ASPCA: The Tearjerker of the Century

By Laura Barker

In 2006, a commercial for the The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) began airing on several television networks.  I’m sure you know exactly which one I’m talking about- heart-wrenching images of abused cats and dogs to the tune of Sarah McLachlan’s “Arms of An Angel” (and then a cameo of her at the end).

The commercial is a poster child for emotional advertisements.  Generally speaking, animals are beautiful, loving, cherished creatures and we get personally offended when they are treated in a cruel way.  The production value makes the commercial especially effective; the song combined with the images and the way they progress is more than enough to get consumers teary-eyed.

The mission of the ASPCA was to simply increase donations, and they did it by targeting new customers (or new donors, in this case).  Those who donate to non-profit organizations don’t usually need reinforcement to keep donating because they already believe in the cause.  It was smart for the ASPCA to use an emotional strategy with this commercial because animals already hold emotional value to humans, and by the time the clip is over, the consumer feels a need to help the poor animals they just saw.

The commercial was a form of paid media that aired for several years and earned the ASPCA many millions of dollars.  The commercial was not only successful from a marketing standpoint, but from an advertising standpoint as well.  Why?  It first aired 10 years ago and people still know and talk about it today.


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