one green planet
one green planet

Advertising can be deceptive. The point, after all, is to sell you something. Zoos and circuses, for example, are adept at showing animals that appear to be “healthy” and “happy,” using ad slogans like “the happiest show on earth” and other misleading catch phrases.  Of course, we know that these wild animal spectacles are anything but fun for the animals involved.

The case for marine parks like SeaWorld is no different. Following the release of Blackfish, SeaWorld has been scrambling to convince people it cares about animals. Despite these efforts, its revenues went down three percent last year and the CEO resigned. Despite SeaWorld’s best efforts, people are still shunning the theme park due to its treatment of animals.

Multiple law suits were recently filed against SeaWorld on the grounds that the park was purposefully lying about the condition of the orcas and giving false statements to mislead consumers into visiting the park. It seems the orcas aren’t as happy to be forced to perform tricks as the commercials may show.

SeaWorld hopes to combat this bad publicity with its own ad campaign and efforts to improve the physical appearance of its parks, but these efforts are last ditch attempts that show the organization is scrambling to survive.

Turning a Fish Bowl Into a Bathtub

One of SeaWorld’s recent tactics is to build larger enclosures for the orcas. The first enclosure will be built in the California park and will be one and a half acres with a finish date of 2018. It will also include a “fast water current” for the orcas to swim against – an orca treadmill of sorts.

While at first glance this enclosure may seem like an improvement, it is a small step that does little to help the orcas. It is like moving them from a kiddie pool to an adult pool, while the pool is bigger, it’s still not the ocean. Keep in mind that orcas can weigh up to ten tons and be more than twenty feet long; the only environment appropriate for that big of an animal is the ocean. Just imagine living your entire life in a tiny New York City studio apartment without ever going outside and you might have an idea of how the orcas feel.

“Behind-the-Scenes” Advertising

On top of their laughable enclosure expansions, SeaWorld is also using an expensive advertising campaign to convince consumers how great the marine parks are.

The campaign includes multiple approaches such as print and YouTube videos. The focus of the campaign is to show how the park works to care not only for their captive animals but also for those in the wild. Perhaps if they cared about them so much they wouldn’t trap and confine them.

The videos mainly focus on “behind-the-scenes” looks of the veterinarians taking care of the animals. The veterinarians will also be featured in newspaper ads and a TV campaign planned to launch in spring. SeaWorld claims these ads show the “reality” of what they do, when they are nothing more than fantasy and fiction.
An example of one of their YouTube videos can be seen below:


This video goes through all the ways SeaWorld takes care of the orcas, including monthly doctor visits and enrichment activities to challenge their brains. They even imply that they take better care of them than you do your dog, since he or she doesn’t see the doctor monthly. What they fail to mention is none of this would be necessary if the orcas were left in the oceans and that the point of all this care and “enrichment” is to use them for human entertainment. After all, in the ocean there is no need for toys to entertain them.

Transparency or More Smoke and Mirrors?

SeaWorld also launched a social media campaign recently called “Ask SeaWorld.” This campaign allowed people to ask the park’s vets and trainers any question and get an answer. Unfortunately for SeaWorld, most of those people ended up being animal rights activists and critics of their parks who took over the campaign and turned it into another news story about the problems with SeaWorld.

When the best ad company that money can buy can’t put a positive spin on your organization, it might be time to give it up. Hopefully, SeaWorld will continue to have declining revenues that force it to close so all its captive animals can live happier lives without having to perform.

Image source: Flickr