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Monday, December 21, 2015

Pet Nutrition & Labels #5--Manipulative Advertising

I hope that everyone is smart enough to realize that manufacturers deliberately try to manipulate you to buy their products.  Milk is placed in the back of grocery stores so you have to walk past several aisles to get to it and have a greater chance of buying other products.  Food stores in the mall pipe their scents into the walkways to entice your appetite.  Packaging has images designed to ellicit a certain emotion.  Marketing and advertising are huge industries that exist only to somehow convince you to buy their clients' products and services. 

I have no problem with these methods and try to be aware of them.  But you need to keep it in mind when purchasing pet foods and watching commercials.  To illustrate my points I want to show and analyze commercials from two different pet food companies.  And if you've read my other posts in this series it may be easier for you to see the issues.

Here's the first from Blue Buffalo.

First, let's start with showing the woman's cat and talking about it.  This is designed to pull at the heart strings and avoid any real logic or science.  Her kitten is so cute and we must give him the best!

Now look at the lists shown to this woman.  Can you see some problems here?  First, we don't know if those ingredients are listed in the proper order on the label.  Some may be listed out of order, or without the ingredients between them.  This will skew the opinion greatly.  How did they determine which ingredients are listed on those sheets?

Now what about the woman's reaction.  She wanted to see rice in her kitten's food rather than corn.  Why?  Was she informed of the nutrient content of each?  Did she know what percentage of a given ingredient is in the food?  Does she realize that corn gluten is an excellent source of protein?  Or that meal can have higher protein than meat?

The woman is unknowingly making emotional, knee-jerk decisions about the pet food without any real information.  This is a perfect example of an uninformed consumer.

And the person watching the commercial still has no knowledge about the true nutrients in the food!

Time for commercial number two, this time from Eukanuba.

Pretty nice, right?  My wife has been all over this commercial because we have a lab and she wants her to live as long as possible.  But as smart consumers what are we to make of this advertisement?

This one is a bit different because there is actual science behind it with a 10 year longevity and health study.  You can look at more information on the study at this link.  And here's an article that gives more of a summary viewpoint.  Unlike the Blue Buffalo commercial this one is based on a scientific study and not consumer opinion.  Even if you disagree with the study, there is still real science behind it.

The study isn't perfect, as it didn't just look at the food fed, but also "proper care" including veterinary visits and preventative care, as well as activity and human interaction.  How much of the longevity is due to the nutrition and how much is due to the other factors?  A better study would have kept everything the same other than the food.  This doesn't completely invalidate the results, but only adds another question to it.  And we aren't even considering the genetic aspect of bloodlines and families having longer than average lives.

Even so, the commercial is absolutely trying to pull on your love of your own dogs and your desire to see them live forever.  How can you resist those images of active, running Labrador retrievers who are far beyond the average age for the breed?  Who wouldn't want a 17 year old lab like that?  But we don't know if they all were in that kind of condition.  Even if the results of the longevity study are true, we don't know if all of them were this active.  I'm sure that Eukanuba chose these dogs for specific reasons based on their appearance.

To be perfectly honest, I don't like Blue Buffalo and do like Eukanuba, so there's a bit of disclosure.  But you can hopefully see how both companies are trying to convince you that their food is best.  But one is relying purely on uninformed opinion while the other is trying to include some science.  Be careful about how much stock you put in the commercials themselves.

My next post will be the last in this series, and will give you tools and questions so that you really can be informed about your pet food choices.