A new dog food commercial is designed to capture canine interest since it features high-frequency noises that only dogs and certain other animals can hear. The sounds are either inaudible or not consciously detected by humans.
The ad, for Beneful, is airing in Austria now. It marks a growing trend to incorporate dog-only sounds into entertainment and advertising. (You might recall last year’s story about a Laurie Anderson composition featuring dog whistle-type sounds.)
“Pet owners are passionate about their pets and the commercial provides an opportunity for these consumers to engage with their ‘special friends,’” says Carol Johanek, adjunct professor of marketing at the Olin Business School. She was quoted in a Washington University in St. Louis press release.
The TV commercial contains squeaks similar to a dog toy, a whistle barely heard by humans, and a high-pitched pinging noise.
“In today’s world we see an increase of older individuals living alone who rely on their pets for companionship and this provides a time for the owner and pet to interact,” says Johanek. “Understanding the importance of the pet/pet owner relationship is critical for brands in this segment, as it provides opportunities for innovative ways in which to interact with the market.”
Last year, print posters advertising dog food in Germany featured odors that would attract sniffing dogs, not to mention curious owners who were willing to take a whiff.
The TV commercial, in particular, puts an interesting twist on subliminal advertising, or ads that feature information that can influence the viewer, even though he or she may not be consciously aware of the info. I can remember discussions years ago about supermarkets pumping in advertisements underneath the music soundtrack. Maybe that still happens? Or magazines featuring erotic images drawn into “photographs” of things like ice cubes and shot glasses.
In this case, the manipulative sounds are present, but we are not aware of them. Dogs may approach the TV screen so they could be affected, in terms of their behavior. Dogs, of course, aren’t going to run to the store as a result of these sense-stimulating advertisements. The ads are ultimately trying to grab the attention of owners.
“Because the pet itself is such a strong part of their lives, this can provides a great opportunity to influence this buyer,” Johanek says. “Similarly, when we view ads for products geared toward household with young children it almost seems like we are advertising to the child but in fact, due to their influence on the buyer, the female head of household in this case, brands are in fact promoting to the adult purchaser.”
“Brands that really understand the purchase influences surrounding their end-users can do this quite effectively.”
See what you, and maybe your dog, think.