The use of celebrity to get the message across. PETA takes tools from advertising to brand their message. They have become notorious for its controversial protest campaigns to promote animal rights. As an activist non-profit, it has developed a brand from being on the fringes, by getting headlines meant to grab your attention. We had a conversation with Dan Mathews, the creative force behind many of the memorable People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) campaigns. As Senior Vice President of PETA, the world’s largest animal rights organization, he has mobilized a string of celebrities to speak out for the cause.

Branding tools have traditionally been seen as instruments of corporate interest. However, branding is increasingly used in the nonprofit sector. In the case of PETA, the visual language of the campaigns comes close to commercial advertising but has a different goal. Can you tell us about the purpose, the meaning and the effect of your campaigns?

Sure. Well, we strive to make our campaigns look just as alluring, attractive and compelling as a campaign for a product. The only difference is that we’re urging people not to buy a product. We’re trying to show the hidden story behind some of these products. Oftentimes, it’s something that the public generally doesn’t want to see – especially when it involves cruelty to animals. We have a lot of campaigns that spotlight the cruelty. That is what really changes people. But if you only do that, you lose a lot of people that don’t want to see the graphic images.

Read more in BRANDED PROTEST the book.
About Dan Mathews

Dan Mathews is the Senior Vice President of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. He is known for heading PETA’s most controversial and attention-getting campaigns, including the “I’d Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur” ads, as well as campaigns involving celebrities.
Dan convinced Calvin Klein to stop designing with fur after leading a raid of his office, pressured GM to stop using animals in crash tests by storming the auto company’s float in the Rose Parade, and persuaded Gillette to halt tests on animals after wheeling a TV into the company’s cafeteria to show graphic footage of the experiments. He was named among the world's most influential gays by Out magazine and has lectured at Harvard, Princeton, and Columbia University.
Mathews has written a memoir, Committed: A Rabble-Rouser’s Memoir, which he characterized as “an adventure story. It’s like 007 wearing freaky outfits”. The book tells the story of how he became a public person, the various exploits he’s undertaken for PETA, and different campaigns he has done.
now available online and at your local book store.
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