Verizon Succumbs to Pressure to Pull Pit-Bull Ad

Joins Snickers, Nike in Yielding to Advocacy Groups

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Verizon Wireless is the latest marketer to yank an ad deemed offensive, in what has become a minor trend of marketers caving to pressure from advocacy groups.

The ad, a 30-second spot from Interpublic Group of Cos.' McCann Erickson for the LG Dare phone, depicts two ferocious pit bulls barking at a young man who climbed a junkyard fence in the hope of touching the phone. The dogs lunge at the man, but are cut short by their heavy chains.

PETA and other animal-rights groups slammed the commercial as promoting animal cruelty, arguing that chained dogs are deprived of social interaction and forced to endure weather extremes, adding that the spot perpetuated stereotypes against pit bulls as a violent breed.

Change of tune
Agreeing to remove the spot from the air is a change of tune for the Basking Ridge, N.J., telecommunications giant. As of late last week Verizon Wireless said it intended to keep running the commercial, which it earlier defended as "fictional" and "designed to be over-the-top, to break through the clutter and get our message across."

According to PETA, Verizon made an about-face after the animal-rights group issued an "action alert" that spurred more than 7,000 e-mails to Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg. "Verizon was right to pull an ad that showed chained dogs when cities and states are busy outlawing chaining," PETA VP Daphna Nachminovitch said in a statement. "The day of the 'junkyard dog' is over, and 'man's best friend' deserves better than being chained up like a bicycle and used as a burglar alarm."

McCann representatives declined to comment on the matter, referring calls to Verizon spokeswoman Brenda Raney, who told AdAge.com: "There were two commercials [for the 'Dare You to Touch One' campaign]; the other one is in circulation right now."

Latest to pull ad
Verizon Wireless is only the most recent company to face intense public scrutiny for its ads. Blue-chip marketers such as Heinz, Mars Inc. brand Snickers and Nike in recent days were all accused of utilizing advertising that is offensive to gays -- and all succumbed to the pressure by halting the controversial work.

Just last week, Snickers stopped running a U.K. spot out of AMV BBDO in London that showed Mr. T machine-gunning candy bars at an effeminate man, culminating with the tagline "Snickers. Get Some Nuts."

In Snickers' wake, Nike pulled a series of ads for its Hyperdunk basketball sneakers created by longtime agency Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore. In one execution, the crotch of one player mid-flight is pressed against the face of another with the tagline "That Ain't Right."
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