Finally, an animal advocacy ad without sad music or Sarah McLachlan.
According to the American Pet Products Association (APPA) National Pet Owner Survey, 62% of American households own a pet. That is a little over 72 million homes. Within the U.S. market in 2011, over $50 billion was spent on our furry companions, and by end of 2012 it is expected to grow to $52 billion.
Everyone knows the commercials we referenced above. Let's lay the scene: you're at home after walking your dog, or just sat down in the living room after refilling the food dish for your kitty. You turn on your favorite show and are enjoying every bit of it. Then, when your show goes to commercial, you hear long guitar strokes and the voice of Sarah McLachlan. If that hasn't made you change the channel yet, you then see pictures of those poor animals, those animals neglected and abused, those without a home or treated irresponsibly.
What a buzzkill.
We have yet to see any SPCA commercial that has used any emotions other than pity and extreme sadness. Nor have we seen an SPCA ad that has been as direct as throwing blame on the owner. The ad below is from SPCA Montréal, and it defies both stereotypes.
It's cheeky, definitely. The cat in the ad is Sultan, a feline that has apparently sired over 300 cats with 67 partners. It could have been prevented if Sultan's owner was responsible enough to make sure he got neutered.
With social issues like this, the point of the ad is to call the consumer to action: sterilize your pets. The ASPCA's belief is that if they showcase the pets as victims, people will be moved to donate, rescue, and sterilize. Why? People, the ASPCA will probably attest, will protect those creatures that cannot protect themselves. For the most part, that's true. But that is an extremely altruistic view of human nature that cannot be counted as "wholly true" in our society.
This ad takes a different approach. It highlights that Sultan has been around, and yes, Sultan is irresponsible. But the owner is way more irresponsible. See the twist? We think this has a more powerful punch: it blames the owner for not taking action. This form of negative reinforcement (though done playfully) adds a dose of social proofing. People who watch the commercial do not — by any means — want to be known as the irresponsible pet owner in the neighborhood. Though we believe that altruism isn't dead, negative reinforcement and social proof will definitely move action faster than noble cause.
Well done, SPCA Montréal. And hopefully efforts like this get rewarded through people acting and fixing this important issue...and their cats.