Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Stinky fish campaign backfires?

There's a new "Stinky Fish" video making the rounds, it's an edgy attempt to use new media for conservation. See it while you can, I wouldn't be too surprised if its makers pulled it off the air soon.

Stinky Fish is an interesting attempt to capture some buzz for the very boring topic of overfishing (YouTube clip below). But...could Stinky Fish be a bit too edgy?

Stinky fish is a creation of the World Wildlife Fund, known more for their patient and collaborative style, along with viral movie makers Free Range Studios. The spot is fronted by a fish puppet called "Stinky" who harangues fish eaters over sustainability issues. It's reminiscent of your least-favorite ocean environmentalist who strikes fear into the heart of dinner companions who dare order fish. At one point, Stinky confides the truth that he doesn't even eat fish.

With Stinky Fish, WWF seems to have stumbled in going for the jugular and making a South Park-style pitch telling seafood customers:
It's time to slap your appetites into line with your ethics.”
It's rarely a good idea to try to convert people with punishment. Unless you can promise something really good like eternal bliss.

Some in the seafood industry are complaining, saying Stinky Fish is inaccurate and misleading. It's true that Stinky Fish is not exactly promoting seafood. Stinky is supposedly trying to push SUSTAINABLE seafood, but Stinky isn't exactly pro-seafood and even his name says fish is bad. I don't think Stinky Fish will get anyone to eat more of anything.

For me, Stinky raises another point. Are we environmentalists afraid to say we love seafood? Even worse, are we afraid to love seafood? Well, let me be clear: I'm an environmentalist and I love seafood, and I don't see that one side of me should slap the other side around. My job is to find a way to elevate both sides, environmentalism and seafood.

Watch Stinky Fish in the video box below (double click the button) and let me know what you think. Good conservation campaign or lame attempt at humor?


Up Welng said...

i see what you mean... and i rather like new media environmental attempts... i found it rather annoying in the same way as triumph the insult comic dog gets old real quick...

i too don't quite get the anti seafood environmentalism... (especially since i enjoyed a wonderful unagi and squid dinner tonight)... a colleague i respect enormously, the legendary todd newberry of uc santa cruz, told me he has sworn off seafood entirely as he can't in good conscience eat it knowing the state of ocean affairs... this seems sort of an ostrich response to things...

the seafood is at the market and you can make informed choices or poor choices... shouldn't we do all we can to promote the former?

Anonymous said...

hmmm... the video seems to be no longer available. I guess that speaks volumes

Pepijn said...

It seems the video is offline for now.

The irony is that in some countries the WWF is very active in promoting and keeping their green-fish list up to date.

I actually have a website (at http://overfishing.org/pages/guide_to_good_fish.php ) listing a number of their (and other) guides. Over the year it is up I found the general feedback is highly positive: Many people honestly want to be "good", but they also really want to eat fish without being looked upon by persons who see it as their holy mission to "convert the ignorant".

Mark Powell said...

Stinky Fish is off the air...for now. YouTube shows it as a "private" video that is invitation only.

Pepijn said...

WWF still has a page about it (see below). And on there they say "but there are still plenty of responsible ways to eat great tasting seafood". They also have "Great tasting recipes".. Now that takes it a bit too far for me, leave that to the Jamie Olivers of this world (note that GP did not go on with this recipe idea -some years ago- for fear of being seen as a pro-fish marketing organisation)

The overall feeling I get from the campaign is still rather negative though, it must be the naming etc


Pepijn said...

Ola, have a look at this: http://www.fishupdate.com/news/fullstory.php/aid/9764/MSC_sorry_over_'Stinky_Fish'.html

"THE Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) last night said it has withdrawn the use of the MSC logo and disassociated the MSC from WWF's 'Stinky Fish' campaign."

(and now I'll stop cluttering the comments Mark)

Mark Powell said...

Interesting mess, and thanks for the comments. I also saw news from the MSC that they're pulling out of the campaign and apologizing. Wow, what a stumble from WWF. Oops.