L.A. Unleashed

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Dodge pulls chimp from its 'tent event' ad


The other day I was watching television and I saw a car commercial that made me laugh.

The announcer in a disarmingly low-key delivery explained how Dodge was having this great promotion where if you bought one of their three selected vehicles you could drive it for two months, and if you didn't like it you could return it.

"They'll even cover your payments," the voice, belonging to "Dexter" star Michael C. Hall, said. "This event could not be more amazing."

The camera then focused on a small chimp wearing an Evel Kneivel-esqe jumpsuit walking over to what appears to be a dynamite detonator.

"Oh wait, there's a monkey," Hall said. The chimp pushes down on the bar of the detonator and instead of a huge explosion, a puff of confetti showers a few cars.

"I stand corrected," Hall deadpans.

Funny. Witty. And not a bad car promo.

But being someone who has shared an office at work with someone who has educated me over the years about the things that animal groups and activists are sensitive about, I wondered if a group like PETA would object to such a seemingly innocent spot. The next day I came in and showed Unleashed's Lindsay Barnett the video and asked her if she wouldn't mind writing to PETA and asking them what they thought.

On July 15, PETA sent Unleashed this statement from their primatologist, Julia Gallucci:

Most top ad agencies in the country won’t even consider producing an ad featuring a great ape these days given the well-documented abuse that young chimpanzees and orangutans suffer in the entertainment industry. This abuse starts when they are prematurely removed from their mothers and continues when they are trained to perform through savage beatings, denied even the most basic necessities, transported and housed in barren steel cages, and then discarded at seedy roadside zoos around the age of 8, even though they can live into their 60s. You won’t find a great-ape trainer without a history of Animal Welfare Act violations and a reputation for dumping animals when they’re no longer profitable. After watching a video narrated by Anjelica Huston about the use of great apes in entertainment, savvy ad agencies such as BBDO, Young & Rubicam, Grey Group, Draftfcb, and Saatchi & Saatchi made the compassionate decision not to exploit great apes in future ads. Dodge isn’t going to dodge a bullet on this one. It needs to pull the ad — and we’ve contacted the company asking it to do just that. 

On July 20, Colleen O'Brien, PETA's director of communications, wrote Unleashed to say that they had just learned some "exciting news":

Today, PETA’s Primatologist, Julia Gallucci, was told by the CEO of Dodge that, after receiving complaints from PETA and other animal protection groups, the company has made the decision to remove the chimpanzee from their commercial. They are currently working on altering the ad so the chimpanzee will no longer appear. The company also had plans to release a series of print ads with the chimpanzee, which they are now canceling. Dodge joins Travelers Insurance, AT&T and Europcar, all of whom pulled or altered ads with chimpanzees in just the last month after being contacted by PETA. You might be interested in knowing that the show Drop Dead Diva filmed an episode with Suzie, the young chimpanzee who was used in the Dodge commercial. PETA received a whistleblower report from the set alleging abusive treatment during filming of the episode, claiming that the trainer who handled Suzie on the set yanked Suzie's ears, pulled her hair, continually tugged at the leash that was attached to her leg, and yelled at her to the extent that she cowered because of the loud and threatening tone that he used. PETA has called on Lifetime Television to cancel plans to air the episode.

We contacted Dodge, which said it indeed was going to pull the ads. "We received a lot of interesting feedback about this ad," Kristin Starnes, head of Dodge car brand communications, wrote via e-mail. "We are planning to modify the ads to eliminate the chimpanzee part."

When I asked Starnes what Dodge feels it did wrong, Starnes said, "The ad was an innocent act only trying to be humorous. In no way did the brand intend to promote any questionable practices. With the planned modification, we are simply taking some sound advice and altering direction in respect of PETA's initiatives."

"The Dodge ad may seem innocuous, but the behind-the-scenes story of great apes who are used in advertising and entertainment is very dark," Gallucci later said. "Undercover investigations of primate trainers have revealed that chimpanzees are kicked, punched and beaten with sticks in order to make them obedient. When they reach the age of 8, they become too strong to be handled and are typically discarded at seedy roadside zoos and other substandard facilities. They can live into their 60s, so 'retirement' often means decades of misery for these intelligent and sensitive animals."

She added that many large companies have decided to no longer utilize great apes in their advertising.

Patt Morrison Asks: Chimp change (2009 Q&A with primatologist Jane Goodall)
Loving chimps to death (2009 opinion article by Jane Goodall)

-- Tony Pierce

Comments () | Archives (28)

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Now I'll be sure to consider my next vehicle from Dodge. Thanks for relaying the news, LA Times! Thank goodness for the well-being futures of Chimps and similar.

I too felt an unpleasant jar when I saw this commercial. I felt the same thing when I saw an episode of "Scrubs" that used chimps as well. You don't need to be a member, or a fan, of PETA to know that it's incredibly inhumane to use young chimps for entertainment until they grow so strong that they can't be controlled even through vicious abuse, then dump them in cages for a lifespan close to that of humans.

Now if only we could get the Times to address the cruelty of allowing circuses with well-documented histories of animal abuse -- like Ringling Brothers & Barnum and Bailey -- to perform in L.A. Are we as a city so far behind ad agencies in recognizing that rampant animal abuse is reason enough to stop doing certain things? Are we so backward that we refuse to see what is so obvious? Do we really think intelligent elephants would do such stupid, dangerous tricks without being forced and beaten?

How about stepping up on ALL issues of animal cruelty?

Also a chimp is not a monkey. They're as far apart as dogs and cats

The initial motive may not have foreseen such evil, or didn't really give a crap even if they did.

The fact that a big company would react as quickly as they did shows something. Lots of little learning lessons that arise from the bottom line interests - if acted upon could help big corps in the long run.

But yeah, considering these incredible animals inferior or otherwise attaching non-importance to their existence is a major crime. Unforgivable? I believe in change.

Apparently Dodge is misinformed about its own ad, as it just ran, with the chimp (incidentally incorrectly called a monkey) on Saturday, July 24 at 7:22 p.m.


These people are idiots. The monkey is hilarious. I don't see anybody beating the monkey. I do believe a car was damaged, or at least needed a new wash after the ad was filmed.

This is the best car commercial I've seen in ... years! Hilarious. Shame on Dodge for buckling under to such lame, vague, misdirected accusations.


I don't see a problem with the monkey blowing up some confetti, Come on people don't let times ruin the little bit of fun we can get out of this....

Shame on Dodge for making this commercial. What is so entertaining about exploiting animals? Is really worth a cheap laugh?

This ad is a horrible flashback to days when baby chimps were exploited in entertainment, then tossed aside when they reached maturity and became too strong to handle. The lives of these retired animals are miserable, living out their days in concrete cells.

I saw the ad last night - 7/24 - on a cable network. So not everyone has pulled the ad. PETA what a bunch of cry babies.

We should be able to write to the Dodge Corp., praising them for removing the chimp from their ads. It's easy enough to complain when they do something wrong, how about providing an email or website so we can thank them for doing something right?

I just saw this ad 10 minutes ago so it's still up.

How about simply treating these animals humanely? Why is that so hard to do?

Not only is this true for great apes but also for elephants. Elephants are subjected to horrible abuse in order for them to perform for humans in circuses and at amusement parks. Even some zoos abuse elephants and no zoo should keep any elephants because they require a large amount of space to stay healthy. Places such as the Elephant Sanctuary and PAWS (Galt, CA) take in abused elephants and are able to help them because they do have enough space for them to stay healthy. No animal should be used for human entertainment, ever.

I'm glad Dodge decided to do the right thing. I wish they hadn't paid the trainer of the chimp though.

GREAT WORK LA TIMES!! Please keep us posted on the Drop Dead Diva episode!!!!

It would be good if people would educate themselves before posting such snide and ignorant comments here. I'm no fan of PETA, but it is well-known that chimpanzees suffer terribly when they are used in entertainment. They are used when they are young and can be physically controlled relatively easily by humans, although even then they are beaten and intimidated to force them to perform "correctly." But as they mature they become many times stronger than their human captors, and then they are stuck in cages, sold into roadside zoos, sold for medical testing. They then sit in cages, or worse, for decades, lonely and miserable, until they die.

Chimpanzees are highly intelligent and social animals who live lifespans comparable to humans. Imagine being taken from your mother as a baby, made to perform highly unnatural activities through a combination of "training" and beating, and then when you grow stronger than your captors you are simply imprisoned in a tiny cage until you die.

Yeah, that's entertainment...

Okay, since it's now Tuesday and the Dodge commercial just aired at 7:42 a.m. on KTLA, still with the chimp, I think we can safely say that Dodge lied.


Additionally, it really should be incumbent on celebrities like Michael C. Hall to do the homework and make sure they're not participating in advertising that harms animals. It's not hard to get the information that chimps in the entertainment industry are abused. Is that extra few bucks really worth putting your stamp of approval on hurting animals?

Because the ad doesn't show the chimp being abused, that means the chimp wasn't abused? I bet that poster doesn't believe child abuse or rape ever happens, either. How can anyone be so stupid.

I love in Orlando, FL and I just saw this commercial air. SOOOOOO - maybe Dodge needs another phone call from the LA times? It aired during the 7 o'clock hour - on the local NBC affiliate.

I definitely don't support the abuse or exploitation of animals, but this commercial is hysterical and makes me laugh each time I see it. The chimp in this ad is obviously not being harmed by simply walking out and pushing down that device. Most chimps are great showmen and love to perform, so I don't see the problem. They use animals in all kinds of ads - for dog and cat food, carpet ads, air freshner ads - there are all kinds of guidelines I'm sure they have to follow when filming these commercial using animals.

a funny ad that makes lots of people laugh. and a chimp that doesnt look abused. where is the problem. look into trainers on an individual basis and lets not punish everyone due to the bad guys that means everyone loses.

Liz, seriously, can you not see the difference between a dog and a chimpanzee?

Do you think that juvenile chimp you see in this commercial will grow to a certain size and age and then disappear in a puff of magical smoke? Has it never occurred to you that once chimps grow to maturity, at which point they are several times stronger than the strongest human, they can no longer be forced to perform and therefore become disposable to the humans who removed them from their mothers and exploited them to make a fast buck? Do you think that just because you don't see them all those adult chimps disappear? Well they don't, they sit, miserable, in cages, for the remaining decades of their lives. Or they get sold for medical testing -- and sit, in cages, lonely and in pain, for the rest of their lives.

Just because you haven't bothered to educate yourself, and because, for some reason, you find a chimp in a suit funny, you deny anything bad is happening and assert that those who oppose using wild animals to make a buck are the ones in the wrong.

Also, as other commenters have mentioned, just because you don't see the chimp being hit IN THE COMMERCIAL (go figure...) it doesn't mean abuse isn't happening. Or are you one of those people who think just because the trainers in the circus aren't (as far as you can tell) hitting the elephants during the performance those elephants are fine and happy standing on their heads? Because there's a lot of video, and a lot of former Ringling employees, that stand ready to set you straight.

The real question is: Why is "LA Unleashed" not following up with Dodge as it has now become clear that they deliberately lied when they said they would excise the chimp from the commercial? I saw the unedited spot this morning.

Dodge lied. You're a news organization. PLEASE hold them accountable.

Juat aired again here in Cincinnati and airs regularly. I chuckle everytime I see it. Lighten up.

Pete -- you're right. We should all "lighten up" about animal abuse. Why be a buzz-kill by even talking about, much less fighting, the unnecessary pain and suffering of living beings when their blood isn't mussing up YOUR shoes? Learning the truth is such an imposition on you, seeing as how you were apparently forced at gunpoint to visit a humane-issues blog.

Awesome moral structure you've got, dude...

Staff of L.A. Unleashed -- this is NOT a rhetorical question: Are you or are you not going to follow up on a clear lie by Dodge, reported by you as fact, more than a WEEK ago?

From the article:

"I wondered if a group like PETA would object to such a seemingly innocent spot. The next day I came in and showed Unleashed's Lindsay Barnett the video and asked her if she wouldn't mind writing to PETA and asking them what they thought."

What a ridiculous premise for an "article". You have created a worst-case scenario for journalistic objectivity. You knew that the use of the chimp wasn't "innocent" to an organization such as PETA. You attempted to manufacture a crisis as an agent provocateur, and then write it up as a story...

I don't agree with subjecting chimps to evil kinevil suits, but I find it intellectually insulting that the author of this "article" arranged contact with PETA to ensure they were aware of the use of an animal in an inappropriate commercial situation... and then crow that PETA found the use inappropriate.

Its like asking someone who is known to love pizza if they love pizza... and then when they state that they do love pizza, you write a news story about it.

Wow so I think this is the dumbest thing I have ever wasted my life with. Peta get over the fact that there is a chimp in a commercial. Its not like people are going to go out and start beating a chimp because since they saw dodge come out with a commercial of a chimp. This is suppose to be humorous not a death wish for chimps. Peta needs to be fighting for movies like cats and dogs there are like 40 animals in that movie they must be abused all of the time.. getting treats and getting attention...

Okay, good now we wont see any more stupid monkeys performing. Keep them in the cages where they belong. They should replace this chimp with a dolphin, that would be way funnier.

To Bill and Larry,

Since your comments make it clear you don't understand this issue, probably best to "ssh!" while the grownups are talking.

To the writers of L.A. Unleashed -- As a daily reader I am very disappointed that you chose not to follow up on this issue, and the fact that the "news" you reported turned out to be a deliberate lie by Dodge. You CHOSE to report the story, to raise the issue, and then you chose to bury your heads in the sand when it became clear the news you reported was false. We shouldn't even have had to ask you to follow up, but you didn't stand up when you could and should have.

Either this blog is about improving the treatment and stopping the abuse and exploitation of animals or it's nothing more than a self-indulgent exercise in posting "adorable" critter videos that offend no one and make no difference at all. That is your choice.

I have begun educating everyone I know about these PETA lunatics.
Not one more dime from any of our family and friends will go to this freakish cult.
One can only hope that they, like their insane brethren, will also commit communal suicide in the not-so-distant future.


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