You hear it all the time: Know your target audience. Write for your target audience. Market to your target audience.

But what if your target audience can’t read? What if they can’t write? In fact, what if your target audience’s favorite pastimes include chasing cars and barking at the mailman?

Nestlé’s Purina makes food for dogs. Theoretically, their target audience would be, well, dogs. So what does Nestlé do?

They launch a marketing campaign for dogs.


Presenting The World’s First Commercial Targeting Dogs

First, there were the posters: Nestlé Purina launched a line of “sniffable” posters in Germany featuring the scent of Nestlé’s dog food brand, Beneful.

Now Nestlé Purina’s set its eyes on dog-friendly television.

Beneful’s latest canine-targeted ad campaign is being billed as the world’s first commercial for dogs. The commercial features three sounds for canine ears: the sound of a squeaky toy, a high-frequency note (similar to a dog whistle), and a “soft, high-pitched ding.” The ad began airing in Austria last week.

Curious? View the commercial for yourself.


In the name of research, I endured three viewings of the Beneful commercial with my dogs. My German Shepherd looked up when the toy squeaked, blinked, and promptly went back to sleep. My Shepherd-Lab mix ignored Beneful’s squeaks, dings, and whistles entirely, choosing instead to ram his tennis ball into my leg for the duration of the commercial.

High-frequency whistles or no, my dogs were clearly not interested in Beneful’s raining vegetables or five flavor varieties.

This may be because (as Discover Magazine’s Discoblog pointed out) the ad’s high-frequency noises are largely useless, seeing as most speakers can’t project noises above 20,000 hertz.

Lassie isn’t hearing that dog whistle any more than you are.

So if the world’s first commercial aimed at dogs doesn’t actually work on dogs…

…Is Nestle’s Marketing Campaign Really Working on Its Target Audience?

I may be making a pretty broad assumption here, but humans generally don’t have any interest in smelling a street advertisement. So yes, the sniffable poster campaign’s target audience is dogs (with the implied hope that owners will also stop and notice the poster their dog has been sniffing for an awkward amount of time).

But a commercial? Your dogs aren’t the ones watching television. That’s a straight-up advertisement for pet owners and pet owners alone– no matter how many times your dog perks up at the sound of a squeaky toy.

A supermarket's pet food aisle in Brooklyn, Ne...

Nestle’s betting that their dog-targeted ad campaign will appeal to us pet owners. We want so badly to believe that we’re giving our four-legged family members exactly what they want. Given the choice, your pet would probably opt to get his dinner from the garbage can rather than a bowl of kibble. But you’re the one making the decisions in the dog food aisle. You’re the one faced with dozens of brands: Iam’s. Purina. Kibbles & Bits. You’re not the one eating the food (we assume)– so how do you choose?

By letting your dog “choose” for you. He sniffs the poster and (possibly) perks up at the TV commercials– hey, that’s as big of an endorsement from a dog as you’re going to get, right? Decision made. Beneful it is.

The Lesson Here: Know Your Audience, Engage Your Audience

Only time– and Austrian dog food sales– will tell if the commercial is working for Beneful. But there’s something even more important at work here: publicity. I’ve seen enough Irish Setters and Dalmatians happily chowing down on dog food on television to make all dog food commercials blend together. Individual names are useless to me. But Nestlé’s making news in the United States even though the commercial is Austrian. It’s something new, something exciting, and it’s something directly targeted to its audience.

What do you think? Is this a solid example of content audience targeting…or has Nestlé Purina’s advertising department gone to the dogs?

Tampa, Florida

12750 Citrus Park Lane
Suite 225
Tampa, FL 33625

Scottsdale, Arizona

16420 N. 92nd Street
Suite 100
Scottsdale, AZ 85260

Marketing Resources