Pet peeve

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To paraphrase david ogilvy (who was quoting the British Labour Party leader Aneurin Bevan), sometimes advertising can be an evil service. And perhaps some kinds of advertising should be abolished. Case in point: the "Got Beer?" campaign unleashed by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

In order to combat cruelty to cows, the Norfolk, Va.-based animal rights organization -- best known for hurling red paint at fur coat wearers -- opted to give beer bellies a boost for the benefit of the bovine. PETA's parodic pitch: Trade in those milk mustaches for beer suds. And where is PETA milking its message? Where higher learning meets cow-tipping: college campuses.

Word of the campaign hit just as the Journal of American College Health released its findings that frequent binge drinking is rising at U.S. colleges. And, not surprisingly, organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving were quick to have a cow over the PETA's "Got Beer?" effort.

Clearly, PETA has done its homework on how to maximize its message's reach with a minimal (translation: non-existent) ad budget. Make the message off-putting and offensive, and you're off and running.

But publicity-seeking high-wire sensationalism that seeks attention by manipulating and shocking the public can come crashing down like a 10 Benetton weight. And adversarial advocacy has nothing to do with advertising.

It's time the cows came home on irresponsible publicity stunts -- whether by issue groups or calculating private-sector marketers. Let's stop it and moo-ve on.

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