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O&M Thailand CCO opens up on the now viral "The Leather Work" campaign by PETA

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MUMBAI: There is no dearth of ‘shocking’ videos that circulate the internet and take netizens by a storm for a brief period of time, but rarely does one leave a lasting impact like PETA’s Behind That Exotic-Skin Handbag.
As the name reflects, the video aims to bring to light the controversial and yet generally known issue of animal cruelty in the luxury leatherwear industry.

In partnership with advertising mammoth Ogilvy and Mather, PETA manages to capture the macabre behind the leather fashion industry by bringing it to the glossier front of the showroom.

For years PETA has fought against the cruel abuse of animals in the leather industry with a major challenge being to convince the fashionistas who, though sympathise with the cause, but completely dissociate from it when admiring that fine leather clutch in the showroom.

Therefore Ogilvy and Mather were up for a challenge to execute a campaign that not only effectively spreads the message but lets people experience the cruelty first hand.

“It is a challenge how to communicate the same message that has been done in various forms effectively with impact. So, we came up with this campaign that not only delivers the message but to let the target audiences experience the cruelty in their hands,” Ogilvy & Mather Thailand, Vice Chairman and Chief Creative Officer Nopadol Srikieatikajohn.

The mandate from PETA was simple, “no animals should be killed and used in the process of campaign production,” and that's exactly what Ogilvy did, much to the surprise of those who have seen the video.

They created a pop up store ‘Leatherworks’ in the heart of Thailand's largest shopping centres, promising urban shoppers and fashionistas leather goods, more real than they perhaps ever wanted.

The objective was clear: to convince fashion lovers to give up on real leather merchandise and go for faux leather or synthetic leather, and they did so amazingly by shocking potential buyers ‘beating hearts’, ‘bloody skins,’ and ‘gory sinews’. Ironically, the bloody ‘insides’ showcased in the video really are made up of various types of plastic and synthetic material, as per PETA Asia Pacific. To give it that realistic appeal was the most challenging part of executing this campaign, pointed out Srikieatikajohn..

“The organ mock ups and mechanics was one of the most challenging parts. It doesn't only need to look real but the mechanic behind also has to be programmed perfectly with the sensor detection to make the organs move when they were exposed to the light (when the bags opened.) This experiment process took up to 12 weeks before we get the perfect fully functioned mock ups running,” he explained.

“It wasn’t an easy job to set up a show that looked real enough to come shop either. To make it most effective, it had to be at the centre of a tourist shopping district. With budget constraints and a very provoking campaign idea, it was really hard to find the right venue that could support us and agree with the small budget. After 3 to 4 location surveys and contacts, we finally found the one that worked.”

“It took two months-- from showroom design to the full set up. Before we were allowed to rent the store, campaign details and store design were submitted to the landlord for approval,” the creative explained.

When asked about the people shown in the published video, Srikieatikajohn said, “With the legal issues, some of the footage of real shoppers cannot be used. The people in the Video are a mix of real shoppers and people that we invited to the shop; however they were all unaware of what they would see in the shop while we were filming and we captured their real shocking reactions.”

The issue with a shocking brand communication is that sometimes people might be overwhelmed by the shock and forget the underlying message. PETA and O&M knew this well, and were patient with how people responded to the campaign and the following video.

“We did not expect them to understand the message right away so we had a staff approached them right after they found out what's inside, handed out the brochure and explained the true message behind the campaign,” Srikieatikajohn said.

"Every year, hundreds of thousands of reptiles are crudely bludgeoned and skinned alive, all for the sake of so-called 'luxury' shoes, belts and bags", says PETA India Chief Executive Officer Poorva Joshipura. "PETA Asia's gruesome pop-up shop reminds shoppers that the only way to keep blood and guts out of our closets is to choose vegan clothing, shoes and accessories,” she added in parting.

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