Have It Your Way
IS PETA'S MONEY not green? Four Twin Cities billboard companies have declined to sell space to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which sought to erect a billboard featuring a de-beaked chicken accompanied by the slogan "Burger King cuts off chickens' beaks!" The state's two largest outdoor-advertising companies, DeLite and Eller, turned PETA down flat, as did Adams and Schubert. The billboards, PETA spokesman Bruce Friedrich explains, are intended as a jab at Burger King and also at Minnesota-based Michael Foods, which is a main supplier of eggs to the fast-food behemoth. Friedrich notes that a similar campaign against McDonald's last year featured a billboard with a bloody cow's head that ran in Washington, D.C., Seattle, and Chicago, among other cities, and ultimately helped sway McDonald's execs to guarantee stricter adherence to animal-treatment guidelines. Here in the Twin Cities, Friedrich theorizes, the freeze-out boils down to finances: "BK is a major advertiser, and it sounds to me like they've successfully shut us out. The billboards we proposed don't strike me as offensive." Aric Schroeder, a sales manager for DeLite, confirms Burger King is one of his firm's major clients but says the decision not to run the billboards was not based on money. "We felt there were inappropriate images," Schroeder asserts, citing "a bloody carcass of a calf or something." (Indeed, the gory cow's-head shot resonates more than the merely unpleasant chicken photo; see for yourself at www.murderking.com/materials.html.) Schroeder notes that his company's attorney warned that PETA's "Murder King" parody of the Burger King logo might amount to copyright infringement. But ultimately, he says, it was the icky pictures that did it: "We are not against PETA or their causes. It was in poor taste for the commuters to see. It's like we don't advertise strip clubs. We don't put half-naked women up there either."
We're Black and We're Proud
FOR ALL THE post-Census hubbub about Minnesota's increasing "diversity," as Off Beat sees it the true sign of change comes from the radio-ratings company Arbitron, which will debut "ethnic controls" in its Twin Cities surveys for the spring ratings period. In other words, for the first time ever the company will attempt to count black and Hispanic listeners in the Minneapolis-St. Paul market. "Our goal is to make sure African Americans are represented fairly," says Thom Mocarsky, an Arbitron "executive spokesflack," from his office in Columbia, Maryland. "Our surveys in the fall ratings period led us to believe that maybe the [Twin Cities] market wasn't so white anymore." Arbitron, Mocarsky explains, commences tracking minorities if the company believes they compose at least ten percent of a market or number upward of 75,000. (Arbitron's demographers put the Twin Cities' current black and Hispanic population at nearly 107,000.) Four times a year, Arbitron scatters 3,500 surveys among the metro's estimated listenership of more than 2.3 million. Most folks who agree to take the survey are paid a few bucks, but Arbitron will up the premium for minority households in an effort to ensure participation. "African Americans do not readily take part in the surveys," Mocarsky confides. "White households in the upper Midwest love our survey." The advent of stations such as "rhythmic contemporary radio" B96 (96.3 FM) and the newly minted "rhythmic oldies" V105 (105.1, 105.3, and 105.7 FM) proves that some believe there's money to be made from our shifting demographic. Mocarsky, though, takes a more cautious view: "I can't tell you if blacks in Minneapolis are listening to those stations until after we get the results," he asserts, noting that V105 has a "crossover" format aimed in part at white women: "It's a Motown station. Even Murphy Brown likes Motown."