Pet Brands Have Increased Advertising to Reach Pet Owners During Lockdown

Higher-income households are more likely to own a cat or dog than lower-income households

a cat turning its head and looking at a smaller orange cat
Ads for dog food outnumber those for cat food. Getty Images

Key insight:

People who feel as though they’ve been seeing a lot of cats and dogs lately should know it’s not just because they’re at home with their pets all day.

Between March 8 and May 23, pet brands spent $131.8 million on advertising across TV, digital, daily newspapers and weekly magazines, according to a new report from data intelligence platform MediaRadar. That’s a 51% increase compared to the same time period last year.

Pet food made up 75% of the industry’s advertising, with more dollars dedicated toward promoting dog food than cat food.

In February, just prior to the Covid-19 outbreak, the U.S. Census Bureau stated that approximately half of American households (60 million) owned a pet and higher-income families were more likely to have a cat or dog roaming around the home than lower-income families. Nearly 60% of households earning $80,000 or more per year have a pet, compared to 36% of households bringing in less than $20,000.

This, along with an apparent increase in pet adoptions throughout the pandemic, makes the pet business a rather lucrative one. Last year, consumers spent an estimated $95.7 billion on pet products and services, including trips to the veterinarian, up from $90.5 billion in 2018, according to the American Pet Products Association.

Some of the biggest advertisers in the pet space so far this year, according to MediaRadar, include Nestlé, General Mills and The J.M. Smucker Company. Both Nestlé and Smucker’s have reported that their pet divisions experienced sales growth following orders to shelter-in-place in March. While General Mills has yet to release an earnings report that covers the relevant period, it announced in May that it expected organic net sales during the quarter to increase by double digits compared to last year, thanks in part to its pet segment, which includes the Blue Buffalo brand.

In late April, online retailer Chewy debuted a spot titled “Pets Bring Us Together,” which was produced remotely by Chewy’s in-house marketing team, along with help from creative agency SpecialGuest. The spot features several pet owners sharing both advice and laughter through a Zoom-like videoconference while quarantined in their home. On Tuesday, Chewy reported that net sales climbed 46% to hit $1.62 billion for the quarter ending May 3.

Although a rather small subcategory of pet advertising, MediaRadar found that ad spend for pet grooming products increased 9 times year-over-year, as plenty of the nation’s pet grooming businesses were forced to close to help slow the spread of Covid-19.

@hiebertpaul Paul Hiebert is a CPG reporter at Adweek, where he focuses on data-driven stories that help illustrate changes in consumer behavior and sentiment.