Westminster Kennel Club Show Spokesman Daved Frei told the Associated Press, "Show me an ad with a dog with a smile. Don't try to shame me. We told [Pedigree] that and they ignored us."
Here is an example of Pedigree's usual advertisement. Shelter dog in a sad, dirty kennel run, being passed up by potential adopters. It's sad. I won't lie, many Pedigree ads make me go all teary-eyed. They're masterpieces... they make the viewer feel awful for the plight of the animals our nation has thrown away.
But here's the kicker... I don't see anything wrong with WKC's request. As someone who works in rescue, I believe that no one should be guilted into adopting a pet. When I talk to prospective adopters about my foster dogs, I always highlight the positive attributes of the dog. I don't dwell on what awful circumstances the dog came from... instead, I focus on the dog's bright future.
An unfortunate byproduct of the Pedigree ads is how they skew the public's view of dog rescue. I can't tell you how many times I've contacted people on Craigslist who are attempting to get rid of their Doberman, only to be told they don't want their dog to go to "one of those sad, lonely, cold rescue kennels." No matter how thoroughly I explain that our dogs end up in loving foster homes with real people, all they can see in their mind is their dog in a dirty cage, sleeping on a cold concrete floor.
If Pedigree really wanted to help homeless dogs in the same capacity as they have since they started running their shelter ads during Westminster, they could have changed the script a little. Show what's good about shelters and rescues, instead of showing the bad. Unless, of course, they know that the feel-good donations and sales of their mediocre dog food don't bring in as much revenue as their standard guilt-trip tactics. (Besides - even without the commercials, they still donate money to rescue dogs when you buy their food. And how many of us really feed Pedigree anyway?)
Purina (the maker of Pro Plan) is now the main sponsor of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. As I said before, I didn't get to see their new ads during the show, but a quick search on YouTube produced this advertisement. I love it. Big dogs, little dogs, purebred dogs, mixed breed dogs, well-bred dogs, pet-bred dogs... all doing the things that make us love the species. If there's a surefire way to make the audience fall in love with dogs, this is it.
And love has a lot more staying power than guilt.