Viacom Pulls PETA’s Hook, Line and Canine

DALLAS A billboard ad near Galveston, Texas, showing a dog with a fishhook in its mouth has been removed after Viacom Outdoor cited numerous complaints about the anti-fishing ad from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

Viacom notified PETA that it would receive a refund on the remainder of its one-month contract when the ad was canceled after only one week, said PETA representative William Rivas-Rivas.

PETA spent $2,000 to rent the billboard and $400 on the image, Rivas-Rivas said. The ad, created by PETA in-house, was used two years ago but reappeared in the new campaign for the first time on Interstate 45 between Galveston and Houston. The same message is expected to appear next on billboards in New Orleans and Columbus, Ohio, he said.

The ad’s tagline: “If you wouldn’t do this to a dog, why do it to a fish?” The dog in the photo belongs to a PETA member and was digitally altered to appear that a hook connected to a fishing line had snagged its mouth.

“The image is not grotesque,” Rivas-Rivas said. “It’s grotesque to think about. Viacom originally accepted the creative, then decided to remove it. We’re more used to having an ad rejected when it’s first submitted.”

Rivas-Rivas said PETA received an e-mail from Viacom executive Cecilia Yu that read: “Please be advised that even though Viacom Outdoor has approved the creative ‘Fishing Hurts’ to be displayed on a billboard in Galveston, Texas, we have received numerous complaints from the community. As per our Contractual Terms and Conditions of Advertising Service [Clause 8], we will remove your ad. You will receive a pro-rata credit from the date of removal. I will inform you of the date when your ad is removed. Thank you for your understanding.”

Because Viacom needs local permits to operate its billboards, it must be sensitive to local reaction to ads, a company official said. The fact that fishing is one of the major industries in the Galveston area prompted the objections, a Viacom representative said.