Bo Bengtson At Large: "Show Dog Ads: Love 'em or Hate 'Em"

If you want to make a lasting impression on the people who make the big decisions in our sport, select your advertising venue with care.

By Bo Bengtson | July 1, 2012

We in America have a very complex relationship to advertising. On the one hand almost everything we do is affected by advertising, sometimes on a subconscious level. The food we eat, the cars we drive, the lifestyle we choose — you think you’re making those decisions on your own? Think again. Whenever you look at a newspaper or magazine, watch TV or visit the Internet you are bombarded by ads and promotion that convince you, whether you know it or not, to make decisions based on the ads you see.

Yet many of us profess to hate ads, although that doesn’t make us immune from being influenced by them. I don’t think anyone can help being intrigued (shocked, enthralled, whatever) by the glossy, super-sophisticated magazine advertising in publications like, for instance, Vanity Fair. Their recent Hollywood issue consists of 392 pages, and I defy anyone not to be fascinated by all the beautiful ads, yet perhaps a little repulsed at the same time. It feels like eating big spoonfuls of whipped cream — at least until you read the articles, which are invariably well written, carefully edited and help bring you back to reality.

You know dog show advertising is big when it hits regular news media. The Daily Beast, online home of Newsweek Magazine, which has 10 million unique online visitors a month, ran an article titled "The Dog Glamour Ads That Win Westminster” earlier this year. The author, Josh Dean, writes that "Just as movie studios and nominated celebrities place ‘For Your Consideration’ ads during Oscar season to sway Academy voters, show-dog owners buy ads glorifying their dogs to influence contest judges.” Nobody knows the total value of all the dog show ads published every year, but according to the article it adds up to many millions of dollars.

It’s not the same in other countries, where for various reasons advertising doesn’t play as big a part in the dog game as it does here. For one thing, this is a large country, and there’s so much going on in so many different breeds in so many distant places that unless you tell the world what you’re doing, most people won’t even know you exist. As that great slogan puts it: Not advertising is like winking in the dark — you know what you’re doing, but nobody else does. In a country with fewer shows and shorter distances everyone knows what you are up to anyway, without the ads.

Exactly what kind of an effect all those ads have is debatable. Certainly a print ad adds a little weight and permanence to those endless blogs and chat lists, which I cannot imagine anyone with half a brain takes seriously. It’s fun to brag about your dog, but when you can do so for free for as long (and as often!) as you like, do you really think anyone who matters is going to remember what you blogged about for more than two seconds?

The same, to some degree, goes for the fat "ad catalogs” that arrive, uninvited and in a seemingly endless stream, in the mailboxes of every single AKC judge. They masquerade as "magazines,” but the emphasis is so much on the ads that whatever editorials they contain look mostly like an afterthought. Overkill is soon a fact of every busy judge’s life, and we hear over and over again that if there’s nothing worth reading, why would anyone bother leafing through hundreds of pages of just ads?

This will sound self-serving, but it’s a truth worth remembering: To be effective, ads HAVE to be accompanied by interesting, readable, well-edited articles. That was the basic premise when we started Dogs in Review many years ago, and it’s as true now as ever. In other words, if you want to make a lasting impression on the people who make the big decisions in our sport, select your advertising venue with care.

It helps if your ad is pretty; you need good photos and hard facts, but above all, here as elsewhere, you’re judged by the company you keep.


From the July 2012 issue of Dogs In Review magazine. Purchase the July 2012 digital back issue or subscribe to receive 12 months of Dogs In Review magazine.


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