Jolley: Five Minutes With The Yellow Tail Fiasco

Jolley: Five Minutes With The Yellow Tail FiascoQuestion: After their recent poorly considered donation of $100,000 to HSUS, will Yellow Tail have to high tail it out of the American wine market?


If the merciless beating they took on social media has any impact, yes.

For those of you who haven’t been following this amazing marketing miscue, Yellow Tail, an Australian winery that’s been very successful in bringing nicely priced, mid-level wines to American consumers, made the colossal mistake of donating 100 large to the Humane Society of the United States as part of a “tails for tails” P.R. effort. The idea was Yellow Tails would donate money to help rescue puppies and kittens and such. (Yellow) Tails for (puppy) tails – get it? Clever, huh?

Well, the whole thing went viral in a way they never expected. The ag community, long a target of HSUS, was immediately up in arms. Good red wines, after all, are best enjoyed with a good steak, not a marinated and grilled piece of tofu. Hundreds of people in the ag community or closely affiliated with it, went to Yellow Tail’s Facebook page and becoming fans of the company. They became fans, not to pat them on the back but to kick them a little lower down their anatomy. Within 24 hours hundreds of people had used their ‘fan’ status to ask YT what the hell they were thinking.

I spent an hour browsing through the comments. They have two Facebook pages, by the way, with 2,442 people on one and 1,657 on the other. Although not everyone commented, I found 7 people risking “attaboys” for the donation with the rest offering swift kicks to their Aussie posteriors. Comments like “Don’t drink the yellow water” and “Yellow belly” popped up with some consistency. One creative rancher took his last bottle of Yellow Tail wine out to his pasture, sat it on a fence post and used it for target practice. I saw a few pictures of the familiar YT bottle poised over a toilet, an interesting way to decant a liter of wine.

After withstanding the perfectly bad P.R, storm for a full day, the beaten down folks at Yellow Tail offered this clarification on their web site:

[yellow tail] Okay, there’s been good feedback here recently. Here’s an update on where our donation will be directed to celebrate animals: We've decided to use all of our $100K gift to aid animal rescue:

If you don’t want to go there to read it – they insist on knowing your full birth date before letting you in, they said all their donated funds would be earmarked for animal rescue efforts. It was a clear misreading of the Facebook comments. Most people were telling YT that they wouldn’t buy another bottle of Yellow Tail wine if they sent one Australian dollar to HSUS no matter where they thought it might be going.

Here is the Yellow Tail press release:

2010: The Year of Tails
[yellow tail] wine and The Humane Society Of The United States
team up in celebration of animals

White Plains, NY, February 4, 2010 – [yellow tail] wine announced a collaboration with The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) in support of the organization's mission to celebrate animals. As part of their "[tails] for tails" campaign, [yellow tail] will make use of social media and in-store advertising to spread the message that consumers can "pick up a bottle of [yellow tail] and help a tail-wagging friend."

[yellow tail] has targeted its $100,000 donation to support The HSUS' Animal Rescue Team, which rescues animals in peril, whether from natural disasters or large-scale cruelty cases.

"[yellow tail] embraces animals, as seen through our logo featuring the Yellow-footed Rock Wallaby," said Mark Lyle, Vice President of Marketing for W.J. Deutsch. "Consequently we feel that The Humane Society of the U.S.'s initiative to help animals in danger through their noble Animal Rescue Team is an ideal mission to support."

[yellow tail] will also celebrate animals on a dedicated portion of the [yellow tail] Facebook page, linking to The HSUS' "Send Us Your Best Shot" pet photo contest.

The contest asks fans to submit personal photos of their pets or favorite animals, with the chance for these photos to be published in The HSUS' bi-monthly publication All Animals and the opportunity to win great prizes.

Point-of-sale advertising highlighting the "[tails] for tails" campaign will be visible where [yellow tail] is sold through the end of March.

Consumers wishing to join [yellow tail] and The Humane Society of the United States in their celebration of animals and support of animal rescue efforts are encouraged to visit, from Monday, February 8th, for more information on how to make a donation to the "[tails] for tails" and HSUS Animal Rescue Team program.

And here are about five minutes, more or less, of comments posted on Facebook. I know you’ll recognize some of the names:

Ben Coffelt Everyone needs to write Yellow Tail's importer and tell them we will be boycotting YT and their other wines as long as they continue to do business with an organization allied with HSUS. Here's the info, call, write letters, send emails!

W.J. Deutsch and Sons Ltd.

can be contacted at:
108 Corporate Park Drive
White Plains, NY 10604
Tel: 914-251-9463 Email:
[email protected]
W.J. Deutsch and Sons Ltd.

Monty Glenn Miller Perhaps pour a glass and ponder this

Lopez I agree with Sue Kennedy!!! I've been a fan of Yellow Tail for some time... alas, that was yesterday! In fact, I took the bottle I had, drove it out to the pasture (where we raise cattle…and OH MY GOSH... we EAT THEM!!), stood it up and fired a .223 round through it! (Oh, we're gun lovers too!!!!) I'll likely celebrate the bullseye tomorrow morning with a cold glass of milk and a couple eggs, bacon too! Lunch might be a chicken sandwich, and I'll finish the day with a rare ribeye!!! Oh, and a glass of wine!! Anyone want to guess what brand it WON'T be???

Daren R. Williams I guess my biggest surprise is that an Aussie company would be duped into giving $100K to a fraud like H$U$. I put more faith in the men from Down Under. Oh well, there are plenty of great American wines to choose from. In fact, I'm going to UN-fan Yellow Tail and become a fan of an American wine company right now!

Darren Katzung I am a large animal Veterinarian. Unfortunately I have a bottle of yellow tail wine in our wine rack. Tomorrow morning it will be prominently displayed on our clinic counter along with a sign. The sign will state that yellow tail donates money to HSUS a fanatical organization who has openly stated that its primary goal is to eliminate animal agriculture in our country. My clients are farmers who care for their animals dearly. Lets support our farmers

Jose Faller “My goal is the total abolition of all animal agriculture” –Former ALF terrorist &; now HSUS coordinator, John Goodwin

Troy Hadrick Where did this good feedback come from? Your money is going towards putting hard-working farming families out of business. It's sad to see a family name that has been built in agriculture stab their neighbors in the back. At the end of the day, your character and integrity are all you have. You have defined both of those very clearly for us.

Stacy Blair Hadrick I am in a family business just like yours and I am so disappointed your business would donate to an organization that wants to put my family out of business. I love your wine, but never again will purchase and I will tell all my friends why they should not purchase.

Emily Full-Zweber Dear Yellow Tail: You must not be reading headlines recently. HSUS has been charged with NOT using funds raised to rescue animals in Haiti. If you would like to help rescue animals please direct your donation to American Humane Until then my family, 4th generation farmers, will not be purchasing your wine any more.

Kyle Bauer Why don't you find a good animal shelter and give them the $100,000. That would be almost 1/4 of the total HSUS actually used in 2008 for animal shelters with revenues of $86 Million. Do some checking. If we all know it, why don't you?

Curtis Olafson I am a registered Simmental Cattle breeder and North Dakota State Senator. I have heretofore been a regular customer of the Yellow Tail brand and thoroughly enjoy a good steak with a glass of Yellow Tail. The HSUS would like to put the beef industry out of business. Guess what Yellow Tail-the beef industry will be here long after your bad judgment has put your company out of business. I encourage everyone to go have a good steak with a nice glass of anything but Yellow Tail.

Hank Hahn Here are just a few of the remarks made by the people running and shaping HSUS policy.

When asked if he envisioned a future without pets, “If I had my personal view, perhaps that might take hold. In fact, I don’t want to see another dog or cat born.” Wayne Pacelle quoted in Bloodties: Nature, Culture and the Hunt by Ted Kerasote, 1993, p. 266.

"If we could shut down all sport hunting in a moment, we would." Wayne Pacelle, Senior VP Humane Society of the US (HSUS), formerly of Friends of Animals

Hank Hahn Here are a couple more

"Humane care (of animals) is simply sentimental, sympathetic patronage."

Dr. Michael W. Fox, Humane Society of the US, in 1988 Newsweek interview

“The definition of obscenity on the newsstands should be extended to many hunting magazines.” Wayne Pacelle, quoted in Bloodties: Nature, Culture and the Hunt by Ted Kerasote

Rodger J. Mansfield Yellow Tail you've been had by the extreme vegan group HSUS. I like my YT with meat - but not when you support this group that seeks to end animal agriculture. Use your money for a truly good cause. Not this. WSB-TV (Atlanta) Investigation video report on the sham of HSUS

Brandi Buzzard HSUS's stated goal is the abolition of animal agriculture. I am sure your heart was in the right spot when you donated that money, however you need to research your business decisions more before writing a check. Only one half of one percent of HSUS's budget goes to actual animal shelters - the rest goes to lobbying fund and high salaries for those executives striving to eradicate agriculture. I speak for many when I say, you've lost my business.

Jennifer Sugden Engle May I also suggest that people fill out the inquiry form on Yellow Tails home page. I tried filling out the complaint but as I don't have a lot number, the option was unavailable. the address is

Roxi Beck I make it part of my day to look at business case studies - not only of what TO do, but also what NOT to do. I truly believe this situation will show up in the latter category. The moral of the story: Even the best of intentions ([yellow tail]'s donation to HSUS's seemingly innocent mission) get in the way of doing a teeny bit of research (look at HSUS's annual budget:, this report:, ask Mr. Pacelle about expenditures to directly benefit animals versus the income that has been raised using that message, etc.) - the information is readily available.

I would love to continue purchasing your DELICIOUS Shiraz-Cabernet... hope you can "right" this unfortunate misstep.

Sarah Hubbart HSUS received a C- grade in the December 2009 Charity Rating Guide issued by the American Institute of Philanthropy because as little as 53 percent of its $100 million budget goes toward actually running programs (which don't include animal care; instead, the group is politically focused). It spends as much as $40 in advertising for every $100 donation raised. Please, please consider donating your money to local shelters that are n desperate need of funding to continue doing the good work of saving animals.

Denise Cummins I applaud Yellowtail for donating to HSUS. Don't listen the the idiots who claim that insisting on humane treatment of animals is inconsistent with meat-eating. That's just ridiculous. These people are greedy, hard-hearted agri-mafia types who are just after the almighty dollar. There is such a thing as raising and slaughtering animals humanely, giving them a decent life before they become your dinner. There is such a thing as rejecting canned hunts, dog fights, and other vicious activities as activities outside of the bounds of human decency. And there is such a thing as devoting one's resources--as HSUS does--to end these atrocities and to rescue the animals damaged by them. I am a member of HSUS, and I support their merciful and compassionate activities.

Chuck Jolley is a free lance writer, based in Kansas City, who covers a wide range of ag industry topics for and