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Terry the Turkey

Vegans and animal lovers all over the UK and the world have been surprised by the new #TerryTheTurkey advertising campaign employed by phone company Vodafone in the lead up to Christmas 2015.

The advert is a unique concept for a TV commercial.

The short film shows a family having a turkey living with them, jumping through time to highlight how the bird is growing larger as the seasons change.

Just when the viewer thinks the winter snow and a trip to the garden shed is a sign that Terry is to be killed and plated for Christmas dinner, the twist emerges to show the family have used their Vodafone-powered technology to source a nut roast recipe thus saving the life of the family turkey.

Great news, right?

terry screen grab

Photo: VodafoneUK

I didn’t find many like-minded people online when I voiced my concern that this advert was problematic in that it was still using live animals for the purpose of profit-making dressed up as entertainment.

Many of my Facebook followers expressed the opinion that this advert was a positive message, yet after reading their insights I still thought it was more loaded than just the nice message of saving the life of an animal.

I decided to find out a little more about the ad-making process and reached out to the people who made the #TerryTheTurkey advert.

Following is a short Q&A I carried out via email with Vicki Maguire. Vicki is the Deputy Executive Creative Director at Grey London, the agency charged with devising the Vodafone Christmas campaign.

Vicki kindly took time out of her extremely busy schedule to answer the following questions I put to her:

1. Your advert has given a lot of compassionate people something to smile about as it shows a turkey being given a second chance at life when a family opt for nut roast. How was the concept first devised? Was it inspired by any vegans in the office or by a team member’s personal life perhaps?

Christmas is the season of goodwill. Vodafone’s technology brings people together. We thought we’d take a different tack.

Our dad uses technology to rear a turkey, by the time Christmas comes around he’s part of the family. Sometimes technology gets bad press for making people self obsessed. This ad demonstrates that couldn’t be further from the truth.

We were sitting around talking when Howard, a guy in our team, told us a story of how a friend of his had become vegetarian when his family found a live chicken. I think there’s something about being that close to an animal that brings out your protective instincts.

A couple of us are vegetarian and two are vegan, but non of us are having turkey this year! Our Director Kevin Thomas is a die-hard veggie, that’s why the script appealed to him.

2. What a lot of people don’t know is that Terry is actually played by eight different birds throughout the advert. Did all of these animals come from the same place? How did your team source the turkeys for the campaign?

We picked an accredited British breeder who had turkeys at various stages of development. The story goes from young Terry to fully mature Terry. I’ll be honest and say I used to think turkeys were ugly, but now I love them. They are actually very smart and they love playing football.

3. The happy ending for the eight Terry turkeys is that they are now all living a life of peace on Farm Animal Rescue Sanctuary in Warwickshire. How did the team decide where the turkeys would end up?

As soon as we picked up the phone to Farm Animal Rescue we knew they were the ones to give our Terrys a good home. Their love for their charges really shines through!

4. Even though the advert has only been live for a few days, the online reaction has been phenomenal. Apart from helping your client raise awareness for its brand, is there anything else you hope for from #TerryTheTurkey campaign?

We’ve been blown away by the reaction to the campaign. It’s funny when you see it in an ad break also selling turkey for £3 a kilo. It makes you think about what really matters at Christmas.

In all seriousness we are having nut roast! A turkey is for life, not for Christmas.

Watch the video above and let me know what you think in the comments.

I am grateful to know the turkeys used in the advert now live in a sanctuary and that many people are being exposed to the idea of compassion for animals.

However I am staunchly opposed to the use of live animals in entertainment and advertising, especially when the animals in question have been sourced from a professional breeder. Buying or sourcing animals from breeders creates demand and puts money into the pockets of people profiting from commodifying animals.

What do you all think? Does the good done by the #TerryTheTurkey advert outweigh the negatives or as vegans should we always have a strong stance against the use of animals in advertising?

Would your opinion be different if the product being sold to us via the advert was actually a vegan product (such as the nut roast) and not a phone service?

I would love to hear your thoughts.

Xmas 15 bottom advert

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Written by fatgayvegan

  1. While having such a stance is important. The greater good and the progress of the cause should at times over ride such a stance. It’s impossible to get the non thinking Turkey eating public to have empathy to a computer generated picture than a real Turkey. Plus this Turkey was saved (even if bought) he gets to live. It’s not the same as buying him for a life of entertainment. Who knows how many ppl he might make change their mind and reach for the nut roast! The world is changing and adverts like this should be a beckon of hope!

  2. Each of those turkeys would’ve been Christmas dinner if it wasn’t for the advertisement. OK, it wasn’t good that the breeder got money for them, but I see it as money for dead birds vs money to spread a message that I’ve just not seen before in such a mainstream context.

    Poultry get the worst end of the deal when it comes to animal PR. They’re so often depicted as jokes to further consumers’ cognitive dissonance between what’s on their plate and what happened to get that thing on their plate. Naturally cows and pigs get similar treatment, but they also get anthropomorphised in fiction way more, and as a result I think people feel more uncomfortable with pork and beef than they do with chicken and turkey. This ad presents an alternative to the traditional Christmas turkey in a positive and, God forbid, “normal” light. I was expecting a vegetarianism joke at any minute -we are usually such acceptable targets – and it never happened.

    I can understand your perspective re animal exploitation for entertainment, but I think there are ways of doing this without any cruelty whatsoever (by training subjects through positive reinforcement, ensuring the filming environment isn’t going to distress them, etc). And maybe any agency trying to do something like this again might want to approach a sanctuary, using the animal’s more familiar surroundings for filming. At that point I definitely can’t see a problem.

    Thanks for posting this, it’s great to know there was a positive approach behind the scenes too. If you can stomach the PR lingo anyway 🙂

  3. I saw the as for the first time last night with my Mum (who stopped eating meat this year) and we loved it. We were surprised it was for Vodafone rather than a veg*n product but thought it was awesome to have such a nice compassionate message and definitely think it will influence people to think again about how to celebrate. Shame they paid a breeder

  4. It’s a sticky one. It’s good, but it’s bad, but it’s good, but it’s bad…….

    There are many arguments in this situation but ultimately there are two which come out on top for me: 1: Were the animals suffering during the creation of this advert? 2: The effect the advert may have on the public.

    It doesn’t appear that the turkeys did any tricks so it doesn’t equate to the cruelty known by circuses, and it seems that the turkeys were quite well respected in the advert in many aspects. Not only that, but the turkeys were sent to a sanctuary afterwards to live out their lives in peace. They funded breeding quite right, and this is a problem. Yet, they didn’t fund slaughter or companies further down the chain that profit from turkeys that have also been killed for food.

    However the advert will have changed minds of families for sure. I would like to see some statistics of turkey sales comparing this christmas to the last few christmases. I can imagine some families being half veg*n and talking about nut roasts and the meat eating half being on the fence about it, then they all watch the advert and then they’re like, “Yeah, what the heck, let’s skip the turkey.” and then that family never has turkey for christmas again as alt-roasts become their tradition, started by this advert.

    Veganism is all about minimising cruelty, and despite funding turkey breeders for the price of 8 turkeys, Vodafone are still helping to normalise alternative christmas roasts, helping to save the lives of likely many thousands of turkeys.

    I think the message coming out of this is causing a lot more positivity than negativity. For the greater good, I begrudgingly give the ad a thumbs up.

  5. I think the massive good this commercial will do far outweighs any concerns. It will also bring awareness and support for the sanctuary, which they all desperately need.

  6. Vodafone made a similar ad about Piggy Sue. I have written several times offer at home at Eden Farmed Animal Sanctuary Ireland to the pig used in the ad. Vodafone has never replied to me. I believe the pig has been returned to the farm who ‘rented’ her for profit. She will most likely have a very different life and death to that portrayed in the ad. I would still like to offer her a home here. Eden is an abolitionist vegan sanctuary; she would be safe here.

  7. It’s good to see a vegan blogger calling this out, as I’m really tired of seeing vegans parading this around like some victory. Animal actors are still exploited, and just because these turkeys weren’t harmed it doesn’t mean that it’s not a one off fluke among a sickening industry. And as for the ‘message’ – if it reaches people then that is great, but I can bet you anything it creates more vodafone customers than it does vegans. And that’s what it’s made for, after all. It’s nothing more than a cynical marketing strategy that veg*ns have fallen for hook, line and sinker.

  8. How about Piggy Sue. Bloody wonderful. 🙂

    • It was not wonderful for Piggy Sue who was returned to the farm who rented her for the ad, despite the offer of a home at Eden (Vegan) Farmed Animal Sanctuary.
      Please write to vodafone and let them know the inconsistency and injustice of this.

  9. How anyone can criticise is utterly beyond me. so sad to have such a negative view of life. I would like the world to change overnight as well. Is it going to happen? Every bit of good is a bit of good and adds to our efforts. It helps to change public perceptions. It all adds up.

    Hey, I know, next time somebody goes vegan lets kick up a stink that it wasn’t two. 🙂

    • It’s not about criticising, it’s about having a discussion about the positive and negative elements of the situation. The world isn’t black and white where you have to fully support or reject every situation. It is OK to questions things whilst also seeing the good in them.

      • As any vegan will know, there’s so much ignorance and greed out there. This was shown immediately after a McDonald’s ad trying to make out chicken nuggets are the best food ever. So was perfect timing. I couldn’t care less if it’s a phone ad, it sells compassion. (And I should imagine the makers sent the animals to a sanctuary of sorts as oppose to the slaughterhouse.)

  10. One step at a time. You can’t get away from the fact that the media has a powerful subliminal effect on the way many people think. It is good to have a discussion, but please fellow vegans, don’t argue with each other – we need solidarity and compassion for all.

  11. I would AGAIN like to draw viewers attention to the fact that Piggy Sue, from a previous vodafone ad made in Ireland about a lost pig, was returned to the farm who profited from her, despite offers from Eden Farmed Animal Sanctuary to give her a home. Please write to vodafone and press on them the need to give the same liberty to her as they gave to the character she played.

  12. Thank you for this! After initially heeding the ad as a positive and heart warming message, I was slightly concerned as to the real fate of Terry the Turkey and the exploitation of animals for entertainment.

    However, it is great to know that the thought behind this advert is a genuine concern for animal welfare (as well as media exposure) and I can enjoy the advert as a genuine tale of compassion and to know that the spirit of Christmas can and does (sometimes) extend to none human animals!

    I think the positive message does outweigh the unfortunate sourcing of the turkeys, as Julie said above, do not underestimate the power of advertising! And what’s more, we can rejoice in the fact that all 8 Terrys really did have a happy ending 🙂

  13. Sandra, is there an online petition to save Piggy Sue?

  14. I have written to Vodafone with regards to Piggy Sue….

  15. A petition for Piggy Sue is a great idea

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