Pearl Izumi Ad Humor Goes Over the Line, But—

There’s the original ad, and then there’s our suggested make-good ad.

Pearl Izumi and their ad agency are taking some heat (see NBC News article) for taking their humor too far. This ad showing a dog that has died by trying to keep up with his owner (who can run so much farther wearing Pearl Izumi shoes) has gone over the line.

It went over the line because it showed death. But not just ridiculous, unbelievable, crazy death. It showed death in a way that can really happen. It showed believable death in a believable situation. That’s where the ad went wrong. It showed a real issue; A real problem that happens with pets that owners need to be aware of. Dogs die of exhaustion by over excercising in summer months. They don’t sweat like humans and therefore cannot regulate their body temperature as efficiently as humans. But will a dog stop running when it’s too hot? No. Not if his human companion keeps running. A dog’s loyalty and love of their owners will actually kill them if the owner isn’t cautious with the dogs amount of exercise.

Anyway, I see the positives of what this ad was trying to do. And I see many negatives.


  • Great photography
  • Well produced
  • A conceptual ad based on a smart position—run farther
  • Tried to create an emotional tie to the consumer through humor



  • Used humor poorly
  • Didn’t understand the nuances of executing humor well
  • Body copy takes it way too far with the bad humor and shows they didn’t understand the difference between humor and bad taste
  • Didn’t get ridiculous enough with the humorous execution of a smart position so it failed


So Pearl Izumi encountered a shit-storm of outrage through Twitter and Facebook and has decided to pull the ad. Their apology was a little shallow; As in, we don’t understand what the problem with this ad is, but we’ll stop running it because people don’t like it.

Our idea is, since they’ve spent all this money on the great photography and they’ve taken heat for being clueless, why don’t they just turn the ad into a educational ad? Look at our execution of the ad. Does this image not work as a serious, educational ad while still emphasizing the shoe benefits? Now I would never present an image and concept like this to our clients as a platform for a campaign, but now that the damage is done, would it not be smart for Pearl Izumi to flip the ad on it’s head and show people they understand everyone’s concerns? Acknowledge that it’s a real issue by changing their own ad into a educational message. This could be turned around and possibly create good press for them if they actually supported “dog overheating education” as a real PR platform.

So often companies run an ad that takes a ton of heat and they simply pull the ad and make a weak apology. Has an advertiser ever turned that same ad into a completely different message that shows they understand their audience? Pearl Izumi, here’s your chance to do it. We’ll be waiting for your call when you want to execute this.

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