Call For Responsible Use Of Pets In Ads

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Call for ‘responsible’ use of pets in ads
4th December 2018

By Karen Pickwick

Vet practices must lead from the front in the responsible portrayal of animals in marketing, say leading veterinary organisations.
 
The British Veterinary Association today (December 4) called on advertisers and vet practices to give ‘full thought’ to the way animals are depicted in their marketing and communications in order to encourage responsible pet ownership and positive animal health and welfare.
 
Eight in 10 vets in the UK (83%) say they are concerned about the inappropriate representation of animals in adverts, with dogs, cats and rabbits topping the most-cited species featuring in ‘bad-ads’. The BVA’s Autumn 2018 Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey revealed that 44% of vets recalled seeing adverts in the previous month featuring images of pet animals unable to exhibit normal behaviour, depicted in an unsafe scenario (31%) or shown in an unsuitable environment (24%).
 
To help advertising companies and vets promote positive welfare across a range of companion animal species, the BVA has launched a set of pet advertising guidelines today with support from members of the Veterinary Animal Welfare Coalition, comprising the British Small Animal Veterinary Association, British Veterinary Zoological Society, British Veterinary Nursing Association, Blue Cross, PDSA, RSPCA and the Scottish SPCA.
 
SOCIAL CONCERN

BVA’s guidelines, ‘Pets in advertising: A social concern’, identify good practice guidance as well as common mistakes in portraying pets, whether real or cartoon and computer-generated, across each of the five animal welfare needs set out in the UK Animal Welfare Acts. Thus, brachycephalic dogs, cats or rabbits, teacup animals and rabbits shown individually or housed in tiny hutches would all be examples of imagery that should be avoided, unless it is to raise awareness about the specific health or welfare issue being showcased.
 
BVA president Simon Doherty said: “Just like television or print adverts created by big brands, any inappropriate use of imagery in our client-facing communications also has the potential to normalise hereditary defects, poor welfare, and inappropriate diet and housing, as well as drive demand for certain breeds with physical and behavioural problems that are not always recognised by the public.
 
“As an animal welfare-focused profession, it is paramount that vets and vet nurses take the lead in ensuring clients are presented with visuals that support responsible pet ownership and positive animal health and welfare outcomes.
 
“It makes business sense, too, as it gives veterinary practices an opportunity to enhance brand image, reputation and client loyalty. At BVA, we’ve been reviewing our own marketing and communication materials to remove any inappropriate depictions of animals, and we’d encourage practices to take the opportunity to do likewise.”

GUIDELINES
 
The Veterinary Marketing Association (VMA) will be adding BVA’s new pet advertising guidelines for consideration across its judging criteria for all future VMA Annual Awards.
 
BVA’s survey revealed that the most commonly-cited adverts, by more than three-quarters of vets, were those that showed pets with exaggerated features or extreme conformation, such as pugs or Persian cats. BVA’s #BreedtoBreathe campaign this year has highlighted how sustained efforts by the veterinary profession can help, as big brands including Marks & Spencer, HSBC and Lidl have pledged not to use images of flat-faced dogs in ads or on social media in future campaigns.
 
While BVA is sending out a copy of the guidance to all the big brands it has already engaged with, it is asking vets and vet nurses to also contact any brands using animals inappropriately to let them know that the veterinary profession is there to help with their decision-making.