“A dog on a leash pulls its master toward a flock of flushing pigeons in an advertisement for asthma medicine. A cat serenely naps on the couch next to a couple of apartment dwellers fretting about their home loan application in an ad for a mortgage company. A billboard purchased by a check cashing company displays two dogs–a large dog (Big Cash) and a much smaller companion dog (Little Cash). ”
Spuds McKenzie would be proud. The Budweiser Lizards would be amazed, and the Taco Bell Chihuahua might do a little celebration dance. Pets are the new celebrities of marketing.
Basics of Advertising
Let’s look at some really basic factors to be aware of if you design ads, or ever have the need of the persuasive skills in any way.
Aristotle defined three dimensions of persuasion as being ethos (character), pathos (emotion) and logos (logic), and while all important, he gave extra weight to the dimensions of ethos, or the specific qualities of character including knowledge, sagacity, goodwill, similarity, and dynamism. People are more likely to relate and agree with others they find these characteristics present in.
Any good, basic crash course on writing an ad in contemporary society will instruct you to have a
- Description of Benefits
- Contact Information
- And a Call to Action
Pets, Pets, Pets
Now combine that with a very noticeable phenomenon: Pets, particularly dogs and cats, are finding their way more and more into advertising and prominent roles in them. In fact in the nirvana of big-budget advertising, the 2012 NFL Super Bowl (not the Animal Planet Puppy Bowl my daughter can’t wait for) you would have seen:
Volkswagen followed up last year’s popular Vader Kid ad with barking Star Wars dogs and a spot featuring an overweight pup working to get into car-chasing shape, and Chevy also featured man’s best friend in its apocalypse-themed commercial. A French Bulldog named Mr. Quigley reportedly replaced Kim Kardashian in its Skechers commercial, Doritos presented a non-cat-friendly vignette, and Subaru showed off a “Dog Friendly, Dog Approved” line of vehicles in its fun contribution to the lineup
69% of us have pets, and 45% of us have multiple pets. In 2006, our spending on pets had doubled in ten years to exceed 36 billion dollars . If my math is right, that’s $120 for every man, woman, and child (300 million) in the United States.
Another article, perhaps, could extol the obvious benefits of entering the dog and cat markets in some way.
Is He Talking to My Dog?
But it goes even further, as pets are now often directly addressed in ads.
“…advertisers are now appealing to animals directly with everything from TV spots to billboards to iPad games.”
And those ads include spots so far for Beneful dog food, Bonzo dog treats, the Holiday Hotel for Cats in Los Angeles, and Whiskas. I, for one, shouldn’t be surprised, as my daughter’s favorite series of books, and mentioned on YouTube as recommended for teens by none other than James Patterson, is the Warriors series, which takes place completely in the universe of talking, socially-complex cats.
Why the Influence?
The effective role house pets such as dogs and cats play in providing psychological relief and all-gain-no-pain-companionship is simply more needed, readily available, and socially accepted than at any other time in my life, and it’s all thanks to ways modern life has changed: socially colder, more virtual and isolated than in the past. Pets have even been attributed with having a direct positive effect on the health of their owners (Allen, 2003)
The antithesis to gushing over pets would be they’re not children, but even that hold-out opinion is losing ground. Go on Facebook or ask your neighbor whose kids have grown and moved away, who his kids are now. Fluffy and Baxter? Even better chat with friends who have no children and probably never will. They have a Bijon or two, though, don’t they?
As we connect with other humans more and more by virtual means we may do it less and less in person, but John Naisbitt’s law of high-tech/high touch must be obeyed nonetheless. Dogs and cats help.
Savvy marketers recognize this and it is reflected in advertising, in creating similarity and goodwill for their brands.
Let’s Ask Aristotle
The similarity might be obvious: the more Americans that own pets; the more it makes sense to display people who at least have a pet around while they decide on a laxative, to suggest a rapport between viewer and actor.
Goodwill is an interesting one, though. Showing goldfish in an ad won’t necessarily derive the same result as the family Pekingese in terms of the viewer sharing a sense of goodwill. My Pekingese, Cutie Pie (donned by my daughter), would, however. I submit that the ubiquitous movement to protect, enhance the lives of, and even save dogs and cats has created an instant association of goodwill by simply displaying a peaceful association with one.
So the new basics of an ad would therefore be:
- Contact Information
- Call to Action
- Dog or Cat (puppies or kittens if you’re serious)
So, if you apply this interesting new twist on marketing and become a big success with it, tell me, who will be waiting the most anxiously for you at the end of the day? Who will be so excited to see you when you get home, despite your shortfalls and petty crimes, that they will need to be told “back!” or “down!” just so you can get through the doorway? Is it any wonder we are starting to repay the sentiment and get excited by seeing them in ads?