The UK ad regulator, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA,) says it has received six complaints about a stunt from London-based luxury online fashion retailer Lyst, which began offering dogs “for sale” as earlier this week.
Lyst’s “Canine Collection” currently offers a choice of 33 different dog breeds “to match your wardrobe,” priced up to £615 for a Siberian Husky.
While lots of people were aware the Canine Collection was a PR stunt, many tweeted their outrage at Lyst for even suggesting dogs were simply accessories:
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) told The Daily Mail “it sends out an extremely worrying message to people who are looking to get a new canine companion.” Meanwhile, another animal charity, Dog Trust, said in a statement on its website that the stunt “draws attention to the concerning trend for impulse puppy purchases.”
A spokesperson for the ASA told Business Insider: “The complaints mainly object to the suggested selling of animals via a postage/mailing system and the advertisement of these animals as ‘fashion accessories’, although complainants do acknowledge the fact this is a PR stunt and Lyst are not actually selling the animals.”
The ASA is currently assessing the complaints to determine whether they fall within its remit and are likely to breach any apart of the UK’s advertising codes. It has not yet launched a formal investigation but the ASA can investigate any ad after receiving just one complaint.
A spokesperson for Lyst told Business Insider the company had yet to hear from the ASA.
Regarding the negative reaction to the campaign on social media, Lyst provided this statement: “We were surprised to see the negative reactions on social media — the very space where dogs are paraded as accessories the most. Who doesn’t love a cute puppy in a handbag? We’re just helping you buy both pieces of the Instagram shot at once!”
Lyst’s CMO is a fan of controversial marketing stunts
This isn’t Lyst’s first outlandish PR stunts. Last month, the ecommerce site claimed it had “kidnapped” a DHL delivery driver and was demanding a ransom of 1,000 DHL’s t-shirts (because they bear a resemblance to a $300 version by luxury brand Vetements that hold sold out on its site.) The company sent press photos of the “driver” being tickled with feathers by women wearing Lyst t-shirts.
Lyst’s chief marketing officer, Christian Woolfenden, is the former chief marketer at bookmaker Paddy Power — a brand made famous by its controversial marketing stunts.
For example, in 2014 — when Woolfenden was at Paddy Power — the ASA said it received a record 5,525 complaints about a Paddy Power ad promoting a “money back if he walks” offer for punters betting on the outcome of Oscar Pistorius’ murder trial.
The Malcontent’s editor-in-chief Mic Wright did some digging into Lyst’s puppy stunt and found the campaign was devised by social media agency The Social Chain, which is the owner of a number of Twitter accounts with large followings including UK Banter and British Logic.
On social media and in Lyst’s statement to Business Insider, the company continues to play along with the idea that it is genuinely selling dogs on the site. However, some of the company’s employees are not impressed, according to Wright, who says a source close to Lyst told him “There’s a lot of angry Lyst employees at the moment. Quite a few vocally objected to the campaign but were told they aren’t allowed to publicly voice their dissent.”
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