Do Dogs Make the Best Pets? Milk-Bone’s New Ads Make a Compelling Case

Alligators, bees and even cats can be overly difficult

A woman trying to play fetch with a tortoise
The noble tortoise, as a pet, doesn't quite have the active-lifestyle chops of a dog.
Milk-Bone

“I’d rather be with my dog” isn’t just a T-shirt from a sponsored post on Instagram; it’s a way of life. And it’s that type of playfulness and dedication that Milk-Bone has brought to its latest ad campaign, which features broadcast commercials, online video and social content.

The “Life’s More Fun With A Dog” campaign shines a spotlight on those who fall into the “dog person” category over “cat person” or, say, “tiger person,” “bee person.”

In the “Bring Your Pet To Work” commercial, a fun day at the office is reimagined when employees bring in some less-than-traditional pets. Bees have taken over the conference room, a monkey is working reception, and a giraffe has broken through the depressing florescent lighting. But in the end, dogs take over the office space and all is right with the world again.

The Milk-Bone brand has been around since 1908 and has, unlike most dogs, had several owners over the years. While Nabisco dispensed the treats for several decades, the J.M. Smucker company (which also owns Folgers, Jif and Uncrustables) acquired Milk-Bone in 2015. Since then, the branding has focused on reflecting back the family-like belonging that dogs hold in our culture.

“Today, people take their dogs everywhere—stores, restaurants, their office, on vacation—and our culture is really embracing the idea of ‘dog-friendly’ being the norm now, not the exception,” said Dave Latta, consumer engagement lead at the J.M. Smucker Company. “The idea of celebrating ‘dog life’ felt synonymous with Milk-Bone. We wanted to re-energize the Milk-Bone campaign and make it more culturally relevant and ubiquitous with today’s dog lovers.”

In addition to “Bring Your Pet To Work,” the campaign also takes you into an alternate universe where you might go for a run in the park with your goldfish, play fetch with a turtle, and use your cranky cat as the ring bearer at your wedding. The campaign was developed by Publicis Groupe’s PSOne, which admits that the spots lean into the ridiculous side a little bit.

“Dog treats are meant to bring joy, but the communication across the category has become very functional and joyless,” said Jason Gorman, executive creative director at PSOne. “Milk-Bone is a pioneer and a leader within the category, and together we wanted to insert the fun back into treating by reminding people how great it is to have a dog in your life.”

While not every commercial lands the trick perfectly, they all deliver on the lighthearted but sincere approach that dog owners feel on a daily basis. In one of the stronger spots, a groom has chosen his cat to be the ring bearer but finds himself not at the altar with his bride but up in a tree with his disappointing pet. “You are embarrassing me; you are embarrassing yourself,” he yells at the cat.

The treat market is a $3 billion industry, and Milk-Bone has cornered the market through authentic branding that puts joy at the center of their work. They recognized that producing run-of-the-mill advertising doesn’t correspond to the heart-warming, silly world that dog owners find themselves in every day.

It also apparently doesn’t hurt to have a team of dog owners sitting at the conference room table.

“Milk-Bone is an iconic treat brand, so for a bunch of dog lovers who also happen to be creatives, it really sparked a lot of energy at the agency,” said Andy Bird, CCO of Publicis New York. “Thankfully our great partners at J.M. Smucker shared our passion for the project and really helped us to create a fun new brand platform that has a strong pro-dog POV but never takes itself too seriously.”

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