Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus Ends Search For PR Firm


Claiming the decision had nothing to do with PETA's effort to highlight its treatment of baby elephants, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, yesterday, announced it will end its search for a public relations agency.

With a $30,000 monthly retainer on the RFP Feld Entertainment VP of Corporate Communications Stephen Payne told PRNewser, "We received a very positive response from over two dozen firms and were in the process of whittling that down when we took a hard look at all the proposals and a hard look at our staff internally, and came to conclusion that we could do most of what we were looking for in house."

Of the search for a PR firm, PETA EVP Tracy Reiman said, "Ringling is a public relations nightmare waiting to happen. There's not a PR team in the world that is slick enough to sell the beating of baby elephants, the whipping of tigers, and the use of chains, bullhooks, and electric prods on animals--all for the sake of a few cheap tricks."

In May, PETA ran an ad in the May 10 edition of PR News and banners on prnewsonline.com featuring images of a baby elephant being roped around its legs and pulled to the ground by trainers. The image comes from a collection of photos taken by former Ringling Brothers elephant trainer Sam Haddock.

Is it time to redefine the Circus? For over 100 years, Ringling Brothers, along with Barnum & Bailey which it acquired in 1907, has been amusing people with the kind of things they can't see every day. But with today's ability to travel the globe and the Internet at out finger tips, there isn't much we don't have access to.

While there are two sides to every story and there are, no doubt, nice animal trainers and mean ones, at what point (or any point for that matter) do we say, well, that ship has sailed. Time to move on.

I can tell you, as a kid, I went to see Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey several times and then, many years later, as an adult. and I will admit I loved it as a kid and I loved it as an adult. And what's not to love? It's an amazing production. Truly entertaining. But is it entertaining enough to warrant funding (by continuing to attend its productions) an organization which allegedly mistreats animals to the point it begins to look like torture?

While I can't guarantee I will never set foot inside another Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey circus, it won't be without a significant degree of trepidation for what goes on behind the scenes to produce such an amazing event.

Would the circus be the same without the elephants? Without any animals at all? Would it be worth going?

It's no surprise Feld Entertainment, which acquired Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey in 1967, has branched out with Disney on Ice and several other non-animal-related forms of entertainment such as Monster Jam and Supercross. Feld Entertainment is a business. It's not stupid. It will go where the money is. And if the money stops flowing in the direction of the circus, well, the circus won't be around for long.

But what would a world look like without the circus? Without the magnificence and wonder of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey? Can it keep that magnificence and wonder if it were forced to cease using animals of any kind in its productions?

by Steve Hall    Jun-18-10   Click to Comment   
Topic: Agencies, Brands, Cause, Opinion