This year's Super Bowl will feature Ravens but no chimpanzees. CareerBuilder has announced that it will not run any of its longstanding series of commercials featuring chimpanzees during this year's game, according to a report from Ad Age. The commercials, which depict chimps in suits in business settings, have been heavily criticized by animal-rights groups as damaging to conservation efforts to protect the increasingly rare apes.
CareerBuilder has not said that it is dropping chimps from marketing altogether, only that the company will not be advertising during this year's Super Bowl, which has one of the largest television audiences of any program. "The Super Bowl has been a good investment for us over the years," CareerBuilder's vice president of corporate communications Jennifer Grasz told Ad Age. "We decided to pursue other marketing opportunities this year." She said they might return to advertise in future Super Bowls.
Although populations of all chimpanzee species and subspecies are declining in the wild, using chimpanzees in entertainment such as CareerBuilder's commercials leads to a public perception that the apes are not endangered species according to both animal rights groups and scientists. One recent study, published in PLoS One in 2011, found that "respondents seeing images in which chimpanzees are shown in typically human settings (such as an office space) were more likely to perceive wild populations as being stable and healthy compared to those seeing chimpanzees in other contexts."
CareerBuilder's use of chimpanzees in its commercials has been popular with the public. Ad Age reports that the company tried a different marketing angle in 2007 after using the chimps in 2005 and 2006; viewers demanded their return.
Chimpanzees themselves have a short career in entertainment, as only infant and juvenile animals can be controlled well enough for commercial shoots. The first batch of chimps that CareerBuilder used in its 2005 commercials all ended up at the Center for Great Apes sanctuary. The center's founder, Patti Ragan, wrote about the sad fate of retired entertainment chimps for the Christian Science Monitor in 2011:
"Accredited zoos won't usually accept performing or human-raised chimpanzees because they are difficult to mix with the zoos' more naturally behaving groups. Many of these former 'stars' end up in roadside zoos, backyard cages or breeder compounds. Those lucky enough to end up in an established sanctuary have to be supported for the rest of their lives by donations from people who don't know them, but care about them."
CareerBuilder's website says it "supports the fair and humane treatment of all animals" and the chimps that starred in its commercials "were treated well and not harmed in any way."