Written by on . Pegasus.

Paws for Thought – Latest ASA guidance on using animals in advertising

There’s a lot to consider if you’re planning on using animals in your latest marketing campaign. Charlotte Anderson, Account Manager on the Animal Health team, summarises the latest update from the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

Over the years, animals have been used in advertising to great effect to engage consumers – from a dancing pony for Three Mobile in 2013 through to Buster the Boxer secretly enjoying the kids’ trampoline in the 2016 John Lewis Christmas ad. And who could forget the Gorilla drumming along to Phil Collins’ hit, “In the Air Tonight,” for Cadbury back in 2007.

Working within the animal health team at Pegasus, we always need to be one step ahead of the curve when planning campaigns featuring animals. It goes without saying that the health and welfare of animals must be the top priority, however there are wider considerations that marketers should be aware of when planning their campaigns. In line with the most recent ASA guidance – here are our top five tips on best practice when using animals in advertising:

  1.  Beware of the risk of imitation – avoid scenarios that could potentially put the animal at risk, for example, a shot with a dog with its head poking out of a car window while the car is moving is a general no-go area.
  2.  Avoid humanisation – whilst a growing trend, putting animals in a humorous human-like setting can contravene animal welfare guidelines and is generally frowned upon by the veterinary community. It means you should avoid dressing up animals and showing them eating unhealthy or human foods, such as birthday cakes, sausages and leftovers. A lot of human foods can be extremely harmful to animals, so this really does need to be avoided for the health of the animal, and potential backlash against your brand.
  3. Think twice before featuring controversial breeds – use of certain breeds of animals, particularly brachycephalic breeds (flat-faced dogs such as pugs and English bull dogs) is generally frowned upon by the veterinary and animal welfare sector because it could be seen as the promotion of potentially unhealthy animals. You can read more on the stance of the veterinary industry here.
  4. Take care with health claims for animals – as with all human health products, direct or implied claims that a product can ‘prevent’ or ‘treat’ a specific condition will need to be substantiated.
  5. Protect the animals in your care – when working with animals – either on film or on a photoshoot – never overlook the health and welfare of animals in your care. No animal should be put in a stressful situation and we would always recommend having a qualified veterinary professional on set to supervise and be on hand in an emergency. From a production quality perspective, we would always recommend working with trainers who have animals that are used to being on set, and if necessary, have a trained animal handler available too!

For further information and advice, NOAH.co.uk is a good source alongside the ASA.