Ricardo Hinds


Joshua Mehler

Sex Sells


Businesses have taken different approaches towards making advertisements with the intention of grasping one’s interest in their product. One such company that has arrived at different strategies is an organization by the name of People for the Ethical Treatment for Animals (PETA), with its rather peculiar ways of manipulation.

A quick image search for PETA returns a striking result that follows the same pattern. Almost every advertisement that is featured contains a different attractive female model wearing little to no clothes. After examining each of these commercials one can argue that PETA’s aim was to primarily use sex as a means to get their message across in these advertisements. These ads were created to follow a central theme, which revolved around their strong belief that we as fellow citizens should refrain from killing animals for the use of their fur. An ad in particular that seemed to stand out was one that discouraged wearing animal fur of any kind. A swift glance at this poster is enough for one to see that its purpose was for you to focus in on Nia Long, one of the many naked models PETA uses in their campaigns. The setting is quite unusual and a bit exaggerated, as you would not normally see a model in her birthday suit with her legs wrapped around a pole on an ordinary rapid transit railway system. In addition, the background seems to be somewhat dimly lit, while she strangely has a lighter glow about her. Despite the rather glamorous approach PETA chose to take on this topic, they were successful in teaching me more

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about their primary mission statement. Prior to analyzing these advertisements, I had developed my own assumptions and generalizations of what PETA was all about due to their reputation.  Initially, because of their rather radical standpoint on issues, it seemed to me that PETA’s main audience were meat lovers and their primary purpose was to convert as many people to vegans as it would help save animals. However, nowhere in their mission statement, which can be found on their about page, is that even confirmed; not to mention they seem to be more concerned about another particular audience in their crowd. Judging by the use of a bare female model in this ad as well as many others, the targeted group is clearly males in general. This strategic approach proves that the people behind PETA did their homework before spending millions of dollars on campaigns and advertisements. In 1992, The Yankelovich research organization conducted a market research study which claimed that “of the 12.4 million people [in the US] who call themselves vegetarian, 68 percent are female while only 32 percent are male.” The gender difference amongst vegetarians is quite significant, meaning over twice as many more women practice this diet than men. PETA fully recognizes this hitch and seems to understand that the most successful way to solve it is likely to be nothing else but to use the old “sex sells” logic. It is hard to track the influence of their advertising techniques on the general population without conducting a study similar to the one by Yankelovich right before the formation of PETA and another today. Nevertheless, a visit to the organization’s website gives you an idea of just how large it really is. Right away they make apparent that they have many celebrities

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supporting the organization. Also, their about page boast that “with more than 2 million members and supporters, (PETA) is the largest animal rights organization in the world.”

There is no doubt that Nia Long in nothing but six inch heels is the focal point of this ad, however several other aspects prove to be considerably important in getting the message across.  The ad is abundant in detail and contains many objects, including a newspaper that is purposely held right in front of her breasts. After taking a closer look, the headline reads “People in the Know say ‘No to Fur’”. There is also a small sign posted on the door that has the word fur being crossed out. In addition, one of the graffiti on the roof is also the word “fur”. Evidently the main message here is that we should find other alternatives instead of using fur products.  The image in the background that caught my attention the most was the one placed right above Nia, which featured a small picture of a man appearing to swing an object at a defenseless seal in its environment. The inclusion of this image suggests that PETA’s advertisement was quite recent since this very problem was in fact investigated and criticized on the news just last month. In an article by the Huffington Post, PETA even goes as far as comparing Canada’s seal slaughter to American slavery. Similarly, PETA also decided to incorporate a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. at the end of their video titled State of the Union Undress saying “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”. This quote, coupled with the reference to slavery, suggests that PETA believes animals need to be treated well as if they were human beings like us. What this means is that they want us to know that animals have rights too and those rights should be reinforced better.

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In addition to the several images and mini posters found throughout PETA’s advertisements are written texts that actually serve an even larger role in presenting their aspiration. Right next to the image of the seal clubbing is a statement that reads “wear fur, share the blame”. The manipulative technique PETA is now using is trying to make the audience feel guilty for their actions; a mentality approach. The point of this quote is to simply make people believe that by wearing fur they might as well be that same hunter massacring those poor, innocent, seals in which the furs came from. More obvious however is the large, bold, white and red letters across the middle of the advertisement that state “I’d rather go naked than wear fur”. Once again these words are also strategically placed to help cover up Nia’s other private area, which is where eyes may tend to drift first. Also, the text at the bottom of the ad tells us to be comfortable in our own skin and let the animals keep theirs. This can be misleading since Nia, along with the other models this organization uses, may be getting paid a fat sum to do their job as a model; not to mention we can’t be entirely sure they are living their lives as nudists. At this point PETA seems to be exaggerating quite a bit since we all know that although this theory may be ideal for the animals, it’s just not a rational solution.

As alluring and glamorous as PETA seems to make itself look, different sources say otherwise about this organization. One in particular, “PETA Kills Animals”, has a very strong opposition towards them as you can judge from their name alone. Created by the nonprofit organization Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF), they claim to uncover the real truth about PETA and have photos to prove it. PETA itself wants to look good in the eyes of their audience

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and accomplishes that by letting people know just how much they care about the animals. One way they go about doing so is taking adoptive approaches for animals that do not have a home. However, an article on CCF’s website exposes the reality of the matter and it is not one that is positive. The detailed statistics show that of the thousands of animals PETA received in that given year, only about twelve percent were actually put up for adoption. It also reveals that almost all of the remaining animals that were not adopted were simply put to sleep. In response to this shocking decision, PETA’s president Ingrid Newkirk complained that the cost of keeping them was more than killing them. Clearly, they’re priority is money for that matter, which makes them no different from the food industry.

With that said, I have created an anti-ad that exposes PETA and its actions. Although it’s possible that PETA’s strengths and motives can far outweigh its dark side, their advertisements nevertheless do not shed light on the evils of the organization, but rather glorify everything they stand for. With the use of clothes less models and bright colors, PETA advertisements capture people’s attention and automatically give them positive feelings. This is why I made the decision to create a darker and more sinister like image for an anti-ad. It features a tackle-box based on a real “death kit” containing deadly drugs and syringes that was actually used by members of PETA. The text used in my ad directly criticizes the way they handle animals that need a place to live. It is reported that an overwhelming amount of animals die each year at their hands because they simply put them to sleep after a certain time. I wrote the statement “We Love Animals If They’re Not Our Problem…” in accordance to how the sources depicts PETA to highlight the hypocrisy and contradiction found between them and their ads.

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PETA has proven to have very radical approaches to controversies, and they show their uniqueness in the advertisements they make. The advertisement featuring Nia Long about being “Comfortable in your own skin” and others similar truly show how sex sells and can sometimes cause the viewer to only see the glamorous side.

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Works Cited








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