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Wagging tails replace sad eyes in Westminster ads

Published February 11, 2012 1:01 am

Pets • New sponsor's focus doesn't make everyone happy.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

New York • Pet lovers won't have to look away anymore when those heart-wrenching TV ads appear during the Westminster dog show — the ones with the pitiful faces peering out from behind those rusted bars of a cage and wondering "how I ended up in here."

Happy dogs will rule the air waves this year, thanks to a new sponsor for America's most prestigious dog competition and a decision to air ads that shift the focus away from sad-eyed animals in need of adoption.

"The feedback we got from our primary audience was that they were seeing commercials that made them want to turn the channel," Westminster spokesman and longtime TV host David Frei said Thursday.

Nestle Purina PetCare is the new sponsor for America's most prestigious dog competition that begins Monday at Madison Square Garden, replacing Pedigree after 24 years. The switch will bring a shift in the tone of the television commercials that drew nearly as much attention as who won best in show.

Gone will be the haunting music and woeful pictures of dogs with pleading eyes wasting away at the pound, hoping to be adopted. Instead, Purina's main spots will feature dogs running on the beach, catching a Frisbee, frolicking in the snow and riding a surfboard.

Frei said he thought the Pedigree commercials took the wrong approach, and viewers either muted the spots or flipped the channel and didn't turn back.

"Show me an ad with a dog with a smile. Don't try to shame me," he said. "We told them that and they ignored us."

He added: "Our show is a celebration of dogs. We're not promoting purebreds at the expense of non-purebreds. We celebrate all dogs," he said. "When we're seeing puppies behind bars, it takes away from that. Not just because it's sad, but it's not our message." —

Westminster Kennel Club

The 136th Westminster Kennel Club dog show will be televised on USA Network and CNBC.

When • 7 p.m.-9p.m. Monday, CNBC (Comcast Channel 23)

Finals • 9 p.m.-midnight Tuesday, USA Network (Comcast Channel 57)