One of the great traditions of Thanksgiving in America is watching the Macy’s parade. Marching bands play, celebrities perform and a cadre of inflatable balloons delights the nation.
Among the floats this year is one by Sea World – now a target of animal rights activists. A highly-praised documentary, Blackfish, enlightened viewers about the lives of orcas kept in captivity at Sea World. Animals rights group PETA mobilized forces against Sea World, including a protest demanding Macy’s exclude Sea World’s float from its parade.
Macy’s response: “The parade has never taken on, promoted or otherwise engaged in social commentary, political debate or other forms of advocacy.” Tried, true, staid – but likely the protests will go on.
THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
THE PR TAKEAWAY: Be consistent. Macy’s has little choice but to give the pat “We don’t get involved in controversy” statement. If they give in to one group, they’d have to give in to another… But wait they already have! Sponsors of the float for South Dakota balked at singer Joan Jett performing on their parade entry because, as a vegetarian and PETA member, she was unsuitable to represent a cattle ranching state. Macy’s gave in and moved Jett to another float. Macy’s is now on a collision course with new groups who are likely be offended by future. Stay clear and don’t get involved. Placating all parties can ultimately sink an entire parade.