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AFA Contacts Verizon Regarding Controversial Commercial

Posted: November 1, 2002

Many ferret owners and AFA members have contacted the AFA regarding the controversial commercial recently being aired by Verizon Wireless that features a ferret who attacks an antagonistic man making faces at the ferret. Gigi Shields, president of the American Ferret Association, wrote a letter to Verizon Wireless on behalf of the AFA. The following is her letter and the brief reply that she received from Verizon.

Letter From Gigi Shields to Verizon Wireless:

Dear Sir or Madam:

I am writing you in regard to the current Verizon Wireless commercial
featuring the man with a seemingly vicious ferret.

At best, it is in utter poor taste. At worst, it unfairly maligns the third
most popular interactive pet in the United States and seriously offends
those of us who love them. I am certain that this includes a number of
Verizon customers--like myself.

There are over 7 million pet ferrets in the country, and those of us who
share our lives with them find them to be extremely intelligent, funny,
joyful, loyal, and loving creatures. Statistically, you are 200 times more
likely to end up in the emergency room with an injury from the family dog
than from a ferret.

Ferrets have been recognized as domesticated companion animals since at
least 4 B.C.E. The Romans spread ferrets through Europe when they used them
for rodent control. Currently, they are being used in the British Isles to
run cable and wire in construction projects. Additionally, ferrets work here
and abroad as therapy animals in hospitals and nursing homes.

While we realize that you did not mean any harm, the content of your
commercial only feeds the misconceptions about ferrets that we battle every
day. We have fought long and hard to educate the general public about the
true nature of the domestic ferret, and in one fell swoop, you have managed
to undo years of work. Ferrets are illegal in California because the Fish &
Game Department there considers ferrets 'wild' and a danger to humans. The
Californians for Ferret Legalization group has been working for almost 20
years to get ferrets legalized in their state. I can only imagine the harm
you have unintentionally done to all their efforts.

If you would like to portray a ferret accurately in your advertisements, may
I suggest:

  • a ferret doing tricks to her owner's command, issued over a
    crystal clear Verizon Wireless connection;
  • a ferret doing his famous Dance of Joy with his owner to
    celebrate an excellent customer service experience with Verizon Wireless;
  • a ferret carrying off her owner's cellular phone and hiding
    it in her special corner because everyone wants Verizon Wireless.

These are just a few examples of natural, endearing ferret behaviors that
you could use to demonstrate the superiority of your product without
resorting to tasteless slapstick and staged violence. If you would like
more suggestions, I know that the members of the American Ferret Association
would be happy to assist you in creating a successful, factual, and humorous
ad campaign. We're also ready to supply you with some genuine ferret
sounds-unlike whatever that was supposed to be in the commercial currently
airing.

I'd like very much for Verizon Wireless to pull and revise the current
advertisement. I am anxious to hear your version of the story, and I will be
glad to publish your response on the American Ferret Association's website
and in the latest issue of the American Ferret Report.

Thanks very much for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Gigi Martinez Shields, President
American Ferret Association, Inc.

Response from Verizon Wireless:

Dear Ms Martinez:
I write in response to your letter of correspondence where you provided us with your feedback and concern regarding the Verison Wireless commercial featuring a ferret.

Please be assured that we had no intention of offending anyone with the commerical.

Your thoughts are important to us and we thank you for spending your valuable time bringing them to our atttention.

Sincerely,
Nicole Jackson
Sr. Correspondence Specialist