As a journalist I’ve attended my fair share of bonkers press launches over the years and have seen some truly bizarre sights as PRs wrack their brains to come up with ever-more exciting and eye-catching ideas and venues to attract punters to their launches. I don’t envy their task for a minute – they have a thankless task trying to create a buzz for people whose diaries are filled with a succession of buzzes. But I’m not sure I feel at all comfortable about the use of live animals at one – as they were at today’s Christmas showcase for Jo Malone which featured penguins.
I was about to leave for the event myself when I saw a whole batch of comments on Twitter about the event pop up in my timeline and what I read promptly made me change my mind. Oh, I know all the arguments – there were trainers there, the penguins are only allowed to appear for so many hours, are used to it, love being fussed over etc but what concerns me is not so much their welfare (I’m sure they were properly looked after and am assured that the fake snow isn’t toxic) but the use of animals as ‘props’ and I do hope it isn’t part of a trend.
Even more dismaying, if I’m honest, was the response from many of my colleagues in the industry. This afternoon Twitter was alive with squeals of delight from those who had attended, one writing “Penguins at Jo Malone. Brilliant’. Another urged her peers not to skip the event because there were penguins there, which kind of made me wonder whether anyone would write ‘So-and-so’s launch is brilliant – they have real life dwarfs you can gawp at and touch for luck’!
Only one or two people joined me in questioning the appropriateness of using animals in this way. I work in an industry often mocked for its vacuousness and there are times, like this frankly, when I feel this opinion is wholly warranted. On occasion we do ourselves no favours at all.
Angered by what I was reading, I then challenged one person who attended, only to be called a ‘Killjoy’ – as if I was ruining everyone’s fun. If people think of me as a killjoy fine. Fundamentally, I’m just a big softie. I am firmly against animal testing, hunting for sport and the use of animals in circuses. I once declined an invitation to a press event at a greyhound race because I’m all too aware of the cruelty and mistreatment many greyhounds suffer once their racing days are over. When I pointed this out to the PR in question and directed her to some relevant sites she was horrified and said that, had she known, she would never have organized the trip. Don’t get me wrong, I am not evangelical (I’m not Chrissy Hynde!) but I do get upset when I see animals unnecessarily debased.
I thought long and hard about whether to post this because it’s an emotive subject and in doing so I’m probably going to put some people’s noses out of joint. That’s certainly not my intention. Nor do I want to cause trouble. I love Jo Malone as a brand (see some of my previous posts) and I really like the press team too. What I offer here is merely a point of view, an alternative perspective. If people do object to it then I have to accept that but at the end of the day I guess I care more about animals than I do about scents and candles – or, for that matter, what people think of me. So please, if you’re a PR reading this – no giraffes having their eyelashes tinted ok? And before anyone thinks of it, definitely no pigs in lipstick either.