Anyone who sat down to watch the Westminster Kennel Club dog show this week probably likes dogs, and might even have one. That’s why Pedigree brand dog food has been the event’s major sponsor for the last 24 years, even though it’s unlikely that the dogs in the ring eat such pedestrian fare. This year, Purina has replaced Pedigree as sponsor. Why? Was their contract up? Slashed ad budget? No. It was because Pedigree’s commercials about the plight of shelter dogs were bumming everyone out.
“The feedback we got from our primary audience was that they were seeing commercials that made them want to turn the channel,” a show spokesman told the Associated Press.
Other than a disagreement between the kennel club and Pedigree, this drags out divisions in the world of dog lovers: between the owners of purebred and designer dogs, who adopt from breeders, and the owners of all ancestries adopted from shelters and rescues.
The Christian Science Monitor framed it in familiar Occupy Wall Street terms: Pampered show dogs are the elite canine 1%, while their relatives languish in shelters, wishing for a human to call their very own. Snobby Westminster doesn’t care about ordinary dogs without homes? Then ordinary dog owners will rally around Pedigree and parent company Mars.
Westminster spokesman David Frei denies that there’s class war at play here, telling the AP:
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.
Here’s my favorite ad from the old Pedigree campaign. By “favorite” I mean, “made me want to weep, then adopt every shelter dog in a ten-mile radius.”
Contrast that with Purina’s spot, which features amateur footage of dogs being happy, wagging their tails, and doing fun and inspiring things.
Wagging tails replace sad eyes in Westminster ads [AP]
Dog Show Says Brand’s Ads Were Too Sad, But Pet Owners Rally to Pedigree’s Side [AdAge]
Is Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show dissing shelter dogs? [Christian Science Monitor]
Nestle Purina: Great [Video]