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Bull's Balls Cause Controversy In Idaho Ad Campaign


It looks like a New York agency's cultural sensibilities didn't match those of Eagle, Idaho residents. In this video, a local news reports Eagle's Mayor is threatening to cancel Eagle Fun Days this weekend, part of which is the local fire department's Rocky Mountain Oyster Fest. With the festival based on bull's testicle, the fire department thought it would be a good idea to promote the event bay asking a New York agency to help ouot. They did with some spots that might be considered humorous to some but Eagle mayor Nancy Merrill told the fire fighters to pull the spots or she'd cancel the event. The fire department complied, pulled them off the website and canceled their TV schedule. Radio ads did air but Merrill has called a meeting and is still threatening to cancel the event. While the agency told the television station they meant no harm, the station is apparently, keeping the agency's name confidential. Come on guys. Step forward. Take credit. The campaign's great. Just not for Idaho.

UPDATE: FCB did the campaign and CEO Steve Centrillo sets the record straight in the Comment section stating they are fully aware of Eagle culture since one of FCB's creative directors comes from Eagle. He also states Mayor Nancy Merrill is overstepping her bounds, advancing her personal agenda and using her position as a bully pulpit.

UPDATE II: You can see all the work here.

Written by Steve Hall    Comments (12)     File: Campaigns, Radio, Strange, Television     Jun- 9-06  

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You gotta love the flyover red states. Apparently they lack not just intelligence, but senses of humor.

Posted by: copy guy on June 9, 2006 02:17 PM

This is so typical. The festival is all about eating bull testicals, but making light of that key point of the event is offensive to these holier-than-thou people. If people were offended by the ads, they shouldn't go to the event.

Posted by: Shocked on June 9, 2006 02:18 PM

The campaign was created by fcb ny, which does it on a completely pro bono basis, including paying for production. I'm the CEO of the new york office and I'm proud of the work we've done for the volunteer fire department. One of our creative directors is from Eagle,Idaho and in fact her aunt and uncle started the festival back in the 50's. It's a shame that the volunteer fire department could have lost thier biggest fundraiser because of the misguided actions of their mayor, who chose to use her bully pulpit to advance her personal agenda and exercise power not granted to her by local charter or, for that matter, the constitution.

Posted by: Steve Centrillo on June 9, 2006 02:46 PM

I believe these were produced by Foote, Cone & Belding of New York.

Posted by: The Wolf on June 9, 2006 02:54 PM

I have to disagree with these posts. It's unfortunate that Manhattan ad agency people still have such provincial, insular attitudes about the rest of the country. These are the people you're trying to get to buy your clients' products. Duh!

If you offend their sensibilities, your client suffers and so do you by eventually losing the account.

But, I wouldn't call this clever or tongue-in-cheek. This is not cool, creative material. It's unnecessarily vulgar, violent, insulting (to the people and the bulls!), sophomoric, humorless crap.

Posted by: Lydia Sugarman on June 9, 2006 04:07 PM

check out this site if you want to see the work that caused all the controversy!


Posted by: Victimized Bull on June 9, 2006 04:27 PM

I'd have to agree with Lydia. Think outside the balls guys. You're going for the obvious joke. Your "Grande Reportagem" campaign was some of the most intelligent work I've seen in a while. This, not so much. And Steve, I hope you didn't come from the copy side of the biz.

Posted by: Edward on June 9, 2006 04:32 PM

I agree with Lydia. To me, they're just not all that funny. They're crass. And not 'crass, but in a funny way.' (Although "Have a ball ... or two" gave me the giggles.)

Perhaps discussion and awareness was the point, though. In that regard, they're fabulous conversation starters.

But thretening to pull the plug because of a crass commercial? That's bizarre and unnecessary.

Posted by: tiffany on June 9, 2006 04:56 PM

You've GOT to be kidding! You thought that TV spot was appropriate to air? In Idaho? Or anywhere else outside of NYC, LA or SF? Talk about a disconnect!

Posted by: Jay on June 9, 2006 06:42 PM

Oh, where to begin...

Is Nancy Merrill using this as an opportunity to advance her own personal agenda? Of course, she's a politician, even if its only at the local level. Issues like this, trivial as they may be in the big picture, are remembered much longer than they should be here. That being said, however, there are a few more points that need to be mentioned.

1. The television spots never aired.
2. The original radio spots aired a few times, but were pulled after this whole "controversy" began a couple of days ago.
3. A "tamer" version of the radio spot is currently airing.

Personally, I didn't like the ads, but like everyone else, I have my own opinion. The thing to keep in mind, though, is that the Rocky Mountain Oyster Feed used to be a stand-alone event, but is now one of many events wrapped up as the Eagle Fun Days. And, like it or not, an event that is "Fun for the whole family" and off-color humor do not mix well, in "flyover red states" or elsewhere.

Posted by: Brian on June 9, 2006 07:09 PM

I find these ads boring and unfunny. Could have been so much better.

Posted by: Visitor on June 11, 2006 08:31 PM

This kind of execution makes for great viral content. As such, I think they're appropriate to the event. Is it appropriate for braodcast? On certain networks and times, I don't have much of an issue with it. But there wasn't a media plan for this. So, if this "PSA" rotates in during cartoons, it's fair to cry foul on the content. However, as a father of two, I still don't find it as potentially troublesome as a half-naked Paris Hilton eating a burger on the hood of a car or the overly sexualized pre-teen idols on The Disney Channel.

Still, no one involved could have expected the reaction to this WOULDN'T be exceedingly polarized. Particularly in a "red" state (anyone who says Idaho is flyover country has no soul or appreciation for natural wonders).

Are some of the jokes cheap? Yeah. Could a more subtle approach been even funnier? I'd bet yes. Is it smart to do this for an event that is part of a family-friendly Eagle Fun Days? Probably not. But, honestly, there's no deriliction of duty here. Since the agency was footing the bill, we're at the familiar intersection of the "That was just for the shows!" and "Yeah, so what?" debate.

Of course, this campaign takes the arguably twisted nature of this entire event by the horns. Having the stones to do that is worthy of some praise.

Posted by: American Copywriter on June 12, 2006 10:12 AM

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