If you think pets featured only in the ‘Pedigree’ and other pet-food advertisements, Think twice! From cars to eatables, soft drink to red bull, shoes to apparels, chocolates to biscuits, telecom service to public interest campaigns; pets, especially dogs, have stayed in the limelight, and in our memories, for quite some time now.
When I thought of writing this article, I started listing out the ad campaigns which have/had featured pets. I remembered the scenes better, where the pets gave their cameo appearances but I couldn’t remember the name of the company or the product they endorsed or the central idea of the ad campaign.
Try it yourself, recall an advertisement which featured a pet, apart from these famous advertisements: Pedigree, Whiskers, Hush-Puppies, Vodafone and Volkswagen’s car brands.
So what does this tell us? Is it the advertisements that make these pets famous? Or is it our cute furry friends that add their own magic to make these advertisements highly successful?
Let us look at it from the first perspective. Successful advertisements induce certain trends in the breed choice.
A prominent example of an infamous breed becoming a rage is the Basset Hound in late 1960s. “Pookie” is no more known by his breed name “Basset Hound”, he sacrificed it for the brand that he’s endorsing. ‘Hush Puppy dog’ is the popular nickname given to him. Why would someone prefer a less prominent dog to be the brand-ambassador for their leading leather-footwear brand? James Gaylord Muir, the first sales manager of Hush Puppies, established a connection between the word “Hush Puppies” and comfortable leather footwear. In his time, “Barking dogs” was an expression, which meant sore feet. Muir assumed Hush Puppies shoes to be so comfortable, that they would “quiet barking dogs” meaning, comfortable foot-wear for a sore feet. And the Basset hounds best known for their docile, quiet and gentle demeanor are aptly named “Hush Puppies”.
From just being a comfortable foot-wear, Hush Puppy shoes became a style statement and a life-saver (that’s what the company claims!). Keith Richards (guitarist in Rolling Stones), who wore a pair to a concert, was saved from being electrocuted by an ‘‘ungrounded microphone’’. Although knocked-down unconscious, he survived the shock due to the ‘crepe soled’ Hush Puppy Shoes. True! Dogs have always been a friend and a savior to mankind at all instances of time. The advertisement and the life-saving incident made news and went on to increase the sale of Basset hounds considerably.
History repeated itself, in the all-famous example of Vodafone ad-campaign. Before 2003, GenX was never impressed by a dog with a curled tail and wrinkly-short-muzzled face. Adding to its “ugliness” it largely suffered from ‘reverse sneezing’, ‘eye prolapse’, ‘hip socket’ and bacterial infections in its skin folds. But “Cheeka” changed the entire notion with a simple 60 second ad-film.
From the pet that was mostly not preferred by aspirant-pet-parents, Pugs became a heart-throb throughout the world. In 2004, farmhouses went out-of-stock, and the long booking-time really frustrated the aspirant pug-parents. For a meagre Rs.2000 the prices sky-rocketed to Rs.60, 000. It became “neighbors’ envy, owners’ pride”. In 2005, “Cheeka” attained the cult status of a‘poster-girl’ and every Vodafone customers yearned to have her as their mobile-phone wallpaper. “Cheeka” was not only instrumental in making the smooth transformation of ‘Hutch’ to a successful ‘Vodafone’ but also instrumental in promoting her own breed adoption .
The tribute to man’s best friend in Volkswagen’s “Woofwagen Ad 2013” is indeed remarkable! “Superbowl 2012” not only introduced Bolt (a 3 year old Australian Shepherd and St. Bernard mix) but also aimed at inspiring our own pets to slim down and be fit.
“These advertisements have introduced buyers with a vast range of breeds, both national and international. Petshops and Kennels are flooded with requests for exotic breeds, the pet aspirant may not even be aware of the breed, but demand them by the brand name which they mascot, like ‘Garnier Dog’ [Dalmations in Garnier’s “Spotless Ad”], ‘Dulux Dog’ [Old English sheepdog in Dulux’s “Let’s color” project] and several others. ” Says Rakesh Jain of RJ Pet House. “Many-a-times, customers do not mind to shell out the premium price for the dog in the trend. When the ‘Hutch Dog’ ad became a huge success, our pethouse was only selling pugs for weeks all-together”.
Not just dogs, even horse breeds saw the same uphill trend when they were featured in some popular ad campaigns. The first of its kind, SuperBowl commercials in 1991-95 featured ‘Clydesdales’, but in the year 1996 the Clydesdales were shown playing football in snow covered meadow. Remarkably, most of what was shown in that ad was real horses playing football after a 6 month long training.
The emotional resonance featured in the ad (2013) made the stable owners fall head-over-heels in love with “Budweiser Clydesdales” and not just any Clydesdale.
After KitKat realesed two of its commercials featuring a pair of squirrel in 2010 and lovebirds in 2012, the number of squirrel and canary lovers grew in population.
Although animated, the fun loving, chirpy, romancing squirrels and canaries shown in KitKat ads, had cast their spell on the school children and college students. The influence was so high, that the demand for the furry little bunch of love (squirrels) and little-winged-wonders (birds) at pethouses became huge in 2010.
These brand endorsements are, a visual treat for brand-audience, limelight for amazing pets and creative adaptations for the ad agency. The trend setting orchestration of great brands, beautiful breeds and creative ad-ideas was instrumental and influential in many a breed choice, and most of all, a meaningful pet-and-parent relationship, which lasts for a lifetime.
The second perspective, that our cute furry friends add their own magic to these highly successful advertisements, will be covered in the article ‘Brand and Breed Part 2’.