NZ pizza chain cops criticism for dead rabbit billboard

A New Zealand pizza chain has come under fire on social media for a controversial billboard ad for its new rabbit pizza made partly from real dead rabbits.

Hell Pizza is well-known for its outlandish publicity stunts, and its latest billboard can be seen on numerous motorways in New Zealand.

The ad caused a stir online, with some applauding the brand for its “guts” and clever marketing strategies, and the many being repulsed by the graphic advertisement.

The company took a proactive approach to social media, publishing a statement about its latest stunt prior to the billboard going viral.

“As well as being a delicious meat, and even quite cute, rabbits are unfortunately also a noted pest that is damaging to the New Zealand environment, particularly in the South Island,” it says.

“For those who are concerned, we sourced these rabbit skins via a professional animal tanning company, who in turn sourced them from local meat processing companies where the skins are a regular by-product.”

The New Zealand Vegetarian Society says in a comment on Facebook it’s pleased with Hell’s vegetarian and vegan pizzas, but this stunt is “deplorable on so many levels”.

Facebook user Robert Cairns disagreed and applauded the brand for “not only utilising a pest animal but doing it in a way where the meat is not wasted”.

“Dont be put of[sic] by these furry saving wannabes, they have no concept of what it actually takes to save native species nor the time and effort taken to remove such pests from the environment,” she says.

Marketing Angels founder Michelle Gamble told SmartCompany it’s a risky and “disgusting” ad, but it’s fitting with its brand.

“I can’t imagine it will drive people into the stores to try the rabbit pizza. It will get lots of exposure for a small amount of coin, but I don’t see how this kind of marketing would drive sales,” she says.

“Looking at their branding, you can see what they’ve done is on brand, there’s no doubt about that. The brand is a bit gory and dark, but I question if this will attract people to the stores.”

Gamble says the initiative will be remembered and generate brand awareness and buzz.

“It will probably get people to come to the stores in the long run. I imagine with the brand it positions people to feel strongly about it one way or another. Some will love the rebellious nature, while others will hate it.

“It’s very different to what its competitors are doing, but it’s not for the faint-hearted. It’s also an example of seasonal marketing, leveraging the idea of Easter which isn’t necessarily easy to do for a pizza chain.”

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