If you were a fan of Pedigree’s “Don’t pity a shelter dog, adopt one” commercials that ran during broadcasts of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, you’re apparently in the minority, according to Westminster host and spokesman David Frei.
“The feedback we got from our primary audience was that they were seeing commercials that made them want to turn the channel,” Frei told the Associated Press on Friday.
So, after 24 years of sponsorship, Pedigree and shelter dogs are out this year, replaced by happy dogs running on the beach and catching Frisbees in commercials for Nabisco Purina Petcare.
“Show me an ad with a dog with a smile. Don’t try to shame me,” Frei said. “Our show is a celebration of dogs. We’re not promoting purebreds at the expense of non-purebreds. We celebrate all dogs. When we’re seeing puppies behind bars, it takes away from that. Not just because it’s sad, but it’s not our message.”
Pedigree was told that its ads “had become too focused on adoptions,” Senior Brand Manager Lisa Campbell told the Associated Press. Although Frei said the ads just made people sad, Campbell insisted the commercials were effective.
Melissa Martellotti, a brand communications manager for Pedigree’s parent company, Mars Petcare US, told the New York Times that dog show officials “felt that our advertising was focused too much on the cause of adoption, and that wasn’t really a shared vision.” She said the Westminster Kennel Club is “focused on the purebred mission, including the adoption of pure breeds as opposed to mixed breeds.”
In 2007, viewers made $500,000 in pledges to help shelter animals after Pedigree’s commercials aired during the dog show. “People did not look away,” Martellotti told the New York Times. “They were inspired to pick up the phone and make donations.”