08 October, 2008

One Put Off Ranga

This article from the Daily Mail is almost two weeks old. I’ve been wanting to weigh in on it for a while, but you know “work” and all. Anyway, in order to highlight the plight of endangered orangutans (animals that often have reddish-orange hair) the Adelaide Zoo, located in South Australia, began an advertising promotion offering free admissions to “rangas”—people with red hair. According to multiple sources, red hair occurs in no more than 2% of the population. So, human redheads are an endangered species too. I wish someone would’ve told that to Tom ______n, who made it a habit of torturing me throughout all of middle school. Um, endangered species, TOM! That’s right, now either let me in the locker room or give me back my pants.

But what a great idea! Think of the plight we redheads have. We stand out in every crowd. Mild exposure to sunlight results in pain in a matter of hours. Redheads have a higher incidence of skin cancer. How many redheaded role models can you name? Fergi, Vicki Lawrence, Ronald McDonald, Carrot Top, that guy who posted for the Ad Agency Confessional who just checked himself into a mental hospital for severe clinical depression. And red hair is a direct result of an overabundance of the compound, pheomelanin. Yup, every redhead has some sort of chemical imbalance. Can that be true? you ask. Well, think of every redhead you know. Is there a single one that would make you say, Oh, yeah, Terry, he’s pretty normal? I didn’t think so. But a chemical imbalance, that explains everything.

I digress, I have red hair, which makes me a ranga + I like free stuff = AWESOME ZOO CAMPAIGN! But wait, ranga is not always considered a term of endearment among Australians. It’s not quite the slur that “ginger” is among Brittons, but not every Australian ranga embraces the nickname. So, of course, there was quickly an outcry among rangas that the campaign (which would have also included pictures of ranga patrons with orangutans) was offensive and they wanted it pulled.
And congratulations, idiots, you won! The campaign was pulled, forcing excited redheaded families to pay full price for zoo admission and denying redheads more exposure in a national ad campaign.

One redheaded moron was quoted as saying, “'There is absolutely no way in the world that I am going to be photographed with a red-haired monkey…You can just see jokers looking at the pictures and asking ‘which one is the ape?’” First off, what part of orangutan didn’t she understand? She calls them the wrong hominid twice in one sentence. Maybe the orangutan was thinking, Thank god, I won’t have to take a picture with that stupid gorilla—I mean human. But the point of the campaign was to draw attention to the plight of a freakin’ endangered animal. Is the lesson to be learned, Screw endangered animals, because I don’t want to be made fun of? Will the lazy and podiatricly deformed fight efforts to save the three-toed sloth? Do fat swimmers shout down efforts to Save the Whales.

Just because you’re ugly and apelike, and animals make you self-conscious, don’t ruin it for the rest of us! Sure, I could lose some weight, but you don’t see me getting all uppity when the Szechuan Taste offers free dining for a year to anyone who can eat their weight in crab rangoon. Hell no! I pull a chair up to that buffet table and warn people to watch their fingers and toes, lest I mistake one for an appetizer and inhale a digit or two along with piles of tasty fried cheese and imitation crabmeat goodness. (Okay, none of that happened at Szechuan Taste, but a boy can dream, can't he?)

In the end, Adelaide Zoo dropped the campaign, but still gave free admission to redheads, even if they weren’t natural redheads. So, despite the outcry from the peanut-brained, crimson-headed gallery, the zoo still made good on their promise, and even tried to draw more people into the redheaded fold. Next time, I imagine they’ll rethink any similar promotions, and so will any other venues looking to hook redheads up with free swag. Sorry guys, you did this to yourselves. Sadly, those probably hurt most by my chemically imbalanced brethren are endangered animals. Of course, the rangas probably won’t notice while they’re celebrating over some white tiger steaks and condor eggs. Nice work, jerks.

As far as advertising goes, the lessons learned, 1) people will complain about almost anything, even when they're the ones making out in the deal. 2) If you’re embarking on an advertising campaign that isn’t 100% politically correct, be prepared for some blowback. And when there is some blowback, shine a UV light in the face of those whiney gingers and watch them scatter like red cockroaches across the floor of a Lower East Side basement apartment. I can understand not wanting to stir up a commotion. There’s no shame in that, and for most businesses, that’s what makes the most sense. But if you’re gonna go for it, go for it. Stick by your guns and let the touchy complainers be damned. When you do, those who liked your idea in the first place will like you even more. And that's how you build some serious brand loyalty.

I'm spent.

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