How Furry Friends Create Feel-good Advertising

Are animals the answer to effective advertising? We look at how brands use pets to push their products.

Worldwide, there are more than 470 million pet dogs and 370 million household cats. For many people, these four-legged companions are another member of the family. Considering how much joy animals bring into our lives, it’s no wonder that advertisers frequently cast furry friends in their campaigns. In fact, in Orlando Wood’s book Look out, he discusses the correlation between the presence of various features in ads and viewers’ emotional response. A study of 195 U.S. TV ads airing Spring/Summer 2020 found that the inclusion of animals resulted in the highest levels of emotional response and attention.

From the most popular pets to rabbits and even horses, there are many brands that have developed high-scoring ads with the help of animals. Read on to learn more about how animals can trigger positive emotional responses and be used as recurring brand assets.  

Cats, Dogs and Rabbits – Oh My!

According to Charles Darwin, “Happiness is never better exhibited than by young animals, such as puppies, kittens, lambs, etc., when playing together, like our own children.” Animals also frequently evoke happiness among the public when they are used in advertising. We reviewed our Test Your Ad database to see which ads featuring animals entertain viewers, and thus support long-term brand building. In no particular order, they are:  

  • Pets At Home – This 5.0-Star ad truly captures what it’s like to have a pet and positions the retailer as the place for every owner and animal to find what they need. It showcases numerous animal lovers with their gerbils, cats, lizards, dogs, hamsters and more. From a child holding a guinea pig for the first time to a frustrated young girl whose mother requires her to clean her pet’s cage to an anxious owner reassuring her cat in the waiting room of a vet’s office, the ad realistically portrays the highs and lows of being a pet owner. Coupled with the 1980s hit “It Must Be Love,” the ad sparks an intensely happy emotional reaction.
  • Subaru – The auto manufacturer is known for its “Dog tested. Dog approved” series that puts the spotlight on a family of Golden Retrievers driving a Subaru. Its ”Adopt a Dog” ad scores an exceptional 5.9-Stars, generating high levels of happiness and surprise by including yet another twist in the storyline. We see the dogs pull their Subaru up to a car wash and honk the horn. But it’s not an employee who runs out to help, it’s more canines! These overzealous bulldogs attempt to clean the dirty car but mostly they’re enjoying doing what dogs do – playing with the hoses, sitting in buckets and shaking water from their coats. Subaru proves that when you find a winning formula, not only should you stick to it, but you should add even more of what works to the mix. In this case, doubling up on dogs delivers.
  • Chevrolet – We often pit dogs against cats in the battle of “best pet” despite them being so different. The unexpected “Walter the Cat” ad from Chevrolet puts a fun twist on a day in the life of a feline. Walter may be a cat, but he behaves like a dog, playing fetch, herding cattle and swimming in a lake. He’s so incredible that he overshadows the Multi-Flex Tailgate his owner is keen to show off on his new truck. System1’s FaceTrace® measurement tracks viewers’ emotional response to the ad, and showcases happiness and surprise continually building as the commercial progresses. It scores a strong 4.5-Stars, positioning Chevrolet for long-term market share growth, and even had a follow-up featured during Super Bowl LVI in 2022.
  • Three – Research conducted by System1 and commissioned by Three found its target audience enjoys sharing videos and photos with friends via their mobiles, often featuring animals in funny situations. Its 2013 “Dancing Pony” ad capitalizes on this research by bringing the insights to life. It yields strong happiness and surprise for its quirkiness – it’s not every day you see a moonwalking pony on screen. Backed by a catchy track, Fleetwood Mac’s “Everywhere,” the ad scores an exceptional 5.4-Stars.
  • Energizer – And lastly, we have to give a nod to the battery manufacturer’s iconic pink bunny. After all, pink is our favourite colour at System1! The company’s “Best Surprise” ad scores a strong 4.7-Stars and pokes fun at the typical holiday car ad. Time and time again, you’ve seen holiday season auto ads that feature a family or couple walking outside to see a new car with a giant red bow on top as the snow falls around them. In this spot, when the mother and daughter remove their blindfolds, they’re instead greeted with the Energizer bunny who has brought the gift of long-lasting batteries. By poking fun and including its Fluent Device, the ad is not only positioned for long-term brand building, but also achieves a high Spike Rating, indicating strong short-term sales potential.

See Spot Sell a Product

From Cadbury’s gorilla to the Taco Bell chihuahua to Coca Cola’s polar bears, many famous ad campaigns have featured animals. Advertisers often rely on animals to provide humour, generate happiness and tell engaging stories. Whether it’s a classic household pet or a more exotic choice, animals can be a great tool for capturing the audience’s attention and driving long-term brand building. Thankfully the aforementioned ads won’t be the last to creatively leverage furry friends on screen.

Do you want to determine if your ad is effectively leveraging animals or other creative elements to drive a positive emotional response among audiences? System1’s Test Your Ad platform enables you to test animatics and finished ads to see how they can impact long-term brand building.

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