From the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, Jonathan Ahl reports on a television ad for the auto-maker Jeep that’s led to a brouhaha between animal rights groups and hunters.
CURWOOD: And you're listening to NPR's Living on Earth. A recent television ad for a car company has created a battle between hunting interests and animal welfare groups. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium's Jonathan Ahl reports.
AHL: The ad in question features a group of hunters admiring two seemingly dead deer tied to the roof of a Jeep. The vehicle's owner then drives into an area marked "No Hunting." He unties the deer, and they leap off the Jeep and run to safety.
Within hours after the ad's first airing, Jeep's parent company, Daimler Chrysler, was inundated with calls from hunting groups, complaining the ad made them out to be the bad guys. Kelly Whitley is a spokeswoman for the National Rifle Association.
WHITLEY: We don't think it reflected hunters accurately. They weren't interested in buying a Jeep after they saw the ad.
CURWOOD: So, Jeep pulled the ad. And animal welfare and rights groups started e-mailing their members, asking them to call a toll-free number where a poll was underway on whether to restore the ad.
MALE: If you would like to register your comment about the Jeep deer hunter ad, please press one.
[SOUND OF PHONE MESSAGE]
AHL: While it appeared to be a poll concerning the ad, the information was not being passed on to Jeep. The company that handles calls for Daimler Chrysler set-up the automated system to deflect callers wanting to complain about the ad so that customers with questions about their Jeeps could get through to live operators.
Daimler Chrysler spokesperson, James Kenyon, says, the company didn't authorize the fake poll. He also says Jeep won't be putting the ad back on the air.
KENYON: The ad was intended to do one thing. People saw something else that was not intended to be there. And, we've even heard from people who felt that since that ad ran, we should run a pro-hunting ad. Well, that misses the point again.
AHL: While Kenyon says Jeep will not take a stand in the debate on hunting, he does acknowledge that hunters make up a substantial part of the company's customer base. The automated poll was taken down about an hour after our interview with Kenyon.
Animal welfare and rights groups, meanwhile, say Jeep had an opportunity to sell their product in a positive way but were bullied by hunting interests. Karen Coangelo is a spokesperson for the ASPCA.
COANGELO: I don't think that they're specifically not looking at what people are saying about the ad itself. I think they're just worried about business, in general, which is somewhat unfortunately.
AHL: Coangelo says she's disappointed that Jeep listened to the concerns of hunters more than the concerns of people interested in protecting animals. She also says the ASPCA will do a better job of checking the validity of phone polls before calling on members to respond to them. For Living on Earth, I'm Jonathan Ahl.
[MUSIC: "Cavatina" DEER HUNTER (soundtrack)]
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