A Jeep spot that showed a deer hunter boldly rescuing his prey by fooling his fellow hunters has been taken off the air after numerous complaints from hunters.
The spot, which appeared at least twice recently, was part of the long- running Jeep campaign carrying the theme "There's only one." It was withdrawn at the end of last week, said Jay Kuhnie, director for Chrysler and Jeep communications at the Chrysler Group in Auburn Hills, Mich., part of DaimlerChrysler.
The Jeep commercial, created by PentaMark Worldwide in Troy, Mich., a division of the BBDO Worldwide unit of the Omnicom Group, depicted the hunter driving past other hunters with two deer tied to the roof and hood of his Jeep Grand Cherokee in the traditional way of conveying animal carcasses. Once the hunter arrives in a "no hunting" zone, there is a surprise ending: He tells the deer, "You're safe now," and unties them, and they bound away.
To underscore the point, an announcer concluded the commercial by intoning, "With all of our patented safety systems, it's no wonder a Jeep four-by-four is one of the safest ways ever to cross treacherous terrain."
The withdrawal is the second time in two months that Chrysler has changed advertising plans after some consumers complained; previously, the company had PentaMark rework some dialogue in a commercial for the Chrysler Concorde sedan after protests that it was too racy.
Those problems are emblematic of the delicate balancing act for advertisers and agencies, between creating advertisements that attract attention, particularly in a competitive field like sport utility vehicles, and yet remain sensitive to differing viewpoints among consumers.
Mr. Kuhnie, who oversees advertising and marketing, said the spot was withdrawn because "we don't want to damage our relationship with any group or individual that loves or appreciates the outdoors."
"The premise of the spot was to communicate the key attributes of the Jeep brand - off-road capability, ruggedness, safety and security," he added, not to make a statement for or against hunting, because there are "loyal customers on what could be considered both sides of the issue."
Jennifer Rossbach, a spokeswoman for PentaMark, said the agency was "quite surprised" by the reaction to the commercial from hunters and groups representing hunters. The spot was not tested with consumers before it first began appearing because, she said, the agency did not think it "would be taken as negatively as it was."
"Our chairman and C.E.O., Mike Vogel, is an avid hunter; he goes all over the world hunting," Ms. Rossbach said. "He also reviews all of our advertising prior to it going to a client for approval, and he did not find this offensive."
When asked, she said that PentaMark did not create the commercial to generate publicity.
Soon after the commercial first ran, Rick Story, vice president at the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance in Columbus, Ohio, said he began receiving complaints.
"This ad painted the whole concept of hunting, and deer hunting in particular, as a negative, and in a shallow light," Mr. Story said. "Essentially, it attempted to communicate that if you're a Jeep driver, you are enlightened and hence, wouldn't engage in deer hunting."
The organization, formerly the Wildlife Legislative Fund of America, then contacted its members, along with members of other hunting groups, asking them to get in touch with executives at DaimlerChrysler, by calls and by fax, to protest the content of the commercial.
The organization also issued a news release declaring that the automaker had "turned its back on American sportsmen" by running a commercial "that glorifies anti- hunters and vilifies hunters."
The protest was also the subject of a column last Sunday by Ken Moran, whose column on the outdoors appears in the sports section of The New York Post. The column, which reprinted the news release almost verbatim, ended with information on how to complain to DaimlerChrysler.
After the commercial was withdrawn, the organization issued another news release, praising DaimlerChrysler for having "responded to the calls of sportsmen."
While the commercial angered many hunters, it was praised by organizations opposed to hunting.
"There's absolutely no reason to kill in America in order to put food on the table," said Ingrid E. Newkirk, president at PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, in Norfolk, Va., adding that companies like DaimlerChrysler would "win points if they're life-affirming, saving animals, doing positive things."
PETA annually presents honors and brickbats to advertising that it deems to have positively or negatively portrayed animals, known as the Glitterbox and Litterbox awards, respectively. Though the awards are not presented until the end of each year, the organization has already nominated the Jeep spot for a Glitterbox.
Making complaints to the point that the commercial had to be pulled generated publicity for the anti-hunting forces, Ms. Newkirk said, adding, "The hunters shot themselves in the foot, if you forgive the pun."
Allison Fass, The New York Times. January 18, 2002
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