Think advertising is going to the dogs? Well, it is—but it's also going to the cats. Having targeted pet owners for decades, advertisers are now appealing to animals directly with everything from TV spots to billboards to iPad games. Below, check out nine beastly ads targeted directly at pets. The next time your best friend asks for a product by name, you'll know why. (Photo above by Yukari.)
This European TV spot, made this year for Nestlé Purina's Beneful dog food, featured a high-pitched sound, like a dog whistle, that only dogs could hear. Having gotten the dogs' attention, it's unclear what the spot was supposed to do next. Some dogs probably rushed up to the TV and stood there looking eager and confused.
Same idea as the Beneful spot, but a decade earlier—and outdoors. In Holland in 2001, Bonzo dog food set up a series of billboards that emitted an ultra-sonic sound every 10 seconds that dogs could hear but people couldn't. "Bark if you like Bonzo!" said the headline.
Sure, dogs are attracted to certain sounds. But they're even more into smells. In 2010, U.K. pet-food maker Wagg Foods rolled out dog-food-scented ads on sidewalks to lure pooches (and their owners) over for a sniff. Scientists combined 15 mystery fragrances to create the smell, in an effort to "drive dogs wild." (It probably frustrated them, too, since there was nothing there to eat.)
Affinity Petcare (Outdoor)
This 2005 billboard from Germany was similar to the Wagg boards, but not as high-tech. Actual dog food was hidden behind the ad, with holes cut in the board to let the smell waft through. So, there was food, but the dogs couldn't get at it. Even more frustrating!
Finally, an ad that lets the dog eat! Earlier this year, GranataPet, a pet-food company in Germany (the Europeans really are pioneering this stuff), put up a billboard urging passersby to check in at the location on Foursquare. In return, the ad spit out dog food for their pooches to nosh on. "Check in! Snack out!" said the headline.
Animal Planet (Outdoor)
Dogs love the smell of food. But you know what they love more? The smell of urine. In 2001, Animal Planet advertised a new dog-awards show in the U.K. with ads, affixed at the base of lampposts, that smelled like dog pee. (When a pooch came over for a sniff, the owner saw a larger ad at human-eye level promoting the show.) The urine smell was artificially made by the mad alchemists at Celessence. The idea came from PR agency Red Consultancy, which told Adweek at the time that it had "identified the 'cocked-leg market.' "
Hotel for Cats (TV)
Enough about dogs. What about cats? Being marginally stupider and/or more standoffish than dogs, cats haven't been targeted as often. But this year, local-commercial mercenaries Rhett & Link did do a spot promoting the Holiday Hotel for Cats in Los Angeles in which the owner, Margaret Hughes, speaks in cat language—a mix of mews, trills and meows. Hopefully cats responded better than humans, whose primary reaction was bafflement.
Of course, if you really want to get a cat's attention, you don't try to speak to it. You try to get it to chase shit. This Whiskas commercial, made way back in 1999, was perfect—showing all sorts of objects floating around on the screen. And it surely worked, judging by how excited cats can get about certain floating-object DVD screen savers.
"But doesn't the future of direct-to-pet advertising lie in digital?" you ask. You may be right. Once again, Purina is at the leading edge of innovation in this regard, releasing Friskies-branded iPad games for cats earlier this year. The iPad really is a cat-friendly device, as it can lie flat on the ground and show objects bouncing all around on its display. Just remember your screen guard!
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