Animal Studies Bibliography

Erickson, Julie Liesse. 1986. Ads' animal magnetism has deep roots. Advertising Age 57 (Feb. 10): 45.

The use of animals in ads is at a peak because advertisers recognize its effectiveness. Animals can be used to tug on consumers' heartstrings and tickle their funny bones. The fact that pet ownership is at an all-time high is one likely reason for the popularity of animal ads. Academic studies, however, suggest that there is more to it. Lockwood (1983) showed that students perceived humans pictured with an animal more positively than they did humans alone. This positive interpretation may be due to the fact that so many people have pets, and we perceive positively people with similar values to our own. Research has also shown, however, that there are actual health and happiness benefits to pet ownership (as well as research showing that cruelty to animals is linked with antisocial behavior), so the positive traits we attribute to people with animals may have some grounding in reality. Further, studies have shown that people's positive responses to animals did not depend on whether or not they were themselves pet owners, suggesting that this positive interpretation of animals' presence is a cultural belief. Children are more affected by pets, but advertisers have found that animal ads aimed at kids were so popular they could be expanded into the ads for adults as well. Viewers often responded with great enthusiasm to animal ads, writing the companies that they must be good companies to make such ads, and sharing stories about their own pets. Companies do still shy away from animal ads, however, due to the difficulty of making them. Animal welfare activists criticize the industry's use of animals, saying that the messages in ads are unrealistic and are therefore dangerous to owners and animals. The Lassie syndrome is a problem in which animals are never shown doing the many things animals normally do (e.g. biting, urinating, etc.) and therefore people are given false expectations about pet ownership. Ads that show animals without collars, animals running without a leash along a city street, children putting their faces near animals, Easter ads that encourage people to buy chicks, and ads that use one breed of dog or cat and create overdemand all produce irresponsible ownership practices. These messages are the most frequent and the most damaging in pet food commercials. These activists approve of seeing animals in ads as long as the right message is portrayed--for example, a brief shot of a pet as family member. They just argue that advertisers must be careful what message they're sending.



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