Thursday, January 14th, 2010

Real America, with Abe Sauer: They Even Put Ads on Birds Now

windsor canadian huntIt is news to nobody that we are a world undergoing "ad creep," an invasive omnipresence of advertising. Now, ads are more than just "on" our lives but make up "how" we live. With apologies to the Tracy Awards and Kraft's "Cheddar Explosion" program for the demolition of Texas Stadium, the ultimate in ad creep may be a small, cheap booze campaign going on right now in South Dakota.

Windsor Canadian, an unremarkable brand of whiskey, has, for years now, sponsored a remarkable ad campaign, "After the Hunt." Simple as ad campaigns go, the After the Hunt promotion tags several hundred pheasants with Windsor Canadian "After the Hunt" markers and releases them into the wild. Hunters that "bag a banded bird and return the tag will be entered into a drawing to win one of five top prizes." Of course, "bag" is a more delightful way to say "kill" and who knows how to make terrible things sound more delightful than ad copywriters? And don't worry if your dead animal is not a winner of a top prize, "you will still receive a Windsor® Canadian travel mug and Windsor® Canadian Hat!"

windsor bird release sign

Now, there are a number of obvious concerns about such a campaign. Is it even legal? And: what does Windsor Canadian pay for the privilege of advertising on land maintained by taxpayers? Since the tagged birds are released on public lands overseen by the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Park I got in touch with them.

Communications & Outreach Specialist Chris Hull told me the department was aware of the program but that it did not have any formal agreement.

"In fact," he said, "we have kind of discouraged the practice. We don't have any formal rules saying it can't be done either. From my understanding, we told the Windsor folks, and others who want to release birds, that we would rather they not release them directly on to our GPA's [Game Production Areas]. They get around it by releasing them in the roads next to the GPA's."

The Hunt's website has a photo gallery of the "Pheasant Release 2009" that includes the shot above, of a Windsor rep and a public lands sign.

The advertisers pay no fee to the state, though they do make a $1,200 donation to the South Dakota Wildlife Federation.

Since hundreds of these birds are tagged with metal bands and not all of them are "bagged" for great prizes, and because they are farm-raised and likely totally hopeless in real wilderness, isn't there a distinct risk of some predator ending up with a bit of sharp metal in its squishy-soft gastrointestinal tract? "I guess it would potentially be of some concern," Hull said.

I wanted to add PETA's input [Ed. Note: OMG, WHY?] but was ignored repeatedly by the organization's press office. Despite not responding to my requests for comment on this animal-harming advertising program, the group did immediately add me to their fund-raising spam email list.

Rod Rehfeldt is a sales representative for Republic National Distributing Company, the wine and spirits wholesaler that handles the Windsor Canadian brand in the region. Rehfeldt said that the potential concern that the tags could harm a wild predator never crossed the promoter's mind. He attempted to mitigate the concern by explaining that federal wildlife organizations tag thousands of migratory birds and certainly some of them must get eaten. Right? Right?

windsor canadian tag

But Rehfeldt made a very good point: "Many people just cannot afford to pheasant hunt anymore. Our program gives them a chance to get a bird without paying the high fees of private reserves." Public relations spin? Yes. True? Absolutely. Who gives a spit about a Windsor® Canadian travel mug; the real prize is the bird itself.

Hunting is ever more expensive. Not only have license and ammunition costs jumped in the last decade (even in New York), there are also schemes such as the Department of Agriculture's Conservation Reserve Program. For instance, farmers enrolled in CRP-MAP receive $4 or so an acre for allowing public access for hunting and trapping. In 2005, 5 million acres in the Dakotas alone were enrolled.

But with crop and land prices so high, there's less incentive to be enrolled in any CRP programs, leaving less habitat for wildlife. Around 72,000 acres of private land was recently removed from the CRP in Minnesota. With more public hunting land lost, private reserves, such as for pheasant hunting, often charge $100 or more for access to well-stocked fields.

As ethically objectionable as it is to have an advertising campaign that takes as its core the killing of a living thing, the reality is that such a program benefits the hunters who have the least. And while those who object outright to hunting itself might find this trade-off acceptable, they might consider that this does not eliminate hunting: it makes hunting increasingly only for the well-off-just one more activity in which those with the money get to take part and about which everyone else just gets to reminisce.

The Way We Live Nowâ„¢ is sponsored. Everything-from athletic events to the simple act of pissing in a urinal, to hunting, one of the few pastimes we share with our ancestors-are retailed to us by corporations. Many "Americans" object to what they perceive as a nation becoming a nanny state, a centralized government that hands down scraps to the less fortunate, with which we should fashion some kind of endurable existence-but what is the difference between Washington D.C. and Madison Avenue allowing us our welfare pittance? One price is a tax bump; the other is dignity. A nation whose road and fire safety is courtesy of finger-lickin' good chicken.

kfc pothole

28 Comments / Post A Comment

Trevor Jackson (#1,792)

Doesn't the tag wrap around the pheasant's leg? Do predators eat that part?

Trevor Jackson (#1,792)

Also–and I don't want to seem like I'm missing your point because there is something weird about what Windsor is doing–I think farm-raised pheasants released into the wild can be just as difficult to "bag" as ones you'd find in the wild.

Abe Sauer (#148)

Predators often eat everything. And while I am not certain in this case, many pheasant stocking programs are clipped-wing, making them much easier for everything to "bag."

LondonLee (#922)

Farm-raised pheasant doesn't taste as good as wild either. I had some over Xmas, very nice but but more like really good chicken than a game bird.

A lot of wild animals are tagged for research. I guess the tags just pass through the predator's digestive system.

With a little help from the bourbon.

That REALLY makes them easier to bag.

Ted Maul (#205)

Remember a few years ago, when an entire town won a contest to change it's name to McGillicuddy City, in 'tribute' to Dr. McGillicuddy's Schnapps. Wasn't that in North Dakota? I know it was up around there somewhere.

johnpseudonym (#1,452)

I will give you $100 to kill Ryan Seacrest. We can call it an advertising campaign.

Onjay (#2,679)

Perhaps some enterprising adman would like to slap a logo on the tombstone. Why not a large LCD screen with a series of pithy messages that scroll in a loop for all eternity. The opportunities to monetize – as the word 'exploit' seems to have morphed into – seem endless. Call it the Dead Seacrest Scrolls.

johnpseudonym (#1,452)

Ha! Jordin Sparks would demand the return of the scrolls from … uh … Israel Idonije?

HiredGoons (#603)

That last paragraph is some sort of kickass.

Dave Bry (#422)

Do you mean Kickass Hotsauce? (

That was a great paragraph. And so true.

Bittersweet (#765)

Worthy of an Awesome Foundation grant.

the Loud Coast (#1,362)

Sometimes I worry that the rise of the branded experience has something to do with a loss of appreciation for the visceral one, "I remember a simpler time when a urinal was just a urinal…" etc.

HiredGoons (#603)

Also I feel like people's enjoyment of or predilection toward experiences depends on the brand associated with it.

Like how would Nascar people handle it if it was sponsored by Veuve Cliquot?

the Loud Coast (#1,362)

Ha! Probably with a carnival of pronounciation. But to place cheap shots at the nascar crouwd aside, its a good question. Traditionally, the idea would be to put your name next to the car so that positive impression bleeds from the car onto your brand, but with branding being so heavily applied, perhaps it does tip in the other direction.

HiredGoons (#603)

I wasn't taking cheap shots, it was just the easiest example – but thanks for seeing the point I was making!

HiredGoons (#603)

Like are there people who like it because its a 'COORS' think to do but maybe are not as fond of cars going in circles as they have convinced themselves they are?

the Loud Coast (#1,362)

No, I was talking about MY cheap shot.

Abe Sauer (#148)

Goons: I think a great example of what I think you;re talking about it Jay Leno. I was watching him last night for my upcoming Awl meta-enabling essay (KIDDING CHOIRE!) and one segment he has is a "dumb internet videos" thing where people generally concuss and embarrass themselves in ways that only a combination of Youtube and an increasing proliferation of prescription drugs allows. Ha. So lame, right? But it's exactly the same segment that G4 TV's super-hip "Attack of the Show" does every night and nobody would lump them in with lame-o Jay Leno. It's the associated brand that forms our opinions of the content.

[I can't believe I'm doing this but] There is a difference, though, between Leno's smarmy version of this and the Tosh.0 version. In the latter, not only are the jokes much, much meaner on the surface, but every episode some immortalized doofus is given a shot at web redemption.

Say you were riding your BMX off the back of your pickup and faceplanted horrifically. Well, Tosh will give you the chance to get it right. And we will all root for you. You will be both a hopeless bonehead AND the victorious underdog, which is to say, human. With Jay (and Jaywalking) you never get redemption.

Abe Sauer (#148)

That may be true as I've never watched Tosh 2.0. I was referring to Attack of the Show, which has a web video feature, and includes no redemption. Unless you consider getting Olivia Munn to laugh at you redemption (possible).

LondonLee (#922)

Or if there was a Perrier-sponsored car driven by a gay Frenchman?

I knew that reminded me of something.

I'm pretty sure LVMH is almost there anyway. They sponsor vintage car competitions and are heavily involved in "brand dilution."

HiredGoons (#603)

Marc Jacobs is on it, I'm sure.

yourlame (#3,058)

I think Abe needs to stop hugging his big oak tree and do more research; Cabelas has been doing this same type of program in SD for several years now as well. I'm also guessing that you aren't a vegan or vegetarian by your picture, hunters generally eat what they shoot so get over yourself…hunting brings in millions of dollars to your state and several other states. I'm sure PETA doesn't take someone who bitches too seriously when they are wearing a fur bomber hat in their profile picture.

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