Air Date: Week of March 28, 1997
There are thousands of endangered or imperiled species on earth right now, and scientists say thousands more may disappear by the beginning of the next century. Commentator John Carroll says Madison Avenue, not environmental activists, may have the best plan to save them. John Carroll is head of Carrol Creative in Boston and a regular commentator for Living On Earth.
CURWOOD: There are thousands of endangered or imperiled species on earth right now, and scientists say thousands more may disappear by the beginning of the next century. Commentator John Carroll says Madison Avenue, not environmental activists, may have the best plan to save them.
CARROLL: Thanks to excessive farming, widespread deforestation, and modern technology in general, plant and animal species are dwindling faster than Al Gore's credibility these days. To take just one example, scientists report that the penguin population of Antarctica has shrunk by 20% over the past several decades. At least in this instance, we know where they've all gone: to Los Angeles to shoot TV commercials. Lately, penguins have been popping up on the small screen at the same pace as Seinfeld reruns. With the penguins, though, you get a lot more variety. Recent TV spots have featured emperor penguins, African black-footed penguins, and Adelaide penguins: the classic black and white that inspired so many police cars across America. And penguins help sell products from BMW to Canada Dry to Bud Ice to N'ice cough drops.
Now, even though penguins aren't technically endangered or imperiled yet, their current popularity has to be good for their long-term prospects. So maybe advertisers should think about adopting various endangered species as corporate icons to generate both goodwill and good ecology. How about a marketing campaign built around Ivory Snow leopards, which are 99 and 44/100% gone? I'll bet Blue Whale Corduroys from Levi's would be a big hit with the Birkenstock crowd, and after a hard day of saving the rainforest they could kick back with a Molsen Golden Monkey. For the internal combustion crowd, Madagascar Radiated Turtle Wax would probably do a great job of protecting cars against acid rain. And maybe NBC could switch its peacock symbol to the imperiled Chinese pheasant. Not to be confused with Chinese peasants, whose numbers are holding steady despite the spread of capitalism there.
Meanwhile, advertisers of all stripes keep flocking to penguins. Even the Aetna Life Insurance Company is using penguins in magazine ads for its retirement services. Of course, if the new eco-commercialism works, retirement would never have to come for endangered species.
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