Best Friends Blog
 

Tired of sad animal TV ads? Try this …

If you are reading this, I’m guessing you love animals and are upset and disturbed by images of animals suffering. Me, too — which is why I don’t like those depressing and annoying animal charity TV ads featuring crusty-eyed, shivering dogs, frightened kittens, and a plaintive, almost whiny voice accompanied by sad background music. Not only are these spots annoying, I believe they send the wrong message about shelter and rescued pets, portraying them as damaged goods with too much baggage to reliably take into your home.

Is it any wonder, then, that a significant percentage of the general public, as revealed in a 2013 survey, has the impression that shelter and rescued pets are less desirable than dogs and cats purchased from a store or breeder?

It’s time for a change. Best Friends magazine broke the mold of existing animal advocacy publications in the early 1990s with a principled policy of never using graphic images of suffering animals to make our readers feel pity and guilt, and now we’ve created the following TV spot with the hope that we can disrupt the sad-sack world of animal video appeals with something new, something positive and something entirely Best Friends.

Before Best Friends demonstrated that the public prefers a positive message, the standard fare in animal advocacy magazines consisted of horrific images of animal victims — rabbits blinded by cosmetics testing, foxes in traps being bludgeoned by some human brute, barrels of dead shelter animals, and on and on. The founders of Best Friends, well acquainted with the reality of all this (and more) through their years of rescue work, could not look at these images and consequently didn’t read whatever message the magazine’s writers and editors were offering. And if they couldn’t get the message, then how many regular animal-loving folks could? Not many, as it turned out, because all of those magazines are either out of business or have changed their tune.

I don’t object to the money generated or the cause supported by these negative ads. However, I do object to the use of pity and guilt to manipulate the viewer, along with the subtext that pets in shelters are loaded with problem baggage from prior abuse and neglect. As soon as one of these spots comes on TV, I either flip the channel or mute the sound, because watching and listening to them makes me feel emotionally violated.

But there is a lot more at stake here than the tone or appearance of a video, a mailer or a magazine. If we (as a movement) are to bring an end to the killing of pets in shelters, we need to engage the public on a deeper level than just a guilt-relieving donation. We must convince the animal-loving public to be our full partners in ending this injustice by participating as adopters, providing foster homes, being happy ambassadors of shelter adoption and spay/neuter, and, yes, donating.

I hope you enjoy our new TV spot. Please send us your feedback.

Together, we will Save Them All.

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Julie Castle
Chief Development and Marketing Officer
Best Friends Animal Society

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  • Dog_Obsessed

    Thank you for this. After watching the movie Hotel for Dogs, I thought that city shelters were evil, heartless, torture centers. I have since learned that they are not, and in fact most staff and volunteers at high-kill animal shelters are amazing, kind people who pull out all the stops for animals to try to save their lives. However, while movies and ads that portray shelters as sad, cold, dark, places may get donations, they send the wrong message about shelter workers and shelter dogs.

  • Jezebel Haddo

    Couldn’t agree more. I don’t find those ads annoying, but I do find them incredibly depressing. I have to change the channel or else I will cry uncontrollably. I commend you on more positive ads.

  • Pat

    Yes! Finally, a well put together video with a great positive message. I too turn those commercials off as they are just too painful, but what you have here is golden. I also agree about the negative message other send regarding adopting shelter animals. If those ads can turn the animal lovers away, what hope do we have of getting anyone to actually visit a shelter? Once again, you have proven that Best Friends is doing everything it can to get the positive message out and help these poor beings. Thank you, I feel good donating as I know you do so much with what you get.

  • Cindy

    Wonderful Ads!!! Way to go, Best Friends….always on the leading edge of animal rescue!

  • reba

    Yes, a great message!! I am similar to others – I turn the channel or mute those devastatingly sad ads. I just can’t stand to see dogs in such situations. I do think there needs to be more education on adopting from pet stores (ie puppy mills)….I don’t think many consumers are aware of this. We need to stop the puppy mills!

  • Donna

    Love these ads, so much more positive. As we say at our animal control shelter it’s so much better having animals go “out the front door rather than the back door.” We are working hard at our rural animal control shelter, where sadly animals are still put to sleep, to get our animals rescued, fostered, or adopted. There are just so many abandoned, abused, surrendered, or found as strays…..can’t believe people don’t understand animals are family. Difficult to believe they would treat their family the same way. We try to teach that animals are portable and can move with you…it’s just takes a little effort to find a place that allows them. Education is the key and these ads go a long way to help. Hope to see them on the airwaves….

  • Grammanita

    FINALLY!!! Thank you for this. All of my animals have been adopted or rescues…no thanks to the usual ads. Thanks to BFAS for once again being proactive rather than reactive. Blessings.

  • Pat Scherschel

    I, too, always change the channel or mute the sound. All of my 13 various animals are rescued and I can’t watch those commercials because it makes me sad that I can’t save them all. I totally agree that a more positive approach would be more affective.

  • Alicia

    It’s way past time that an organization recognizes that positive is the way to get support! Good for you Best Friends! This is why I became a supporter many years ago!!! Let’s get these ads out there! Thank you!!!

  • Agreed Julie! We do our best to focus on the positives to get people in the front door and our pets out that same door. If the overall impression of our shelter is that it is a scary and sad place, the general public will avoid visiting. Some of our favorite posts are showing happy families with their new pets and getting their follow up stories.

  • alettam

    These are my thoughts exactly. I always change the channel or mute the sound when these commercials come on. I have often thought it was stupid to cause the people with the most caring hearts to tune out. We are the ones most likely to help, but I want to see the good that we can do, not the pain they are enduring before we get to them. Thank you for giving us another choice.