21 August, 2007

Marketing Mike Vick's Misery

OK. My wife and I have been accused of being a little eccentric because of the number of animals we keep (two dogs, six cats, and a pond full of koi). We collect pets the way Bill Paxton’s character on “Big Love” collects wives. We’re Polanimalists. That being said, I’ll spare everyone my own personal diatribe on everything that’s wrong and disgusting about the dog fighting incident and about Michael Vick as a human being.

I will however give mad (rabid, even) props out to the people who’ve found a way to make a difference—or in some cases, make a dime—off of the guy’s stupidity. The beauty of America is its marketing spirit, and our natural ability to turn terrible circumstances into causes célébres and cash-a-plenty. Simply take a look at how many American flags Wal-Mart sold on September 11, 2001 compared with the same date a year earlier (for those keeping score at home, it was 116,000 units to 6,400 units, respectively). They made money, and people were able to display their support of their country. That’s the win-win of Patriotic Consumerism.

So when I saw the Mike Vick chew toy, I was ecstatic. Like it or not, you’ve got to give the four budding entrepreneurs who started the venture some punk points for inventiveness. Their product is molded, vulcanized rubber irony, guaranteed to stand up to even the toughest pooch. Now, whether they actually follow through on their website’s promise to share a portion of the profits with organizations dedicated to animal welfare, is another story. But they’re back-ordered, and that means business is good. Even better, Vick isn’t making a penny from it. Until he eventually sues their pants off.

PETA’s in on the action, too. Vick’s dog fighting charges—and plea bargain—are exactly what they needed to raise real awareness about the atrocities that take place in dingy urban basements, abandoned warehouses, and back-road trailer parks across America. The number of tips they’ve received has jumped since they rallied their efforts around condemning his actions. He’s the ultimate boogeyman, like the lurking burglar in ADT spots or the slippery floor that no elderly person can escape from in Life Alert ads. He’s the best and worst thing that’s ever happened to the animal rights cause in recent memory.

Who knows. Maybe Vick will even figure out a way to market his own mistakes. Think about it. Once he’s out of the pokey, he’ll no doubt be any network interviewer’s first round pick for easy ratings.

“Tell us how you’ve changed, Mike.”
“What made you do it, Mike?”
“Is that an Armani suit, Mike?”
“Who do you think will win the AFC, Mike?”

He’ll be on TV in no time. Then, perhaps a book. An acting gig. Hey, maybe even parlay his infamous persona into a professional wrestling career. In some way, he’ll find a way to get paid. And that, too, is what business in America is all about.

Marketing goes both ways, benefiting the good guys and the bad guys alike. Like the light and dark side of the Force or Andy Dick. It’s a just little tough to tell which is which, sometimes. As a pet owner, I feel pretty good that something positive will come out of this mess. As an ad guy watching people make money and promote their causes at Vick’s expense, I feel even better.

--M.M. McDermott, Senior Copywriter

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