Pet food companies are employing increasingly-effective tactics to wed you to their brand. The newest? Recruiting your altruistic animal impulses. And I have to admit it’s a great strategy. How can you resist an ad that minimizes the product and plays up the dire need to find homes for shelter pets?

Spied in the Wall Street Journal’s back-page blurb in Media & Marketing this morning: “Dog Food Ad to Try a New Trick.” The article spotlights a novel approach to selling pet food—brand enhancement through creative ads like these:

 

I know you can’t read the fine print but here’s the copy on a similar ad in today's WSJ (I can't find the pic of today's mutt-themed ad online, sorry):

“Dear President-elect Obama,
Wed love to help you fulfill your first campaign promise. We are thrilled that you are celebrating your victory by adopting a dog into your family. We think you’ll find that shelter dogs are among the most loyal, loving and special dogs in the world. And no dog is more in need of a little hope. You can find a great dog and learn more about responsible adoption at www.DogsRule.com.”

Beneath, next to the house icon, it announces “The Pedigree Adoption Drive.” Funny to promote shelter dogs by way of pushing a food named "Pedigree," but there you have it.

Sweet. It’s probably effective, too, though not for most of us here, I’ll warrant. After all, those of you reading this are more likely to subscribe to the feeding of less guilty (reference the pet food recall), more nutritious products than Pedigree’s fare.

The Pedigree brand is owned by Mars of Snickers and M&M’s fame. Indeed, I wish this company had stuck to its candy roots. (Though it does help make my point when I inform pet owners of Pedigree’s pet-candy status—as in, lots of fillers and arguably OK for a spell—but not the kind of food I’d recommend for a lifetime of pet health.)

The Pedigree director of marketing, one John Anton, is predictably a huge proponent of this approach to marketing his #3 brand. He’s quoted in this WSJ piece as saying,

“More dogs are going to end up in shelters because of home foreclosures. (…) Every time we run this campaign, we see increased sales.”

OK, so maybe it’s good for sales…but should we bite?

Sure, I love the minimization of the product and the maximization of the message, but I could care less about their increased product movement. The real question is…How does it affect the “sales” of shelter pets?