Boss apologises for dead goldfish

The CEO of the body tasked with promoting Adelaide and South Australia has apologised after a marketing stunt resulted in dead goldfish ending up at media agencies around the country.

As Mumbrella revealed yesterday, the goldfish were sent out by Advantage SA and co-brand Advantage Adelaide to media agencies across the country. The message was: “Be the big fish in a small pond and come test the water.”   A number of the fish were dead by the time people took delivery. Advantage SA describes itself as “an influential membership-based organisation that uniquely connects with the South Australian Government, media and businesses enhancing confidence and pride in the State.”

The organisation has not yet returned Mumbrella’s calls, but this morning  CEO Karen Raffen went on air on 891 ABC Adelaide to apologise for the stunt.

Raffen, who said that 55 goldfish were sent out, said: “We offer our sincere apologies. There was absolutely no intention to cause distress or harm to the fish.”

She said that prior to Mumbrella’s article, Advantage SA had received three complaints. She said that the agency would be happy to take custody of any goldfish that agencies did not want to look after. She said: “We are willing to collect any fish not being looked after and provide them with a good and healthy home.”

She added: “In hindsight we would probably not do this again.”

3.50pm update: Raffen issued a statement saying:

“Advantage SA has played and continues to play an integral role in the positive promotion of South Australia. For over 25 years Advantage SA has worked tirelessly to ensure the advantages of living, working and doing business in this state are clearly communicated.

“Advantage SA included goldfish as part of an invitation to come to Adelaide and ‘test the water’; to be the big fish in a small pond. Because SA is a small market it often gets bypassed when national brands are planning their media spend. The program aims to highlight the value of South Australia’s marketplace to interstate media buyers.

“On behalf of Advantage SA, I would like to personally apologise for any offence caused by the arrival of the fish. It was certainly not our intention to either harm or cause any distress to the fish or those receiving the invitation.

“All fish were healthy when they arrived at their destination. We worked closely with interstate fish suppliers in close proximity to each of the offices to which they were delivered. Each fish was carefully hand-delivered and was housed in a large, sterilised bowl with fresh water. The fish were fed before they were delivered, and each arrived with enough food to last six months.

“Advantage SA is in the process of contacting all recipients to check on the fish, and to find good homes for any that are not wanted.

“Advantage SA will be making a contribution to both the Animal Welfare League and the RSPCA.”


  1. mumbrella
    6 Dec 11
    10:31 am

  2. If anyone at an agency still has a live goldfish please email . A news organisation is trying to get some footage and I’ll put you in touch.


    Tim – Mumbrella

  3. Steve
    6 Dec 11
    10:39 am

  4. Hindsight is a bitch isn’t it? lol

  5. Josh
    6 Dec 11
    10:48 am

  6. Those with dead goldfish, please wait for the follow-up DM: a small fishnet, and in instructions on how to conduct a loo-lush funeral.

  7. Hmmmm...
    6 Dec 11
    10:53 am

  8. A junior creative sent around goldfish last year to agencies. Ours was DOA as were most others.

    Still boggles the mind that anyone thinks sending a live animal, which requires care from the recipient, unsolicited in the mail is anything but a monumentally stupid idea.

  9. john o'keefe
    6 Dec 11
    12:25 pm

  10. Nothing new about sending a goldfish in a bowl.
    Going back to the 80’s, or thereabouts , a Melbourne agency sent a gift wrapped fish in a bowl to a prospective client.
    Prospective client got suspicious and called in the fuzz, who alerted the bomb disposal sqad.
    After much poking and use of hi- tech devices the bomb boys discovered the contents.
    Agency who sent the fishy missive did’nt get the account and did’nt get the fish returned..

  11. Tom
    6 Dec 11
    1:11 pm

  12. I now know who Advantage SA are and what they do… And I wasn’t even on the mailing list.

    Cost of National PR = Three dead fish.

    Not a bad ROI.

  13. kate McClure
    6 Dec 11
    1:12 pm

  14. ahhh RSPCA

  15. Sarah Greenaway
    6 Dec 11
    1:13 pm

  16. What would possess someone to send a pet to someone as a marketing stunt? Is it’s life worth less than that of a dog or a cat simply because it’s a fish? Would you send a kitten to your prospects? I just don’t understand and, frankly, it makes me really sad.

  17. The Fence
    6 Dec 11
    1:19 pm

  18. Valiant effort. Still, better than sending out a DL flier.

  19. Simon
    6 Dec 11
    1:19 pm

  20. Low caliber stunt, poorly thought out and hopelessly executed…..except for the fish that were expertly executed.

    “absolutely no intention to cause distress or harm to the fish”…..maybe she should have included “or to kill them”.

  21. Sophie@PRChicks
    6 Dec 11
    1:20 pm

  22. Seriously you have to wonder about these idiots. Stunts for the sake of stunts. The poor ol’ Goldfish have more brain cells. Do Goldfish have braincells? Am assuming they do?!! Not many though I would imagine. But still more than Advantage SA.

  23. Jamie
    6 Dec 11
    1:20 pm

  24. Tasted like chicken!

  25. Anonymous
    6 Dec 11
    1:29 pm

  26. I think it’s a very apt representation of Adelaide actually…

  27. Tracy
    6 Dec 11
    1:39 pm

  28. What about making a large donation to the Australian Marine Conservation Society as penance?

  29. Tony Richardson
    6 Dec 11
    1:40 pm

  30. Or is this a mafia death threat … Adelaide style.

  31. Dorothy
    6 Dec 11
    1:51 pm

  32. Reminds me of a wedding I went to where every table had a goldfish bowl with floating candles. Here’s a hint – floating candles + fish = a result kind of like this attempt. Nice idea, bad in practice.

  33. Jenna
    6 Dec 11
    1:57 pm

  34. Wouldn’t it have been more clever to do it all digitally and deliver via email? Could have been a great campaign with the right messages.

  35. Dave
    6 Dec 11
    2:07 pm

  36. i once had live goldfish as the table centrepieces for a dinner we were organising for a quite well-to-do family. (it was a sea theme so the goldfish actually fit)

    We had expected that we would end up having to take custody of the 30-odd fish in 15 bowls on different tables at the end of the night.

    We were quite surprised when the multi-millionaire guests were all asking us for glad wrap so they could cover the bowls and take them home for the kids. There was not a single fish left at the event……

  37. Sam
    6 Dec 11
    2:13 pm

  38. Pre 1997 Proctor & Gamble decided to tie in a goldfish GWP with its introduction of a bar of soap with gold colouring. To dramatize the premium, the goldfish was displayed in a bowl of water near the soap packs on grocery aisles. The only problem was it was planned for January in USA when the temperature drops well below freezing … deliveries were made well before opening time … you guessed it, many consumers were startled to find a dead goldfish embedded in a block of ice as an incentive to purchase a bar of soap!

  39. BK
    6 Dec 11
    2:23 pm

  40. People are still saying “big fish in a small pond”?

  41. Anon
    6 Dec 11
    2:40 pm

  42. marketing 101… never put your brand on anything edible and dont use live animals as promo gifts!

  43. Anon
    6 Dec 11
    2:41 pm

  44. …and especially when not delivered in person!!!

  45. Anonomous
    6 Dec 11
    2:47 pm

  46. agree with John above ‘literal’ promo gifts are so tacky and very 80’s, one of our business units once received a branded shovel in the mail with a card inscribed “let us help you dig your way out of the financial crisis” … terrible idea.

  47. Furious
    6 Dec 11
    2:58 pm

  48. I complained to Advantage SA direct – the response I received was polite but the author missed the point completely. These little creatures can live up to 20 years. Who in their right mind would think it’s acceptable to stick them in a tiny bowl, inside a cardboard box with a tiny bag of fish food and shoot them out to unsuspecting people by courier? I took 2 fish home, and purchased the basic kit to try and keep them alive. Unfortunately one died this morning, not sure if the other will survive. Sorry – the whole concept is barbaric.

  49. Anonymous
    6 Dec 11
    3:23 pm

  50. She sent it via – not through Australia Post.

  51. Furious
    6 Dec 11
    3:42 pm

  52. Then the are also very much at fault for agreeing to execute something like this.

  53. John K
    6 Dec 11
    3:44 pm

  54. Didn’t the New York mafia send deadfish as a way of saying ‘You will swim with fishes’.

  55. Ben
    6 Dec 11
    3:47 pm

  56. Putting them in Adelaide water was the first mistake.

  57. Jörn Sanda
    6 Dec 11
    3:53 pm

  58. Come on, where’s the investigative journalism?
    Who is the courier company?
    Who authorised the sale of 55 fish without asking where they are going to?
    How late did the poor junior have to work filling tanks and inserting fish?

    And anyway, who says the DM wasn’t about delivering dead fish, and some inadvertently came alive? Now there’s a story…

  59. Gezza
    6 Dec 11
    4:13 pm

  60. Means he is dead, not a death threat. as in: “Luca Brasi, he sleep with the fishes.”

  61. a
    6 Dec 11
    4:44 pm

  62. Perhaps this will be the next bright idea:

  63. talkingboonie
    6 Dec 11
    4:47 pm

  64. Can everyone just accept that Adelaide is an outer suburb of Geelong!?!

  65. Harry
    6 Dec 11
    5:22 pm

  66. Sure we can, if you accept that Melbourne is just a wanna be Sydney

  67. Blue
    6 Dec 11
    5:42 pm

  68. The poor traumatised fish will have forgotten about it within 3 seconds.

    @Sarah – yes, it is different from sending a kitten. Just as we’d all agree there’d be a difference between sending an amobea or an orphan, we appreciate there are degrees of acceptable behaviour towards our fellow creatures. In terms of how nice you need to treat them kittens>babies>adults>fluffy animals>fish>algae>recruitment consultants.

  69. Tom
    6 Dec 11
    5:56 pm

  70. Sure come and test the water, and end up dead? Can’t see too many people excited about Adelaide after that ploy.

  71. Grant
    6 Dec 11
    7:07 pm

  72. Fish World: “The team at fish world have considerable expertise and experience when it comes to the transportation of live fish, whether it be by air or road freight. All fish are carefully packaged with medical oxygen in insulated foam boxes. Depending upon climatic conditions at the time of shipping,  hot and cold packs are utilised to maintain optimum temperature parameters for the fish.”

  73. Craig
    6 Dec 11
    7:09 pm

  74. I think the late Douglas Adams neatly summed up the experience… “so long and thanks for all the fish”

  75. Matt
    6 Dec 11
    7:34 pm

  76. Adelaide. Serial-killer capital of Australia. Now exploring non-primate species.

    I can picture the team who came up with this listing the award shows they hoped to enter. My how quickly this shit can go wrong when you don’t use a proper DM agency.

    This goes on the list of ‘worst direct mail packs ever’. And reaffirms Adelaide’s standing in the Australian advertising landscape.

  77. Halibut
    6 Dec 11
    8:54 pm

  78. @Sarah (comment 8) How do you know they were pets?
    @Dave (comment 18) “Sea”…? Goldfish are freshwater fish aren’t they? That is where you went wrong Davo; salt water!

    H’mmm I am a question for you all. Are birds; fish?

  79. Halibut
    6 Dec 11
    8:54 pm

  80. Blimey? Comment 8, not sunglasses…?

  81. Ann
    6 Dec 11
    9:29 pm

  82. Which person with a pony tail and Porsche dreamt this up?

  83. Grant
    7 Dec 11
    9:12 am

  84. I landed one of my first advertising jobs using goldfish – here’s the thing though… Hand deliver the bowl so the fish survives and, having successfully grabbed the agency’s attention, offer to take it away if no one wants to look after it. No fish were harmed in the making of this career.

  85. Groucho
    7 Dec 11
    11:16 am

  86. Kind of sums up Adelaide really – used to be alive, then it died.

  87. Sarah Greenaway
    7 Dec 11
    11:44 am

  88. Halibut: A goldfish bought from a shop is a pet. It is definitely not a piece a merchandise to be used for marketing purposes. It’s gross and I wish massive fines were imposed to make sure that no other massive idiot decides that promoting their wares is more important that the life of another creature.


  89. Lloyd
    7 Dec 11
    11:45 am

  90. The issue is not the delivery of live animals (well, it kind of is), but more so the fact that fish bowls were filled with Adelaide Water – that stuff is putrid.

  91. Sarah Greenaway
    7 Dec 11
    11:51 am

  92. @Blue: Couldn’t help but chuckle :-)

  93. slightly morbid
    7 Dec 11
    12:22 pm

  94. sure they didn’t mean to send them in bowls shaped like barrels?

  95. His majesty,King of Kepler 22b
    7 Dec 11
    12:53 pm

  96. Greetings Earth.
    It’s my grim duty to inform you that long ago, here on “Kepler 22b”, climate change took out the humans and we goldfish (after winning the Great Dolphin Wars) have risen to ascendency. The fossil records show that human remnants returned to the sea and interbred with krill to create the furious little aquatic creatures we keep for our amusement in little bowls. Why just last week I received one as a promotion. Sadly, It was dead on arrival. What kind of goldfish does this to peopkrill?!
    Anyway, just wanted to finally get in touch – say hi to the new celestial neighbours – and let you know that we’re years ahead of you in evolutionary terms, and that now we know what your promotions people do to goldfish, we’re coming to kill you all.

    Kind Regards, King of Kepler 22b.

  97. Anonymous
    7 Dec 11
    2:01 pm

  98. I’d just be insulted at receiving a shit animal as a gift. Give me a rhino or a marlin or something cool.

  99. Ash
    7 Dec 11
    5:20 pm

  100. Calm down people. There are numerous websites that offer this service – delivering a goldfish, guaranteed alive on arrival.

    Everyone is commenting that they’re disgusted that someone would post a ‘pet’ in the mail. I’m pretty sure these are the same people that would flush said ‘pet’ upon their death.

  101. Halibut
    7 Dec 11
    8:20 pm

  102. @Sarah Greenaway (comment 44) How do you know the idiot was massive? He or she might have been a dwarf, or even a midget?

    As for buying a goldfish; the seller might have netted them straight out of a lake? Unless you have proof then these fish cannot necessarily be classified as pets.

    Whilst on the subject of goldfish, did you know that goldfish can recognise different voices? (I would imagine that these sorts of goldfish might well be pets. Although they might be lab goldfish of course…)

  103. Fred
    7 Dec 11
    9:34 pm

  104. Seriously though people who work at media agencies shouldn’t be trusted to keep animals alive…

  105. Junior Creative who did a similar thing
    7 Dec 11
    10:30 pm

  106. So, I guess it’s time to stand up for myself – or I just could “pretend” not to read all of this.

    Firstly, the idea to send a goldfish wasn’t random. Some say it was a great idea, some disagree. And actually, I invested a bit of time and a concept into it –

    and @Grant: I offered pick up, and I had organised a home in a friend’s pond. BUT I could have send a fish from the fish company to myself and see how it arrives. AND I should have hand delivered and giving it even more thought, AND THEN I wouldn’t have to deal with this 1 year later. But here we are again.

    Should have, could have and would have…I’ve been there million of times. And I’m certain; everyone else has as well throughout an interpersonal interaction with your partner, friends, and family. And all you want is to go back in time and change it. Reality check – you can’t.

    @Sarah: I understand where you coming from and how you and many more think, a fish or pet shouldn’t be used for marketing purposes. And loads of people disagree with the whole concept of advertising. So, my apologies for not hand delivering and thinking it out better.

    @Ash: Thank you for being a friend and standing up for me, though you didn’t need to. I love you! ☺

    @Blue: You made me laugh ¬– I’ve been reading your post 3x to make me feel better ☺

    Again and for the last time @everyone and the involved agencies: My apologies for not hand delivering the fish and giving it more thought.

    So, there’s me, and those fish – and this story just won’t go away. At the time, someone told me that karma not always bites you in the arse – for my sake I hope it won’t.

    And last, but not least @Hmm: Hmm, how shall I say? You don’t know me. And I’m far away from stupid.