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As someone in the marketing industry, I hate to admit that I often fast-forward through television commercials or change the channel to another show to kill time when one appears. The only exception is if the commercial features a dog, and to those who know me personally, this should not come as a surprise. While I love the commercials that show a dog truly proving to be a man’s best friend by giving his owner a bag of Doritos (Superbowl 2012) or obsessing over bacon-flavored treats (Beggin Strips), the ads that best-capture my attention are Public Service Announcements for animal charities and affiliations. These commercials and PSA’s evoke a range of emotions, with the goal to convert the viewer’s emotion into action by adopting or donating.
Most famously, a series of PSA’s for the ASPCA feature a montage of injured and helpless shelter dogs and cats to a slow Sarah McLachlan song, “Arms of an Angel.” Other installments in this campaign personify the animals, giving them a voice by captioning “If I could speak I would say I’m lonely and sad. I used to be happy and healthy, but now I live in a shelter with other dogs that have been abused.” Since its first air date in 2007, this campaign has been proven effective as it has helped to raise over 30 million dollars, resulting in the most-successful fundraising effort by the ASPCA.
A more light-hearted public service campaign by AdCouncil.org featured a recently-rescued talking cat telling his family members about the Shelter Pet Project. The organization focuses on spreading the word that pets in shelters are wonderful and lovable, while encouraging potential adopters to consider the shelter as the first place to look when acquiring a “new best friend.” Since the campaign’s 2009 launch pet adoption has been on the rise. The percentage of dogs and cats who were adopted from shelters has risen from 27% to 29% in the last two years, and encouraging statistics show that euthanasia of shelter pets is down 10%. Although these tactics have been successful for many organizations, many dog or cat buyers may not be motivated to bring the animal home or donate simply just because a television spot made them laugh or cry.
In addition to employing tactics that only feed into viewers’ emotions, campaigns can also focus on digging deeper into each animal’s story to get people to relate to the animals on a more-personal level in order to effectively market their cause. Other online media tactics could be successful for these organizations, as well. Spots can be targeted to various relevant groups, such as those interested in causes/charities and animal-lovers alike. Conversely, changing the tone of the content of a PSA itself from guilt stricken images to ones that evoke positive feelings may also resonate well with the general population. While TV spots help to drive awareness, alternative promotion practices ought to be put in place to generate actionable responses by the public.