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Tag: marketing

Poking a little more fun at Audible For Dogs

We poked a little fun at Amazon’s new Audible For Dogs yesterday, but, as we see, the campaign is so lame there’s plenty of room for more poking.

So up there above is what Conan O’Brien’s writers did with it.

Audible has teamed up with Cesar Millan, and their effort is receiving a truly inordinate amount of media coverage, especially when you consider it’s really no effort at all — rather, it’s just featuring some audio books they already offer on a new web page.

Given it’s just another way for them to move existing merchandise, and given most of us dog owners already knew that turning on the television or a radio (both of which cost you less than an audio book) could help keep home-alone dogs company, there’s nothing there but some slick marketing.

Not to rub their noses in it, but the campaign by Audible and its parent company Amazon deserves every bit of ridicule it gets.

Much ado about nothing: Audible partners with Millan to launch audio books for dogs

Gotta call bullshit on this one.

Well, maybe “bullshit” is too strong a term. Maybe I should just say, “Give me a break” or “Get real,” while rolling my eyes and wondering what consumers are going to fall for next.

Audible and Cesar Millan have teamed up, offering and promoting a book-of-the-month type program, in which, for $14.95 a month, you can choose audio books to play for your dog while you’re not home.

Of course Audible For Dogs is the same thing as Audible for humans, thereby requiring no investment from Audible, or parent company Amazon, other than what they’re spending on promoting the campaign and the undisclosed amount they’re paying Millan, who reportedly is helping choose the books and making promotional appearances.

If you’re not the sort to buy “Pride and Prejudice” for yourself, you might be willing to buy it for your dog, Audible figures, and play it for him to keep him calm and occupied when you leave the house.

The campaign promotes books the company already offers in audio, featuring them on the Audible For Dogs web page — sometimes classics, sometimes bestsellers, sometimes dog-themed, including several by (you guessed it) Cesar Millan.

It’s all based on a 2015 study performed at Hartpury College in the U.K. that showed that listening to audio books reduced stress in shelter dogs even more than music does.

dogs-with-headphonesFollow-up research was conducted with 100 dog participants through Millan’s Dog Psychology Center, and it found (big surprise) exactly what the company wanted it to find.

Specifically, Millan’s center found that 76% of dog owners who played audio books for their dogs reported an increase in calm, relaxed behavior in their pets over a four-week period.

Audible is already the largest seller of narrated books.

But it has figured out it can sell even more by cashing in on our tendency to pamper our dogs and exploiting the guilt we feel when we leave them alone

As one of the owners involved in Millan’s “follow-up study” explained, she used to feel guilty every time she left her dog, Buddy, at home alone.

In a video interview with Millan, she spoke of the effects the audio book program had on her dog and, more importantly it seems, her.

“I was really surprised at the lack of guilt I found when I was able to do that, it was like leaving him with a friend,” the woman, named Leslie, says. “I could go out with a smile on my face and feel really good about what I was doing for him.”

News flash, Leslie: You could have just left a TV or radio on for him and achieved pretty much the same effect, saving $14.95 a month.

($14.95 is the regular price for an Audible subscription, which comes with one new book a month.)

I’ll admit I leave the TV on for my dog, rescued from a Korean dog farm, in hopes it will keep him calm and help him get used to non-threatening humans.

But would I buy him his own audio book? Absolutely not — unless maybe it was one narrated by the soothing voice of Morgan Freeman, or the calm, sleep-inducing, you-can’t-have-too-much-Xanax voice of Bob Ross, the painter.

(Disclaimer 1: We are not implying Bob Ross uses Xanax. You can have too much Xanax. And so can your dog.)

(Disclaimer 2: I apply this same therapy to myself, seeking out a reassuring voice on TV to fall asleep to. Sixty-three year old’s can’t suck their thumbs. This is why I often go to bed with Bob Newhart.)

Millan suggests choosing a book narrated by a person of the same gender as their dog’s primary master and notes that “it’s the consistency of a tone that allows the dog to stay in that (relaxed) frame of mind.”

He also suggested the books be played at average volume on a listening device such as the Alexa-driven Echo, which Audible’s parent Amazon just so happens to sell.

audiodogsMillan says audio books can help dogs better cope with the separation anxiety many have when left alone, which can result in bad behavior, including barking, destruction and peeing.

He also told USA Today, “I’m always looking for ways where people don’t feel guilty, worried, (or) stressed when they leave their dogs alone.”

Again, none of this is actually groundbreaking.

Most of us likely had already figured out that an audio book — like the television or radio — can keep our dog “company.”

Yet Audible/Amazon still felt the need to appoint a celebrity, create a new niche market, conduct a campaign, issue press releases and have a “launch.”

“While most dog owners will indeed go to great lengths to ensure the happiness of their four-legged family members, you can’t help but approach Audible For Dogs with a healthy dose of skepticism,” wrote USA Today. “So is Audible barking up the wrong tree?”

We’d say yes, unless you’re talking about the money tree.

To its credit, through the end of the year, Audible will donate a dime per download to Long Island’s North Shore Animal League America, the world’s largest no-kill rescue and adoption organization, up to a total donation of $250,000.

Millan also somewhat philanthropically recorded an original audio book for the service called “Cesar Millan’s Guide to Bringing Home a Shelter Dog,” which you can download for free.

Launch titles include Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice,” performed by Rosamund Pike; Trevor Noah’s “Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood,” performed by Noah; W. Bruce Cameron’s “A Dog’s Purpose,” performed by William Dufris; Garth Stein’s “The Art of Racing in the Rain,” performed by Christopher Evan Welch; and Maria Goodavage’s “Soldier Dogs: The Untold Story of America’s Canine Heroes,” performed by Nicole Vilencia.

We laugh at Audible’s effort. And yet, at the same time, we encourage them, if they are going to persist in this, to work some books narrated by Morgan Freeman, Bob Ross and Bob Newhart into the mix.

We’d also suggest some Hans Christian Anderson — specifically, “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” because it so perfectly reflects what they are up to: making people think something is there when it’s not.

The only thing there is a desire to sell more books. With fewer humans reading them, maybe Audible felt the need to branch out to other species.

I’d warn you that the day could come — given all the books dogs might be consuming and a decline in our own reading — that dogs could become smarter than us.

But there’s a pretty good chance that day is already here.

Woof in Advertising: Running of the bulldogs

The way they saturate the market, it’s easy to get tired of car insurance ads.

They’ve always tended to air over and over again, until — as imaginative as they might be — we become sick of them.

Perhaps you too have fallen victim to seeing a little too much of the Progressive spokeswoman, or, as I call it, a Floverdose.

Similarly, GEICO’s gecko, cute at first, quickly began grating on my nerves.

woof in advertisingAll this culminates, or at least it does for me, in coming to the decision that I’m not going to be a customer — because their ads annoy me (and because, as much as they spend on advertising, it, somehow, has to be costing me.)

Pretty much every insurance company claims it can save you money — that their rates will save you $318, $412, $562 a year over their competitors — and we all know there’s no way that can be true.

So I no longer look for or expect truth in advertising from car insurance companies; instead I merely expect their commercials to either make me laugh or make me warm and tingly inside — at least until I’ve seen it 20 times.

This new ad from GEICO manages to do both. It’s funny, it’s timely, and it has dogs. Lots of dogs.

On top of that, it’s fresh. The key to keeping viewers from overdosing on a company’s ads is to change them up, which GEICO — though I can’t speak for its insurance — seems to do better than any of the insurance providers.

Their advertising agencies come up with new concepts (otherwise we’d still be watching those cavemen), and provide plenty of variations on continuing themes.

This one, by the Martin Agency, is part of the “what’s not surprising” series. It depicts what looks like is going to be the running of the bulls, but the animals that come charging around the corner in pursuit of the runners are bulldogs.

“The running of the Bulldogs? Surprising. What’s not surprising? How much money Aleia saved by switching to GEICO.”

The actual running of the bulls began earlier this month, ending July 14 at this year’s San Fermin festival in the northern Spanish city of Pamplona.

(This link will lead you to more of our Woof in Advertising posts)

It DOES amount to a hill of beans

There are several things I have long wondered about Bush’s canned beans.

Why do they take up nearly a full half aisle of the grocery store?

How do they get Duke, the dog that appears in commercials with spokesman Jay Bush, to talk?

And what, exactly, is the difference between Bush’s Baked Beans and Bush’s Grillin’ Beans?

It’s time for some answers, America, or at least guesses.

For starters, I’m guessing that the Bush folks are paying off the grocery chains, or at least buying managers some lovely gifts, in order to be granted such large and prominent displays at so many stores.

Next, I am guessing that Duke is not speaking via special effects, but is an actual talking dog, on loan from the prestigious Hollywood Talking Dog Academy to play the role.

woof in advertisingAs for question three — and this is the one I have pondered most — I continue to wrack my brain.

At first, I assumed the Baked Beans were beans that had been baked, or were supposed to be baked, and the Grillin’ Beans were beans that had been grilled, or were supposed to be grilled.

But if they are meant for us to grill them, wouldn’t the Grillin’ Beans just be lost — kind of like the final “g” in grilling — as they fell through the grill slots?

(For you know-it-alls, putting a pot of something atop a grill grate is not grilling, and it’s definitely not grillin’; it is heating up.)

grillinbeans

I did some internet research, and visited the Bush’s website, but the only thing I learned is that Grillin’ Beans have a bolder flavor than the Baked Beans. It’s the same old bean, just in a spicier sauce.

I have no problem with bold and spicy. In fact, I think I prefer the bold and spicy version of Jay in the commercial above to the regular, far blander, version of him. As for Duke, to be honest, I prefer him unadorned, and non-speaking. I’m just not big on talkin’ dogs.

Call me a skeptic, but if you have a talking dog in your ad, I’m not going believe any of the other dubious and far-reaching claims you are making about any of your products. Then again, I’m probably not going to believe them anyway.

I am aware of few other products presented in so many variations as Bush’s Beans — hickory, chipotle, brown sugar, maple, honey, homestyle, country style, original, bold and spicy, vegetarian (meaning they haven’t added bacon) and different combinations thereof. And that’s not even including the products Bush makes from different beanages, such as the black, the kidney and the pinto, the red, the white and the garbanzo.

My theory is that those who make and market the beans figure the more selections they offer, the more grocery shelf space they can grab.

This is by no means strictly a bean thing.

Chips, such as your Pringles and your Doritos, also follow this strategy. And pet foods also use this approach (or perhaps, they led the way). A can of Alpo could be from their Prime Cuts, Chop House, Gravy Cravers or Prime Classics styles. Each one of those comes in multiple flavors, seven for Prime Cuts alone.

One dog food company takes things a step farther, offering more than 200 different products, each supposedly custom designed for a specific breed.
They want us to think that virtually every breed of dog needs a different formula of dog food.

Perhaps you’ve seen this Royal Canin commercial, which tells us that the golden retriever and the yellow Lab — similar as they are — “eat, digest and process energy differently.”

Royal Canin is a ridiculously priced dog food not sold in grocery stores, which is a good thing, because if it were, there would be room for nothing else. Even Bush’s beans would have to clear out. Maybe that’s why it’s not sold in grocery stores.

Or maybe it’s all a marketing gimmick aimed at making us think Royal Canin is such a special, exclusive and high end product it must be purchased from your veterinarian. It’s called a “prescription diet.” It’s nothing of the sort.

Show me, Royal Canin, how Labs and goldens differently digest food, and differently “process energy.” Sure, one of them (sorry, Labs) may generally wolf their meals down more quickly, but aren’t the various tubes and chambers that food goes through on its way out pretty much the same for both breeds?

Why, when I read the ingredients for both, do I notice hardly any difference?

The profusion of flavors in beanage, in chippage, in dog food and everything else, is not new. Remember when there was just one Coke?

And it’s not all about claiming more shelf space. By coming up with a flavor for every mood, companies are able to bring more customers into their folds, and dazzle them with their vast arrays.

Variety may be the spice of life, but it’s all becoming a little much. No longer do we just have to decide between brands, we have to decide within brands, and a trip to the grocery store requires making more choices than election day.

Regular or non-drowsy, diet, sugar-free or light; thick crust or thin crust; smooth or chunky; gluteny or gluten-free; plain or low sodium; regular, spicy, or super spicy.

By the time I get to the checkout line, I’m exhausted, and have used up all my decision making powers for the day.

But I still have to decide whether I want paper or plastic bags, and if I will pay by credit card, debit card, or cash.

Kind of makes me wish I had a dog like Duke I could bring along on shopping trips to tell me what to do. On the other hand, you can’t trust a talking dog, can you?

For more of our Woof in Advertising posts, click here)

But where does she keep her poop bags?

Who says a Jack Russell terrier can’t stop traffic?

In this ad, a Jack Russell on his morning walk manages to turn heads, and even cause a traffic accident, as he trots down the sidewalks and streets of New York City.

Some believe it’s actress/model Emily Ratajkowski — clad in revealing lacy black intimate apparel — that’s causing the uproar.

But we know better.

woof in advertisingThe cheeky (pun intended) ad is for the new DKNY Spring/Summer 2017 intimates, hosiery and sleepwear campaign.

Ratajkowski, who you might remember from her supporting role in “Gone Girl,” wakes up topless, but has the good sense — it is winter, after all — to don a bra before taking her dog on the morning walk.

DKNY says the ad shows, “Anything can happen in New York.”

Upon repeated viewing (necessary for research purposes), we can see it shows a lot more than that.

Clearly the ad is aimed at creating a stir, but as for who it is targeting I can only guess. Men who might be considering gift purchases for a special someone? Women who like to show the world how self-assured they are? Dog lovers, maybe? I’m guessing they don’t all buy long underwear.

The bigger question, though, given no self-respecting New Yorker would venture out with their dog without their poop bags, is where Miss Ratajkowski is carrying hers.

They must be in her boots.

For more of our Woof in Advertising posts, click here.

Dogs are woman’s best friend, too

Of course it goes without saying — that dogs are woman’s best friend, too — but Cesar Canine Cuisine is saying it anyway, in a new advertising campaign that celebrates women and their dogs.

In honor of International Women’s Day, the dog food company launched its “Woman’s Best Friends, Too,” campaign, featuring the ad above and inviting women to share photos and stories about their dogs on a special Facebook page

woof in advertisingThe campaign “highlights the special bond between women and their dogs, and turns the age-old saying of ‘man’s best friend’ on its head,” reads a company press release.

The new campaign was created by advertising agency BBDO San Francisco.

To support the campaign, the brand has teamed up with Elias Weiss Freidman, the photographer behind the popular website and book, The Dogist, to capture the real-life stories of 14 women and their dogs. It has also invited women to submit photos of themselves and their dogs to the campaign’s Facebook page.

womansbest

Cesar is a Mars Petcare brand.

The ad recites the speech that made the phrase “Man’s Best Friend” famous — given in a Missouri courtroom by a lawyer representing a farmer whose dog, Old Drum, was shot and killed by a neighbor in 1869.

George Vest, who would later go on to become a U.S. senator, told the jury that “The one absolutely unselfish friend that a man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him, the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous, is his dog.”

(Photo: Gloria and her dogs Bo and Rex; by Elias Weiss Freidman / Facebook)

For more of our Woof in Advertising posts, click here.

How I got free kitchen knives for $1,678

DSC06041For those of you who expect dog news — and only dog news — on this website, I apologize, but I thought I’d share this tale of how I, as a savvy consumer, got nearly an entire set of free kitchen knives for $1,678.

It was through a “game” (those are sarcastic quotes) called Kitchen Kaboodle. So much fun! (That’s a sarcastic exclamation point.)

In Kitchen Kaboodle shoppers at my grocery store — Lowes — were awarded stamps for their purchases that they could later redeem for kitchen knives.

Having no sharp kitchen knives, never being any good at sharpening them and always looking to save a buck, I jumped right in.

Lowes is a North Carolina-based grocery chain, not to be confused with the home improvement chain that uses an apostrophe in its name. Lowes grocery stores consider themselves a “community” (more sarcastic quotes). They reinvented themselves a year or so ago, revamping their outlets to look more like country stores, with lots of cracker barrels. But it was an upscaled kind of down-home feel, with higher prices, built-in coffee shops, never-ending wine selections, cooking classes and such.

They named the cash register lines after local roads, and clearly trained their employees to exude a cult-like howdy neighbor ambience. Employees are (with rare exception) that oozy kind of friendly you find in the south and never are convinced is sincere (even though it sometimes is).

Announcements over the public address system now begin, “Attention Lowes Community …” We’re no longer “shoppers” but instead we are friends … member of an extended family that reunites every week or so when our milk, bread or coffee run out.

DSC05850In Kitchen Kaboodle, you got one stamp for every $10 you spent, and back at home you painstakingly detached them from a strip to stick them in a little book.

That’s assuming the stamps survived the trip home. They are so small — about the size of a dime — they often didn’t.

I generally tossed the green and white stamps into one of my green and white plastic Lowe’s grocery bags, where they become all but invisible. Sometimes, after returning home and putting the groceries away, I have fished through 12 empty bags in search of them. Sometimes I found them later, adhered to my bologna in the refrigerator. Sometimes I never found them.

Given the game is probably most popular among older folks, Lowes could have made the stamps a little bigger. In addition to having trouble seeing them, and remembering where we put them, peeling them off the strips and putting them in the book can be challenging to those whose fingers have lost some of their dexterity.

(I would suggest they made it harder on purpose, but that is no way to speak about one’s community.)

s&hStill, I’m old enough to find them a pain in the ass, and old enough to remember S&H green stamps.

As a child, after my mother convinced me how much fun it was, I would lick them (that couldn’t have been healthy) and stick them in the books until my body was totally saliva free.

In the 1960s, collecting the stamps was highly popular among otherwise bored suburban housewives. S&H claimed it issued three times more stamps than the U.S. Postal Service. Its reward catalog was the largest publication in the country.

It was a sticky way for a family to bond, and it wasn’t uncommon to find a stray green stamp stuck to your clothes or homework.

So maybe it was green stamp nostalgia that made me want to play Kitchen Kaboodle. More likely it was my love for getting things for free.

DSC05846

The kitchen knife set consisted of the following: Knife block, cutting board, sharpener, shears, steak knives and seven other knives.

It quickly became clear that — however hard I were to spend — I was not going to get the whole set.

As the deadline for collecting stamps approached (Feb. 12), I’d review how many stamps I had and lower my expectations, ruling out the cutting board, the shears, the sharpener, the steak knives and some of the others I didn’t see myself using much.

Bread knife? Bread already comes sliced, and I have an old and never-used one, anyway.

Slicing knife, for carving meats? It is rare that I, living alone, cook a big hunk of meat that needs slicing. I deemed it non-vital.

Santoku knife, with a scalloped blade? I have no idea what that is for, so it was easy to mark it off my list.

I didn’t foresee a need for the Chinese cleaver. But I had to have it.

DSC06048The most expensive of the knives offered, at 80 stamps, it’s an impressive looking piece of cutlery that would allow me to hack through bones, and signify to visitors that I know my way around the kitchen.

In truth, I’m not a real sophisticated chef. I don’t make things like Peking duck. I could, I suppose, use the Chinese cleaver to cut up Chinese things, such as bok choy, but I don’t make bok choy.

In fact, I can’t remember ever having a need to cleave.

Still I wanted it, and I had to have the knife block, too, because it had a big slot into which the cleaver neatly fits.

As stamp collecting time ran out, I made one last trip to the store, buying things I didn’t need at all, buying expensive brands instead of generic ones, looking around for something I could buy and later cleave. (I settled on green beans.)

Back home, I pasted and tallied things up — two full books of stamps, and five more, or 165 stamps.

DSC06054I weighed my alternatives and made my final list. The knife block was 15 stamps plus an additional $15. I would get the chef’s knife, for 60 stamps, and the utility and paring knives, at 30 stamps apiece.

That left me with 30 stamps — not enough for the Chinese cleaver, unless I forked over an additional $13.00.

With $28 of cash money, and 165 stamps (gained from $1,650 in purchases over about four months), I sought redemption and, after only a little bit of confusion with all the math that had to be done at the cash register, achieved it.

Back home, I proudly inserted my new knives into the appropriate slots of my new knife block, where they sat for a week before one was required to cut an onion, at which point I nicked one of my fingers.

That led me back to the Lowes Community for some Band-Aids. After that, I decided I may hold off on using the Chinese cleaver — at least until Lowes adds a community emergency room.