Kitty Wants Products
August 5, 2010 6:10 AM   Subscribe

Are there television advertisements designed for pets?

We were sitting around with the cats on the couch a moment ago and Lux, our youngest little kitty, who has absolutely zero interest in anything displayed on the telly, just went mental at a Fancy Feast (cat food) advertisement, that had a little plane whizzing around on it. By "mental" I mean she perked up and began stalking towards the screen.

I can't recall if anything like this has happened previously, it just seemed very curious. I was thinking it's maybe a specific pattern of movement on the screen. I understand that cats and dogs don't see images on a TV screen the same way humans do, but is this a thing that happens? Are marketing people sitting around at Whiskas HQ figuring out ways to get cats and dogs to notice TV advertisements so suggestible owners are all "OMG FLUFFY WANTS SOME!"?
posted by turgid dahlia to Pets & Animals (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
posted by Mwongozi at 6:17 AM on August 5, 2010

Also it seems to work
posted by Mwongozi at 6:19 AM on August 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

If the day comes that I believe that the business world thinks I'm so stupid that I'm going to buy a product because they've figured out the formula to make my dog/cats notice a TV screen, I'm going off the grid.

So, no, until your kitty has a job, income, and access to a debit card, there will be no commercials designed "for cats", those commercials are for YOU.
posted by HuronBob at 7:01 AM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Also see Act 2 of This American Life, Episode 154 - In Dog We Trust where they talk about "Cat TV".
posted by ydant at 7:12 AM on August 5, 2010

Also it seems to work

It "worked" in the sense that the kitty watched the screen. It did not work in the sense that the kitty went out and bought the product.

As pets don't have money or pockets to carry said money, I'd say the answer is no.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:17 AM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Of course not. There is a large faction that desperately wants to believe that cats and dogs have human reactions and emotions. It's clear confirmation bias.

It's one of those things where the "hits" are always noticed, never the "misses".

The thousands of times the cat or dog does not react to what's on the TV are never noticed.
posted by L'OM at 7:46 AM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

My cats have always noticed other animals on television, especially since I got an HDTV. They were completely spellbound by Discovery's Planet Earth series. I'd imagine it's just a combination of seeing the other cats in the commercial and the fast-moving small objects that is catching your kitty's attention.
posted by something something at 7:52 AM on August 5, 2010

The first time I saw the Friskies: Acid for Cats commercial, I was very confused about who/what it was advertising to.

Are people with cats (I don't have a cat) enticed by the idea of their cats tripping balls on their catfood? Do the dancing turkeys, fish, things whizzing by, bright colors, and presence of a cat make it more likely that a cat will pay attention to it? Will the cat owner see their cat watching the commercial and want to buy Friskies instead? I don't know. I'm not sure what the motivation behind the commercial is, but I had the exact same questions you're asking the first time I saw it.
posted by phunniemee at 8:31 AM on August 5, 2010

L'OM, either you don't have a cat, don't have a TV, or don't have the sort of cat who responds to things on TV. This definitely happens, and is not the ever-so-trendy 'confirmation bias'.

Only one of my two cats responds to the TV, sometimes to nature programs about birds but very strongly to 'Video Catnip' that someone bought us as a present. The animals should be about life-sized on the screen, and she particularly enjoys animals moving on and off screen. If my cat ever responded to Mad Men or a video game, the way she does to Video Catnip, believe me I'd notice.

As to whether this type of advertising works or not... you have an entire virtual room of cat owners discussing Fancy Feast commercials.
posted by Gortuk at 9:09 AM on August 5, 2010

If the day comes that I believe that the business world thinks I'm so stupid that I'm going to buy a product because they've figured out the formula to make my dog/cats notice a TV screen, I'm going off the grid.

Get your tinfoil hat ready - it's already happened. And not just that - there's radio for pets.

"It "worked" in the sense that the kitty watched the screen. It did not work in the sense that the kitty went out and bought the product."

You could say the same about (expensive) children's toys. OK, children are a lot better at understanding that adverts have products in, but still.

However, this didn't seem to go down so well over here.
Some cats don't react to images on TV - my mother's never does, whereas the dogs will bark when they hear barking.
posted by mippy at 9:25 AM on August 5, 2010

The goal is to get the human to remember and think positively about the product. Normally that's one by showing a bunch of different cats doing cute things that the owner will hopefully relate to. But getting the owners actual cat to do cute things? What could be more awesomely likely to get the owner to remember and think positively about the product than that? The reaction they're looking for isn't "Oh my god, my cat likes this commercial, so I should go out and buy Friskies!", it's much more low key than that.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:50 AM on August 5, 2010

My cats will watch Cat TV for hours. And they notice instantly when we turn it on, even if they're in the other room and we have been watching Human TV. And it's really cute. So I'm sure this could be effective, at least on some proportion of pets and pet owners.
posted by miyabo at 10:04 AM on August 5, 2010

I'd say it's even lower-level than that. When my cat runs to the tv screen, I noticed what's on. Otherwise, all commercials are a big giant blur.

Yup. My dog never pays attention to sounds coming out of the tv (or stereo for that matter) be they barks, purrs, roars, whines, or crying children. But there was a car commercial that aired a lot this past basketball season where some people are driving around looking for their dog that had escaped and were squeaking toys out the windows of the car trying to find him and oh man that drove her nuts (they even used a few different toys that my puny human ears could distinguish between) and I had to stop falling asleep watching west coast NBA games and fuck you Toyota.

I dunno if that was their intent or not, but it was definitely the net result.
posted by Ufez Jones at 10:11 AM on August 5, 2010

The answer is no.

Commercials aren't just made to attract a certain audience (a potential buyer, for example). They're also meticulously placed during specific shows to best seek out the exact demographics the advertiser is seeking. Pets don't have money, thus, advertising to them would be a waste of time. Want proof? Look at pet food. Not pet food ads. Look at the actual food. Look at the colors and shapes and sizes of kernels of pet food. They don't look that way for the sake of the pets. It's all about marketing to owners.

On the other hand. here's proof that the right programming can attract a pet's attention.
posted by 2oh1 at 11:20 AM on August 5, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for all the answers so far guys. I guess I phrased my question oddly so I should probably clarify: I'm not asking if there are ads that are made to appeal to a cat or dog's purchasing sensibilities, I am asking if there have been ads designed to secure the attention of even non-TV-watching cats or dogs in order that, as suggested above, their owners - who would fit, presumably, under the key target demographic of "people with pets" - will notice that the dog or cat has noticed something.
posted by turgid dahlia at 2:14 PM on August 5, 2010

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