Monkeys helped us get to the moon during our early days with NASA. They taught us how amazingly fun sign language can be with Jane Goodall. And they provided a name for a band that, while not great, probably got a lot of us through a lot of things that would have been unbearable during the 1960s.
What monkeys will no longer be known for, however, is Volkswagen. A teaser for the automaker’s Super Bowl ad—not even the actual ad itself, just the teaser for the ad—apparently featured a monkey. While it was just a bit role, three seconds, apparently, that was more than enough to draw the attention of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, otherwise known as PETA.
Sure, Volkswagen could have fought it, but at the end of the day, is that really what you want an auto company to be known for? Officially, VW of USA said this:
“Upon learning about the recent issues surrounding the treatment of primates, VW immediately removed one of its teaser ads out of respect for the concern for primate treatment.”
Which is a fair point. No one would want to see a dog or cat treated poorly, so if the life of professional acting primates would be less than stellar, of course Volkswagen wouldn’t subject them to it. An alternative might have been to have campaigned for better treatment of primates instead of backing out of the practice altogether, but as we said, not the automaker’s main concern.
As the New York Times article pointed out—oh yes, dear reader, this is a Serious News Story—“Many blue-chip brands and well-known advertising agencies have agreed to comply with PETA’s campaign to get Madison Avenue to end the use of primates in marketing. They include BBDO, Bridgestone, Burger King, Capital One, Johnson & Johnson, JWT, Pfizer and Y&R.”
The problem is that monkeys are funny. Whether they’re selling tires for Bridgestone, hamburgers for Burger King, Alec Baldwin’s career for Capital One, or we suppose some form of prescription medication for Pfizer, they’re as ancient a prop to the form of a comic as knock-knock jokes and slippery banana peels. Perhaps Jerry Seinfeld said it best in his video with the New York Times: “Chimps are funny.”
Apparently not anymore.