Like never before, dogs are appearing in television ads, and not just for dog food or treats. Dogs promote products such as cold and other remedies, beer, a number of cars (even luxury ones), insurance, and others I haven’t noticed yet.
So what does this mean? More people have dogs these days than ever before. They have become a huge industry. Large and small dogs, puppies and seniors, and designer and rescue dogs provide emotional benefits, such as a sense of comfort, familiarity, and loyalty. So they are used to tell a story in ads.
Dogs are neutral in these spots. They aren’t particularly slobbery or muddy, and for the most part they are well groomed. I’ve seen one or two car ads where dogs shake off water, but this doesn’t appear to bother anyone. It’s sometimes part of the appeal. Maybe these are cars that repel water? Sometimes you don’t even know what the product is because dogs get more air time, at least in the beginning of the story.
I don’t think anyone is turned off by these ads, even if they don’t really like dogs. I’m not talking about those heartbreaking, tear-jerking ads for the ASPCA, the Humane Society, or other animal cruelty organizations. These can cause people to shut their eyes, leave the room, anything to avoid watching the horrors of puppy mills, skinny dogs with showing ribs, or sad, caged dogs. They certainly motivate some people to make donations, but charm isn’t the issue at all.
Do dogs actually sell more products? I don’t know, but they must because they are playing bigger and bigger parts in the compelling stories used for advertising. For example, in a Jeep ad there’s a story about a dog kicked out of an obedience class who sprints back into the Jeep. (Jeep also aired an ad during the Superbowl.) Subaru has used dogs in their 30-second spots for years to show how families benefit from having a friendly and protective dog in their rugged car (some of these ads even show a dog driving the car). Subaru allegedly used two dogs rescued from shelters in one of their commercials.
Dogs inspire positive associations other than how much something costs, so I’m sure they will be used more frequently to sell all types of products. If you pay any attention to TV ads, they already are.