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CBC pulls SPCA ads over 'shock value'

May 15th, 2004, 09:18 AM

A new advertising campaign for the Nova Scotia SPCA that equates children with family pets doesn't sit well with CBC brass in Toronto, the Halifax firm that created the public service announcements learned this week.

To the ad agency, Porkpie Hat Advertising, the TV spots, billboard ads and bus shelter posters are "thought-provoking" and "attention-grabbing."

But CBC management says the "shock value" in them violates the public broadcaster's policy on advertising standards.

It recently e-mailed Porkpie Hat a note saying management rejected the SPCA commercials, though other networks have agreed to use them.

"In equating pets with children, the message expresses a point of view that some people would find very disturbing," the CBC's e-mail says. It says ads accepted by the CBC must meet the network's policy on standards of taste, and not "demand audience attention through use of shock value."

The contentious campaign, scheduled to begin this week, puts forlorn-looking kids in the place of animals - one small child is behind a chain-link fence, another is peering around a door - posing questions that pets obviously can't.

Porkpie Hat officials say it was developed to promote responsible pet adoption - and to help prevent pets obtained on impulse, or through other bad decisions, from ending up at local animal shelters.

One transit shelter ad features a girl asking, "I cry at night. Will you have me put down?"

A billboard portrays a little boy saying, "My parents are allergic to me. Can I come live with you?"

CBC spokeswoman Ruth Ellen Soles said Thursday the public service announcements are unsuitable for children.

She said the network isn't anti-pet or anti-SPCA, but CBC officials believe this particular campaign is inappropriate.

"What these ads are doing is equating the behaviour of children and the behaviour of pets, and the treatment of children and the treatment of pets," Ms. Soles said by phone from Toronto.

"There's definitely shock value in this."

The kids used in the ads are between ages five and 12 and are from the Halifax area.

Ms. Soles said the CBC never agreed to run the campaign's 30- and 60-second spots. A spokesman with the ad agency said a CBC sales manager in January offered free air time but made no promises.

"We're not saying, 'We changed our mind and we're not giving you air time,' " Ms. Soles said. "We're saying, 'We're still giving you air time but not for that ad, because this is not something that we would put on our airwaves.' "

Judith Gass, the SPCA's provincial president, couldn't be reached.

According to Porkpie Hat, the focus of the ad campaign, created for the SPCA free of charge, is this: "If only we treated our pets with the same basic consideration we give our children."

Porkpie Hat spokesman Michael Scher said the SPCA material wasn't meant to be controversial or shocking.

"I've turned on Hockey Night in Canada and watched the new (beer ad) campaign and seen the full-frontal crotch shot of the dancing woman in the bikini," he said. "To me, that's a little more shocking."

Mr. Scher said this is the first time his firm has provided advertising for the Nova Scotia SPCA. He said one of CBC's competitors, CTV, is quite happy with the message and images that were created. The ads are also to be on Global.

"There's a lot of examples of shocking advertising out there - I don't think that this is one of them," Mr. Scher said.

SPCA photo
A little girl says 'I cry at night. Will you have me put down?' in one of the ads created for the SPCA. The CBC decided not to run the ads, claiming 'equating pets with children, the message expresses a point of view that some people would find very disturbing.'

The Halifax Herald Limited

May 20th, 2004, 02:25 PM
What is wrong with trying to take pet adoption and ownership seriously. I personally don't want children and my dogs are treated like my kids. There are a large number of people that feel the way that I do. Is that wrong? No, I personally am a little tired of being inundated with messages about childrens needs. Maybe if some parents put in more time to raising their children we would not have to spend so much of the taxpayers money raising their children for them and the same goes for uneducated pet owners. Shock value works, subtle ads don't. Most people have to be hit in the face with something to notice it.