to get people to stop eating meat?

A: We often do sexy things to get the word out about animal abuse, because sadly, the media usually do not consider the facts alone “interesting” enough to cover. As an organization staffed largely by feminist women, we would not do something that we felt contributed to the very serious problems that women face. These women are choosing to stick up for animals who never get a choice when they are abused on factory farms and then brutally slaughtered, and we applaud our models, as well as all our activists, for exercising their freedom by speaking up for those who have no voice.

Q: Given all the media attetion this ad is getting as "too hot for the super bowl," were you hoping all along that NBC would deny this advertisement (was that always the plan)?  If NBC had accepted it, would you guys have released it beforehand anyways?

A: The sales rep we dealt with at NBC was initially excited about the commercial, so we were shocked to get her rejection email, which was actually a lot more graphic than the ad itself. Our ad is sexy and provocative, much like a host of other ads you'd typically see on the Super Bowl. We have to wonder if our long campaign against KFC wasn't the real reason for our spot being turned down. The fast-food giant is a major NBC sponsor - and a target of heavy PETA campaigning as a result of its failure to reform cruel animal welfare practices and slaughter methods.

Update #2: For those who want more, Melissa McEwan responds to the PETA interview at the end of her piece here.

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