Cat’s More Like It: Chewy Makes The Best Pet Ad In Years




Online pet retailer Chewy is riding high right now with strong growth and plans for international expansion. And now there’s more cause for celebration – it’s made the best US pet supplies ad of the last 3 years.

Pet food and treats is one of the most effective Test Your Ad categories, with over 20 5-Star ads in our database. But the vast majority of those date from pre-pandemic. In a world of worry about human health and tightening household budgets, pet care ads are still effective. But it’s rare to see them cut through into 5-Star territory like they used to.

Chewy’s new campaign changes that, with an exceptional 5.1-Star score. This ad, “Inheritance”, is one of a series of commercials which take a humorous look at how important our pets are to us, and how we treat them as one of the family. In this case, a favoured feline gets some juicy bequests in his owner’s will – to the horror of the two-legged family members.

And that’s another way Chewy’s ad stands out. Its star, Mr. Marbles, is a cat.

America is a dog-loving nation, and when it comes to ads, dogs start at a big advantage. In fact of the Top 25 pet food ads on Test Your Ad, only three focus on cats. Dogs’ loyalty, their close bond with their owners and their remarkable intelligence makes them the perfect choice for emotional ads.

The stereotypical cat is very different. People see cats as independent-minded, sly, and a little aloof. Those feel like disadvantages for emotional storytelling. But with the power of humor, Chewy flips the script and they become assets – Mr. Marbles (who can talk) is a pampered puss alright, but his chilled-out demeanor while the other humans fume makes him instantly likeable.

It’s a reminder of one of the real secret weapons of emotional advertising: schadenfreude – taking pleasure in the misfortunes of others. It’s a risky lever to pull, because you have to make viewers believe the people who suffer misfortune deserve it. So not many ads try it. But when we looked at the effectiveness of each type of happiness, we found that schadenfreude is actually the most effective kind.

In the Chewy ad, we’re given a scene we’ve seen dozens of times on TV – the reading of a will. The ad establishes the human characters as mercenary and a little cold – if they were grieving the schadenfreude wouldn’t work. Then Mr. Marbles disrupts their plans and we get to revel in it. Perfect use of schadenfreude, and a cute cat too.

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