I really hope that the story regarding the need for public relations to promote “animal celebrities” is an April Fools joke. Following the international coverage of the “live or die” story of polar bear cub Knut, the story alleges other orphans are being targeted by publicists.
For example, Marlar — the first Asian elephant calf to be born at Cologne Zoo — is cited as having
seemingly electro-charged spiky hair and heavy, yet playful galloping stride, the live-wire baby elephant has her fair share of “ahh” factor.
Add to this the fact that her mother had to be put down due to illness when the calf was barely six months old, leaving the rearing to a benevolent aunt, and you have the ‘elephant-enclosure-of-hard-knocks’ back story to make her a global star.
The fact that there is little media attention for her first birthday party today is the fault of a lack of PR representation. The hints that this might be an April 1st joke is that Knut is said to have
a huge entourage behind the scenes; a publicist, a stylist, a rolling-in-the-dirt coach. The cub is not yet four months old and yet his media persona is already a cultivated one. Celebrity photographers jet in to snap him, and he’s just had his first cover shoot for German Vanity Fair.
“If Marlar’s people had talked to my people shortly after the birth, I would have her modeling for Stella McCartney by now,” said Lena Pfote, the managing director of German animal public relations firm Media Horse. “Obviously, Karl Lagerfeld would have been our first choice, but he has size issues.”
Given that Pfote means paw and there are references to animal celebrities in the Media Horse stable, I’m taking this as German humour.
It is a shame that the story itself hasn’t raised the hackles of some anti-animal exploitation groups, to give it more legs (okay enough of the bad animal puns). Last year’s art stunt by Banksy in painting an elephant did cause such uproar.
Animals, notably elephants, have been misused by publicists to promote their stories for decades – see this image promoting the Tarzan film at the Empire Cinema in Luton in 1934 .
In the US, Tusko was hawked as “the largest elephant ever in captivity” from 1922 – although he was 7 inches shorter than Phineas T. Barnum’s Jumbo of the 1880s. Whilst Chunee was similarly promoted in London in the early 1800s, with his slaughter in 1826 becoming a cause célèbre.
So I have a niggling doubt that somewhere there are really PR folk pondering how they too could have a story as big as Knut.