Is the “sad dog” example just an excuse to break ties with a company that promotes “adoption” over “buying”? You decide, but I ask you this. If everyone adopted instead of buying would dog shows like this be a thing of the past?
Prancing purebreds and pound puppies do not mix, or at least they will not during the televised broadcasts of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show this year, after the club cut ties with Pedigree, a longtime sponsor, in part because of Pedigree’s commercials featuring sad-eyed mutts up for adoption.
“We want people to think of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show as a celebration of the dogs in our lives,” said David Frei, the club’s director of communications and the host of the show for over two decades. The Pedigree advertisements, showing quaking and abused homeless pets, are in stark contrast to the coddled and cosseted animals that strut around Madison Square Garden during the two-day show, which begins on Monday.
Nestlé Purina PetCare, with its peppy ads featuring bounding athletic dogs that are more Goofy and less Droopy, the depressive cartoon character, replaced Pedigree, the show’s sponsor for two dozen years. The change, made last spring, was reported on Friday by The Associated Press.
“Show me an ad with a dog with a smile; don’t try to shame me,” Mr. Frei told The A.P. The kennel club had expressed its concerns to Pedigree, he said, adding, “We told them that, and they ignored us.”
Mr. Frei said the switch was also partly for economic reasons. But Melissa Martellotti, a brand communications manager for Mars Petcare US, which makes the Pedigree brand, said that Westminster had initiated the split and that dog show officials told the pet food company that its decision involved concerns about the ad campaign.
“They’ve shared with us, when we parted ways, that they felt that our advertising was focused too much on the cause of adoption and that wasn’t really a shared vision,” she said. The kennel club, she said, is “focused on the purebred mission,” including the adoption of pure breeds as opposed to mixed breeds.
Sandra DeFeo, the executive director of the Humane Society of New York, said, “If you want animals to be adopted, then you want to present it in the best possible way.” She said clients request that she omit disturbing pictures from the society’s newsletter. “It’s all about shedding a beautiful light so that that dog or that cat gets adopted, so that people really see how wonderful they are.”
The fashion photographer Richard Phibbs has recently begun shooting the images of animals that the society features on its Web site. “People need to know that animals are euthanized and that they are suffering,” Ms. DeFeo said. “But I don’t know that people can always handle that.”
Last year, nearly three and a half million viewers watched the Westminster Kennel Club show (and the commercials), which was broadcast on the USA Network and CNBC. Ms. Martellotti declined to say how much money Pedigree had paid to sponsor the show, but said the partnership had been a boon to its adoption initiatives. In 2007, Pedigree received $500,000 in pledges after its graphic ads were broadcast over the show’s two days.
“People did not look away,” she said. “They were inspired to pick up the phone and make donations.”