In a move straight out of the Mad Men handbook, PETA’s latest campaign casts veganism in heroic sexual proportions.
Their new campaign—“Boyfriend Went Vegan and Knocked the Bottom out of Me (BWVAKTBOOM)—essentially positions a vegan diet as the organic equivalent of Viagra. In a new series of YouTube videos, injured women describe what happens when their boyfriends (in the words of announcer Kevin Nealon), “go vegan and can suddenly bring it like a tantric porn star.”
One spot shows a woman describing the side effects of her husband’s new vegan diet…
“I sprained my knees. And…rug burn. This hand thing. Inner thigh bruising. Outer thigh bruising. Hip dysplasia. I know, I thought only German Shepherds got that. No.”
The women in the spots are bruised, bandaged and, without exception, happy.
Women’s groups are not. One ran a sendup of the Nealon spot, citing figures on sexual assault, domestic violence and conviction rates for rapists. Even Michael Learmonth, digital editor at Advertising Age, expressed reservations. “These ads aren’t made for TV, so the strategy here is that they will cause controversy, trigger coverage and go viral,” he said. “But I don’t think portraying women as beat up physically is a good idea, even in jest.”
YouTube viewers seem to agree. The response to the videos has been overwhelmingly negative, with dislikes outnumbering likes by about 3 to 1. As one viewer wrote, “PETA . . . stopping abuse of animals … but promoting it for women.”
Like it or not, the campaign has already generated more than 2 million views on YouTube. It also delivers a clear, compelling message to men—traditionally a tough audience for PETA. But does it go too far? Do the spots really conflate sexual prowess and domestic violence? Even if they don’t, do they do more harm than good to an already wobbly PETA brand?