Whatever happened to sex sells? It used to be if you wanted to market something, you put a pretty woman or handsome man in the ad, air-brushed it (that’s like Photoshop to anyone under 40) and blanketed print and TV with as much reach and frequency as you could afford. Pretty people have been used to sell cars, beer, clothes, electronics and even pet food. You name it, sex sold it and still does to a certain extent. Recently, however, I have noticed a distinct trend I like to call, Dogvertising.
While animals have been used extensively in marketing campaigns over the years, lately the advertising world has gone completely to the dogs. Dogs have become the advertising industry’s go to strategy. And I’m not just talking about pet food and supplies. You cannot turn on the TV or your connected device lately and not see dozens of dogs a day in ads for everything from vodka to life insurance. For people in the media business, the old rule of thumb, “Never work with children or animals” has evolved.
Where celebrity pitch dogs like Spuds Mackenzie (Bud Light) and Bullseye (Target) were trendsetters, now we have Rigsbee, Aaron Rogers’ sidekick in all those the State Farm ads who probably has a larger social following than Flo from Progressive or Mayhem from Allstate.
How did we get here and why have dogs become the darlings of the ad world?
As the humanization of pets has exploded over the last two decades, dogs have come to embody the qualities we appreciate in humans but which are sadly lacking in most people. Qualities like joy, humor, enthusiasm, loyalty, companionship and yes, Subaru…even love. Dogs evoke emotion, pure and simple. This holds true whether you’re a middle-aged boomer with a labradoodle or a 25 year old single working woman with a rescue dog.
Our go-go mobile lifestyle has also impacted the way marketers must think. Technology has made our lives simpler and more complicated all at the same time and for all our “connectedness”, we are at times very disconnected from one another. Everything at a distance. People don’t communicate with one another face to face or even voice to voice much anymore. Conversations take place in quickly typed sound bites with no real consequences or emotional context. Our social skills are eroding and we are losing a little bit of our humanity. Dogs offer a safe and welcome alternative to dealing with our friends, co-workers, family or god forbid, the outside world. They make us feel, well…human and that’s what good advertising does.