There is a showbiz adage about never working with children or animals. But children and animals are perennial 'borrowed interest' favourites in advertising. One of the most popular ad campaigns in New Zealand history was the story of 'SPOT' - a Jack Russell terrier whose name was a slightly clumsy acronym of Services and Products Of Telecom. Rolly the Sharpei was created to attest to the soft and strong characteristics of Purex toilet paper and the Wire-haired Fox Terrier Wilson stars in Lotto's gambling ads. That's just advertising from New Zealand - the convention persists around the world.
The grand-daddy of dogs starring in modern advertising is Spuds MacKenzie who starred in the marketing of Bud Light in the late 1980s. For a while he was everywhere - from TV advertising (Superbowl 1987) to plush toys. He made his way into popular culture - with subsequent references from Futurama to Toy Story (the kid next door's dog was a bull terrior called Scud). In the end Spuds was retired, the brand owner says it was because he was overshadowing the brand, but it is more likely that the pressure from legislators and lobby groups who claimed that the cute dog was just too appealing to the young became too much of a distraction - they moved on and Spuds lived out her retirement in obscurity (that's right, 'he' was a she).
There's something to be said for having an animal as a mascot. They are easily replaced - one Fox Terrier looks pretty much like another to the untrained eye (in fact Wilson of Lotto fame had to be left in India due to quarantine restrictions and was replaced by another dog - causing a carefully managed wave of PR). They are cheaper to wrangle than a human celebrity - fewer riders in their contracts about M&Ms in their trailers on shoot-day. Unlike a human star they won't get prosecuted for drunk driving or throwing water bombs at a neighbour's home. And, of course, they have enormous emotional appeal.
Dogs and other animals may be a cheap shot in advertising, but they aren't going away. Even a lizard can have a human personality attributed to it - to warm up an insurance brand.
This blog is a notepad of contemporaneous and sometimes extemporaneous thoughts about creativity, strategy and ideas.