Seeing Our Pets and Ourselves, Together, on Madison Avenue
By Ed Sayres
It’s no coincidence that, in new advertising campaigns for Budweiser and Discover, pets –- a yellow lab in the case of a responsible-drinking commercial by Anheuser-Busch, a frog for Discover –-head the cast.
Featuring animals in ads to help sell stuff -– everything from beer to printers, from tacos to insurance -– is nothing new of course. Ads celebrating Budweiser’s Clydesdales are a long, familiar tradition. The Aflac Duck, the Taco Bell Chihuahua and the Cadbury Bunny, all household names, quickly come to mind as just three other examples among many that span the decades.
To me, the ads that Budweiser and Discover have been running lately are remarkable because they do more than put animals in the spotlight and show us how strong, quirky and adorable they can be. These new ads resonate with consumers, I think, because they reflect back at us the mutual bond we develop with our pets. While Budweiser and Discover are telling two different stories, about two different species, in each case the human-animal bond is central to its ability to connect with us as consumers and deliver the ad’s message effectively.
In the Budweiser ad, the company uses the friendship and loyalty between a young man and the dog he raised from the time he was a puppy to demonstrate the importance of not drinking and driving. The dog worries when his owner doesn’t come home from a night out partying with his buddies. All ends well when the owner returns home the next morning after staying overnight with a friend, it turns out, rather than drinking and driving.
In the ad from Discover, a responsible frog owner, looking to take the best possible care of his amphibian pet, talks with a Discover Card customer service representative to inquire about the coverage the company offers, mistakenly believing that it provides “frog protection” rather than “fraud protection.”
As memorable as a talking duck can be, these new ads are next generation in their portrayal of the human-animal bond. They are more proof of the important role that pets play in our lives and in our society, how much we care about them, and they about us. In addition to that, their use of different species -– a dog is the right pet for some, a frog makes sense for others -– highlights the importance of being able to choose the right pet to meet our specific needs.
In real life, these same themes reflect the mission and values of the people that make up the pet industry –- people who have chosen to dedicate their lives to helping us care for our pets. I look forward to helping you get to know the people of the pet industry, the people of PIJAC, with a variety of expertise across all of the pet categories we cover, in periodic profiles here in the weeks and months ahead.