The Oscars are synonymous with glitz, glamour, pleasant banter and a big red carpet. Viewers in Washington, D.C., who tune in to watch the star-studded occasion Feb. 22 may be seeing red for a different reason, however. The Center for Consumer Freedom, a nonprofit that has waged numerous advocacy battles for a range of anonymous financial backers, has purchased a 30-second ad spot for $30,000 on local ABC affiliate WJLA. The latest ad from the controversial group will be focused on “Animal Rights” according to a disclosure form filed with the station by CCF and collected by Political Ad Sleuth.
The Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF), run by public relations maven and former lobbyist Richard Berman, has gained notoriety for its controversial campaigns, attacking unions and defending the alcohol and sugar industries, among other efforts. Recently, the New York Times surfaced audio from a meeting between Berman and oil industry executives which included anecdotes like “[u]se humor to minimize or marginalize the people on the other side” and “[i]f you want a video to go viral, have kids or animals.”
True to form, a recent ad from CCF which attacks People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), incorporates puppies and a child narrator. See the full ad below:
It’s a safe bet that the new Oscars ad won’t be a ringing endorsement of the animal rights movement either.
Berman runs a full suite of websites dedicated to tearing down “radical animal liberation activists,” including PETA and the Humane Society of the United States, frequently citing the high euthanasia rates of animals in shelters run by PETA and HSUS’ “manipulative and deceptive advertising.”
As a nonprofit organization, CCF is not required to publicly disclose its financial backers. That fact is a selling point of Berman’s approach, according to The New York Times’ Eric Lipton, who quotes the opportunistic PR specialist as telling potential energy industry backers: “We run all of this stuff through nonprofit organizations that are insulated from having to disclose donors. There is total anonymity. People don’t know who supports us.”
Regardless of the campaign du jour, a hallmark of a Berman PR push has been buying up D.C. ad time during big, national television events. You can see Sunlight’s reporting on past ads on our blog.