If I were to ask you to name a brand of crayons, paints or markers for children, you would probably name Crayola.
For years, that term has been synonymous with children’s art. And as positive as drawing and coloring is for the development of kids, I initially thought that Crayola entered dangerous territory, with a dangerous partner.
Momentarily forgetting it was April Fools' Day, I was referred via Google News that Crayola had apparently entered into some partnership with the animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) to launch a new product, the Little Animal Rights Activist’s First Paint-Throwing Kit.
The description of the alleged product reads as follows: “The PETA and Crayola Little Animal Rights Activist’s First Paint-Throwing Kit is a fun way to help animals — just stand back and shoot! By creating large spatter marks with the paint sprayer, your child can advise anyone wearing animal skins, wool, or hair that cows, sheep, rabbits, alpacas, and other animals didn’t give it up voluntarily. In other words, it doesn’t belong to the wearer.
Made for kids ages 3 and up, the paint sprayer comes with two prefilled red paint cartridges, two animal-shaped stencils, and an instruction sheet. Calling out animal-derived materials has never been so fun and educational!”
More detail is offered in PETA’s press release, and near the bottom, there is a button that says, “Buy Now.”
Obviously, I didn’t click on it because I thought this was a horrible idea, and I was outraged that Crayola would condone teaching children that aggressive behavior toward people who do not share their animal rights mindset was acceptable. How could an iconic crayon company market a product that could eventually lead to criminal behavior?
After reading this, I went to Crayola’s website, but could not find anything about this “product.” I did, however, find an email address for media inquiries. So I sent an email, in which I simply asked if they had any information about this product. Something made me think this couldn’t be legitimate, but again, I wasn’t keeping in mind what day it was.
But I didn’t get a response to that email.
I shared the link on the PETA website with a co-worker, who then asked if it might have been an April Fools' Joke. She clicked on the “Buy Now” button, and sure enough, her hunch was correct.
O.K. PETA, you got me. Congratulations.
What does Crayola think?
As soon as I learned I had been punked, I probably should have sent a follow-up email to Crayola, just to let them know I realized it was a joke.
But I wanted to see what kind of reaction I would get, if any. It’s hard to determine a person’s mood through the typed word, sometimes, but I thought maybe I’d get some insight regarding whether they thought it was funny, or if they were miffed because PETA made a joke at Crayola’s expense.
I shouldn’t have fallen for this trick, but I did. And odds are, someone else did, too. Which makes me think that Crayola would have to deal with some sort of fallout from folks who thought this was a real product and found it offensive.
Without a response from Crayola – not even an “It was a joke, dummy” – I don’t know what Crayola’s involvement with this is.
If Crayola was unsuspecting of this, shame on PETA for using Crayola’s trademarked name and logo for this prank, and for putting them in an awkward public relations dilemma.
If Crayola was in on the gag, I just have to ask those involved if they really thought this one through.