Sunday, November 06, 2011

Nestlé Purina TV Ad is Going to the Dogs

Picture this …

You and your favorite canine buddy are hanging out together at home.

The TV is on in the background. Suddenly your dog looks toward the screen and his ears perk up.

Then he quickly stands, wagging his tail, and inches closer to the set.

With his eyes fixed on the screen, he cocks his head in that irresistible way he has. You swear he's smiling.

You look at what he's looking at, and it's a commercial for a popular dog food. You have no idea why your adorable pooch is so spellbound by the commercial.

But what is the likelihood you'll remember his reaction the next time you see that particular brand of dog food in the store?

There's a pretty good chance, don't you think?

Dog Food Marketed Directly to Dogs

The diabolically clever pet food marketers are at it again!

Believe it or not, Nestlé Purina has introduced a pet food commercial in Austria that uses high-frequency tones and other sounds known to catch the attention of dogs.

These sounds include a squeak like the noise a dog toy makes, a tone similar to a dog whistle, a soft, high-pitched ping, and whispering.

If you pay attention you'll hear the squeak, the ping and the whispering, but probably not the high-frequency tone. Your dog, of course, will hear all four, and may or may not have an observable reaction.

The sounds aimed at the dogs are designed not to detract from the message being delivered to their human owners.

"We wanted to create a TV commercial that our four-legged friends can enjoy and listen to, but also allow the owner and dog to experience it together," said Anna Rabanus of Nestlé Purina PetCare Germany.

And according to Xavier Perez of Nestlé Purina PetCare Europe:

"The television commercial aims to reach both the pet and the owner, supporting the special one-to-one relationship between them."

"We want to position our brand as one which understands the unique relationship between owners and their dogs."

Pardon my cynicism, but despite the cleverly crafted spin about owners and dogs sharing a special moment together watching a TV commercial, I think what the company actually set out to create was an ad that would cause their dog food to fly off store shelves.

Toward that end, makes this observation:

It's unclear whether appealing directly to nonhumans will pay off for Nestlé. On the one hand, according to traditional free-market economic theories, manufacturers direct their solicitations to rational agents who trade their currency for goods and services. Dogs, while they may very well be rational, lack purchasing power and can make consumer choices only by proxy, presumably by pestering their owners.

On the other hand, the same is true for children, and manufacturers have little difficulty marketing their products to them.

Marketing Campaigns Don't Always Reflect the Quality of the Product

Taking off my skeptic's hat for a minute, let me say I think it's perfectly fine to appreciate clever, appealing product marketing campaigns.

I just caution you not to assume that because the ad is a knock-out, the product is high quality.

Case in point, here are the first four ingredients in the 'original' formula of the dog food featured in the Nestlé ad:

* Ground yellow corn
* Chicken by-product meal
* Corn gluten meal
* Whole wheat flour

It's too bad a pet food manufacturer who is incorporating dog-friendly sounds in its commercials isn't incorporating dog-friendly, species-appropriate nutrition in its pet food products.

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