The best-liked ad of last year featured a bundle of cute kittens charming a dormful of students, writes creative director Stuart Hehir. What can the animal health industry learn from the way consumer brands leverage our love of pets?
You probably remember it yourself. A bunch of newly-arrived, fresh-faced freshers crack open the chocolate digestives, only to find their new digs covered in plush, adorable kittens.
Grey London wanted to evoke a ‘chocolatey snuggle’ with the spot, and while other ads were more memorable in Adwatch’s survey of advertising in 2016, McVitie’s was the best loved.
This won’t be a surprise to any pet owners. Our deep connection with our animals leaves us exposed – almost vulnerably so – to advertisers looking to find their way to our gooey emotional centre.
And the humanisation trend – which has seen pets treated increasingly as ‘one of the family’ – has been a rich source of inspiration for the animal food sector, which delights in reflecting the quirky individuality of our pets back at us in its advertising.
But could animal health organisations do more to capitalise on this emotional connection when they’re talking to veterinary audiences? Vets are people too, caregiving professionals who are often pet owners, with the same motivations as the rest of us.
Instead, much of the work in the animal health space is of the more functional ‘problem-solution’ variety, in which airtime or print space is given over to clinical awareness. This leaves little space for the main driver of animal health: our emotional need to keep our pets by our side for as long as possible (or in the case of professionals, ensuring the best quality of life).
Why is this? Habit, precedent and the restrictions animal health companies can face all play a part, but getting to the core of why we need to protect the health of our pets surely has greater potential to engage than the how and with what.
This was at the front of our minds when we developed a campaign for Drontal and Advantage, a product partnership to treat dogs for fleas and worms. Inspired by the social media-driven trend for recreating childhood photos, our TV spot told the story of a perfect partnership between one young man and his dog.
This celebration of a relationship wasn’t just a metaphor for our two products, it was a reminder why we should protect our pets and a jumping off point for a more detailed story – played out over multiple channels – about just how we can protect them.
The success of the McVitie’s ad serves as a fluffy grey reminder of the powerful emotional hold our pets have over us. Wouldn’t it be great if this were harnessed to better protect their health – not just to sell biscuits?