147. Dan Mathews of PETA on Protecting Your Integrity & Advertising For Impact

Dan Mathews of PETASenior Vice President of campaigns for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Dan Mathews has +30 years experience recruiting celebrities and devising public media spectacles to surreptitiously shape human behavior.

What does your job consist of? Broadly, to bring the issue of animal rights to as many people as possible. Without realizing it, a lot of animal rights groups – and other rights groups as well – design campaigns which appeal to donors or to people who already care about and believe in the rights group’s mission and philosophy. I’m not after those people, I care about reaching the people who either aren’t aware of animal cruelty or who don’t consider animal rights an important issue.

Tell me about the origins of PETA’s cause. When I first started out as a volunteer over 30 years ago, animal cruelty wasn’t an issue; people didn’t take it seriously and mocked anyone who did.

As with any belief, those first movers are labelled as idiots and extremists. But overtime as awareness grows and more and more people start giving the subject validation by talking about it, people begin taking it more seriously. Today, animal rights has become prevalent enough in today’s culture and with today’s generation that people avoid wearing fur, for example, for fear of being rejected by their peers. The social landscape has shifted.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Recall in the documentary How to Ru(i)n a Business: How Streaming & Filesharing Are Better Absorbed Than Fought that in the 1970s cable news was viewed as a pirate medium, seen as nothing more than a channel that pirated their content and broadcasted it to individuals – piracy pure and simple. Movie studios immediately brought lawsuits against the news studios. Even the first .mp3 player by Diamond Rio was met with a lawsuit.]

What is PETA’s advertising strategy? The fact is that people today are bombarded by advertising from every direction trying to sell you something. Except PETA isn’t selling a product, we’re promoting an ethic and discouraging people from buying certain products. This means that PETA isn’t recouping costs from our advertising budget through product sales, so we must be very careful where and how we spend our limited advertising dollars.

Therefore PETA takes advantage of shock and provocation because this is what always draws people’s attention. This is why PETA launches projects using sex, for example our “I’d rather go naked than wear fur” campaign.


(photo from here.)

Further, people’s decisions are generally driven by social desires and how they believe society will judge them. This is why we work with celebrities and collaborators willing to use their influence for good causes. But rather than simply asking for financial donations or to host a dinner: ideas which would help our cause but would be instantly forgotten about, PETA prefers to create campaigns which will leave a lasting impression on society and offer the collaborator the opportunity to express his or her style and beliefs in a way that does good.

For instance Pamela Anderson is known for the Baywatch bathing suit, so we asked her to wear a bikini made of lettuce for PETA’s veggie campaign. Being a fellow animal advocate and having an interesting opportunity to express herself in a unique way, she eagerly participated.


(image from here)

Is there such a thing as bad advertising? Returning to the strategy of shock and provocation, the objective is to provoke while not turning people against you. This involves walking a fine line; which does get crossed from time to time.

For example, when Bea Arthur, the iconic American actress who starred in The Golden Girls television series and honorary PETA Director passed away in 2009, she left $25,000 to PETA in her will. One of her big issues was fighting factory farm cruelty, so in honor of Bea PETA, with her son’s permission and sympathies, took out a full page advertisement in the Chicago Tribune, where McDonalds is headquartered, declaring McDonald’s cruelty is “enough to make Bea Arthur roll over in her grave” and to “switch to a less violent, USDA-approved chicken-slaughter method.”


(image from here)

People were of course shocked at this advertisement, but we stand behind our decision and that advertisement had a huge impact, with the ad being talked about in all the major newspapers and on blogs across the internet. After a few years, McDonalds actually acquiesced and changed their practices. This was made possible thanks in part to Bea Arthur’s donation combined with her longtime PETA activism. How wonderful to keep active even after you’re dead!

Does PETA have a dedicated marketing department or do you work with professional agencies? PETA has a campaigns department which comes up with ideas for protests, and some protest ideas turn into full fledge campaigns. This is in fact how we came up with the “I’d Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur” campaign I mentioned earlier

(Caution: this NSFW video contains graphic content.)

I had stumbled upon an old protest photo of a local group in Florida that had been sent to us of with Holly Jensen wearing a flesh-colored leotard holding a hand-made sign that read “I’d rather go naked than wear fur” written in magic marker. The idea was brilliant and I knew that it deserved more attention. We replicated it in nude street actions in world capitals, disrupting fashion shows naked, and finally naked celebrity ads which now define PETA’s brand for 3 decades.

What do you do when the collaborators who endorse PETA’s mission later go against what PETA stands for? This is a difficult issue to deal with, and you inevitably bruise some relationships, but in the end your integrity is most important.

Just as you would tell your friends and colleagues when you disagree with what they’re doing or the way they’re behaving, PETA does the same thing.

And you don’t just abandon your relationship with them without notice, either. If a celebrity or public figure who agrees to collaborate with PETA to promote animal rights later does something that goes against that ethic – for example participate in a fur catwalk show or use chained elephants in their public events, PETA contacts them and their managers to inform them that what they’re doing promotes animal cruelty as well as how they’re damaging their reputation and integrity, and we contact them multiple times to make sure they have the opportunity to fix it. But if nothing changes we have no choice but to target them and publically denounce them.

If you’re going to stand up for something, you stand up for it all the time; not some of the time or only when it is lucrative for you. Integrity is the most important thing you have; not something you take lightly.

But this doesn’t happen very often because sponsors and celebrities know where PETA stands on these issues, and so by choosing to collaborate with us, they are usually as serious about animal rights as we are.

I’m a small business on a small budget, any advice?

  • Advertising must match with your target audience. With today’s generation it’s important that you be able to summarize your idea into 5 words max, assuming that people will see your advert on their phone.
  • Shock and provocation. And I don’t mean shock and provocation for the sake of shock and provocation. I mean strategic shock and provocation. Do something that goes against the social norms of your target audience or your market and that will touch the heart of your target audience and shake things up.
  • If you’re a small business then it’s safe to say your consumers have a hundred other choices besides you. So develop a real distinct personality that cuts through the noise and stands out among your hundred other competitors. People will remember you when you are edgy or distinct.
  • The most important thing is to not think that you have to reach everybody; you have to meet the niche of the people who appreciate the point of view of your company, or as I stated earlier in PETA’s case – the people who don’t care about your cause that you want raise awareness with. Know who you are targeting.

90. Human Resources Management: Social-Engineering in the 20th Century


35 Important takeaways from this documentary:

00:00:45 “Give me a baby, and I can make any kind of man.” –John B. Watson, founder of Behaviorism

00:01:03 “Behavior is predictable, and therefore controllable.”

00:01:50 “Fear can be conditioned.”

00:02:36 “The driving force in society is not love, but fear.”

00:07:19 “the maze is adopted as a symbol of hope that people can be controlled in a very scientific manner; that social life could be remade on the basis of scientific principles.” -Rebecca Lemov, author of World as Laboratory

00:08:10 “The science of behavior is based on the principles of operant conditioning, i.e. Behavior modification.”

00:09:07 “Behaviorism is the whole idea of behavior modification where you can use various kinds of techniques to modify people’s behaviors so that they stop doing what you don’t want them to do and that they start doing what you want them to do.” -George Ritzer, author of The McDonaldization of Society

00:10:00 “Behavorism suggests that organisms can be viewed as flesh and blood machines. Like machines, we require fuel. Like machines, we can be put to work for a specific cause. Like machines, we can be repaired, or redesigned for new purposes. And like machines, we can be compelled into performing a certain action at the push of a button.”

00:11:50 “Civilization comes with a light side and a dark side.  Every civilization believes in it’s own propaganda, so it tends to emphasize the light side.” -Morris Berman, author of The Reenchantement of the World

00:12:10Tropism – any directed response by an organism to a constant stimulus”

00:12:29Julius Sachs’ work with plants begat Jaques Loeb’s work with insects begat, who begat Ivan Pavlov’s work with animals, who begat John B. Watson’s work with human beings. Watson was always interested in control.”

00:15:15 “Alongside the rise of Jim Crow segregation…Corporations developed a much more elaborate way to justify the fact that the wealthy corporate elite to explain the reason why. That reason became the basics of the Eugenics movement, you were either born with good genes, or not good genes.” -Sharon Smith – Historian.

00:16:20 (elaborating on the Eugenics movement) “Those that have good genes should be encouraged to reproduce, and those who are ‘unfit’ should be discouraged from reproducing.” -Sharon Smith – Historian

00:16:45 “Eugenics was rooted in the idea that you can A) recognize pre-biological differences of people based on their ethnicity, and that B) you could construct a policy that favors some ethnic groups over others, both in terms of immigration policy and in terms of integration into the U.S. society based on this hierarchy of heredity… It took root in universities. It took root in the highest offices of government. We see that this belief is going to play an important role in shaping immigration policy after the passage of the immigration act of 1924 which essentially creates a national quota system that favors immigrants based on their ethnicity and based on their nationality.” -Justin Chacon,  author of No One is Illegal

00:18:58 “The Eugenics movement was created and funded by the corporate elites that ruled America coming into the 20th century. They funded these ‘research programs’…As the eugenics movement developed it went in a really horrible direction…” -Sharon Smith – Historian

00:22:40 Adam Smith warned that division of labor would create a human catastrophe for human society. Frederick Winslow Taylor, the father of Scientific Management, disagreed. Taylor believed that factories could run far more efficiently if tasks were mechanized and broken down even further.  On the surface, increased effeciency allows more products to be manufactured in a shorter amount of time.”

00:23:30 Below the surface, factory work was a highly-skilled labor, which meant that the power lied in with the workers. And workers could go on strike when they felt they were being treated unfairly. For management, this was an unacceptable bargaining chip. For Frederick Taylor, it was simply inefficient.

00:24:30 “Taylorism was certainly about de-skillling.  It was about studying about what skilled workers did to decompose those tasks into their basic elements and then teaching people to do specific aspects of it without learning the entire set of it, or array of activities that were involved, and are involved for a skilled person.  In that sense it’s a mechanism of control because it lets you dectate to people ‘well, you do this part of the entire task and you don’t do anything else and you dictate to 8,10, or 12 people various specfic aspects of the whole task rather than allowing a skilled person to decide how the entire task should be done… This takes power away from the workers and the collectivity of workers makes them less likely to be rebellious and less likely to form various kinds of movements that would operate against, broadly, the capitalist system.” -George Ritzer, author of The McDonaldization of Society

00:27:00 ” So instead of a thinking creative skilled worker, you had a kind of mindless kind of worker who repetively did the same task over and over again. That kind of worker is robot-like.” -George Ritzer, author of The McDonaldization of Society

00:27:41 “In the study ‘Where have all the robots gone’ by Herald Shepard and Neil Harrick? confirmed that people trapped in an unrewarding work life were not only more likely to be dissatisfied, but were also more likely to suffer from low self-esteem, a feeling of helplesness, alienation, and to be plagued by a variety of mental disorders. The least satisified workers were the least likely to vote or meet in any organisations.”

00:29:00 “The corporate entity is pathological because it drives towards profit regardless of the broader implications. It doesn’t matter if your drive toward profit induces pain and suffering, pollutes the environment, or literally destroys the society.  You’re forced by the nature of the social relations inside and among corporations to pursue and accumulate profit.

00:28:21 “If you work in an environment where you’re beaten up all the time, and if you work in an environment that is so fragmented and so robs you of dignity and so robs you of the expression of your own capacities, then they’ll be diminished and you’ll be bored and reduced in your potentials, and you’re not too likely to take initiative in other domains either. This is why fragmenting of work is pursued. It weakens the workers.  Not just on the job, but in their communities too. Which is what you want them to do so that they don’t take more of the income for themselves thus reducing profits for the elites.  So it’s perfectly sensible approach from those at the top who are trying to stay there. What you’d have to do is create a new kind of economy in which these situations and these conditions don’t restrict our options.” -Michael Albert, author of Parecon

00:35:20Researchers found that the very act of allowing workers to talk about their feelings reduced the possibility of aggitation and rebellion. It made workers feel as if they mattered. Even if the social relations remained fundamentally the same.”

00:35:37The Hawthorne Experiments found was that no matter what changes were made, everytime they had made a change after having discussed it with employees, production went up and employee satisfaction went up. So what came out of (the experiments from a hierarchal context) was a industrial public relations school, mostly taken as a way to control employees by trying to manipulate them ideologically.  I would say the wrong lesson was learned: put out a suggestion box so employees can feel they are being asked, but you don’t necessarily pay any attention to it… and in real teamwork organisations employees get to take each other into account.  They begin caring about each other… Employees say ‘if we’re treated better, we’ll work better’…Now the broader social impact of doing these kinds of things… is that they become more collaborative and care more about each other.” -Stephen M. Sachs, Political Scientist

00:39:27 “In participatory economics (‘in a good ecomomy’), instead of organising economic life to keep a small sector of people on top and to enrich them beyond any sensibility, and to utilize productive apparatus, even when it entails doing things that are a complete waste of time – building missiles that will never be used, or (incomprehensive garble), we produce and distribute, for purposes of human fulfillment and development”

00:40:50 “Taylorism, combined with Human Management, make up the cornerstones in the 21st century. In China, scientific management has taken on nightmare-ic proportions. So extensive is the division of labor that millions of people are forced to perform roughly the same motion thousands of times a day. In the US, workers in some assembly plants are required to be in continual motion for up to 57 seconds a minute. In Indonesia, sweatshops owned by corporations like Nike chart productivity down to a thousandth of a second. Corporations are increasingly resorting to surveilance monitoring and computerized monitoring.”

00:41:52 “Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he has learned in school” -Albert Einstein

00:41:57 “A primary reason why the mass of the American population resisted compulsory schooling was a widespread belief that it’s purpose had little to do with public education, and everything to do with control. Their suspicions were well founded.”

00:48:12 ”With graduation, the community receives a new supply of young people who want a better life on the one hand, and to bear the ability to work for it on the other. Now the tax investment returns to the taxpayer.”

00:48:35 Taylorism meets public education by way of the Gary Plan?, whereby “different subjects would be taught by different departments. Students would be herded from classroom to classroom in order to digest a stream of standardized factual information. Like Pavlov’s dogs, they would do so at the ring of bell.”

00:50:02 “You will not find the doctor’s son, however ignorant he is, in a class with the marginalized kids.” – John Taylor Gatto, author of Dumbing Us Down

00:53:41 “(Students) tend to pick the easiest possible tasks. That’s not because their being lazy, its because their being rational.  If we tell kids we want to see a better report card, that we want to see higher grades, naturally they’ll pick the shortest book or the easiest project because that maximizes the chance of achieving that goal.” -Alfie Kohn, Education theorist

00:58:30 “Corporations claim they want kinds that can thin outside of the box, but only so far as they’re caught within a larger box that works to the advantage of the free market; which means that the market economy, based on competition, based on economic rather than human considerations, ends up controlling the system.” -Alfie Kohn, Education theorist

00:59:22 The frustration-aggression hypothesis was an attempt by behaviorists at Yale to combine their own science of behavior with that of the Freudians – When people perceive that they are prevented from receiving just rewards, their frustration is likely to turn to aggression.

01:00:25 Human beings are not rats. Armed with the necessary information, humans can come to a logical conclusion about whose to blame for our frustrations in life. Rightly or wrongly, we often point the finger back at ourselves.