Legal Sea Foods … Lousy Ads

As I zoned out in front of the TV on a recent weeknight, I snapped to attention at an ad campaign for Legal Sea Foods.

It starts like one those old-school Save the Animals PSAs with a image of a slo-mo salmon wriggling in midair. The voice-over first encourages us to save the salmon, then, to hell with that, carve that baby up. Here, check it out:

Enviros came down hard against the campaign, lobbing criticism against Legal for depleting the oceans, blah, blah, blah. This was obviously the point of the campaign, and the local restaurant megalith is no stranger to edgy campaigns.

What surprised me was Legal’s response to a USA Today story about the enviros’ response to the ads (there are three of them) and how fast it started to back-pedal. A company statement quotes President and CEO Roger Berkowitz (profiled in BoMag this summer) saying:

“We’re passionate about sustainability, but we also feel the issue has been clouded by outdated and faulty data, and reliance on simplistic dictums from groups that help turn the public against certain species of fish. This campaign will hopefully facilitate an open dialogue and better understanding that seafood sustainability is not such a black and white issue.”

A quick check on Legal Sea Foods’ menu (find it here) turns up the salmon dish in question: “Nutty Atlantic Salmon.” The Monterey Bay Aquarium, which is the widely recognized authority on what’s best to eat from the sea (from a sustainability standpoint) ranks Atlantic salmon as an “Avoid” species due to scorch-the-sea farming practices (the commercial fishery collapsed). A little more digging shows Legal Sea Foods’ salmon filets are, in fact, farmed. So that fish on your plate never swum upstream, as the commercial suggests. (Salmon farming looks more like this.)

Maybe the Monterey Bay Aquarium is one of those “groups that helps turn the public against certain species of fish,” as Berkowitz suggested, but I doubt it. The group recommends fully a dozen other salmon species that are “best choice” and “good alternative” to what Legal purveys.

Junk science to prove a silly point, eh Legal Sea Foods? Your food may be tasty, but that ad is misleading, and the follow-up rhetoric is, well, tough to swallow.