Sorry, elk. This billboard won’t save you.
One reason the advertising field mistakes wannabe screenwriters and novelists for marketers is the persistent and indefensible meme that creativity, alone, sells.(1) Wannabes who fail to break into moviemaking or publishing cry out, “I’m creative! If I can’t make films or write books, I’ll make ads!” As a result, we the public have foisted upon us ad after ad that exists solely because someone deemed it creative while managing to convince a client that by virtue of being creative (and nothing more than that) it packed selling power.
The above-shown PETA billboard is an example of an allegedly(2) creative ad that fails to sell. (Set aside your feelings about PETA. We’re talking advertising strategy, not ideology.)
Advertising that hopes to get people to change their ways must provide people a good reason to do so. According to this billboard, the reason to quit hunting is that the animal might get you back. It fails as a good reason. Tables-turning prey have hardly reached epidemic proportions. Moreover, for some, risk is part of the thrill of hunting.
Besides, risk to your personal safely is not why PETA doesn’t want you to hunt animals. Else, PETA would be all for a payback-free method of killing animals—say, raising and slaughtering them on a farm—and all for hunting critters that pose no retaliatory threat. (Imagine this headline: “PETA says ‘Hands Off’ horned creatures, declares open season on defenseless ones like bunnies.” And this subhead: “Officials undecided about Jackalopes.”)
Message aside, this concept commits a major billboard sin. Few drivers buzzing by at 75 MPH will have the time to read the headline, notice the red-tipped antlers, and put it all together.
The PETA billboard hopes to end hunting by failing to provide one good reason why hunting should end. That’s idiotic enough. Even more idiotic, PETA paid good money to have the concept produced and displayed.
1. Yes, indefensible. See Chapter 5 of my book.
2. Call me disagreeable, but I don’t find it “creative.” Whatever “creative” means.