I really like your beans but…

Posted on November 01, 2017 by Nina Rossi

Heinz brachy advertisingOnce you notice the shocking number of brachycephalic dogs in advertising, it’s impossible to unsee it. It’s difficult to turn on the TV, check Facebook or Instagram or browse the web without seeing a Pug or French bulldog being used to market everything from beans to toilet paper.

At BVA we’ve been campaigning about the health and welfare issues affecting these breeds. We’re working to get the message out to dog owners that they should think about choosing a healthier breed or crossbreed instead of prioritising appearance over welfare.

Why it matters

But all of our messages to the puppy-buying public are in direct competition with the thousands of ‘cute’ images all over social media. They’re not just on the pages of loving owners or dedicated breeders but on the Twitter feeds and Facebook pages of hundreds of big brands keen to cash in on the ‘cool’ vibe they associate with these breeds. With so much visibility it’s not surprising that demand is rising - Kennel Club registrations for French Bulldogs increased by 47 per cent from 2015 to 2016, suggesting they’ll overtake the lab as the most popular dog breed in the UK next year. What are BVA doing about it?

Since last year we’ve been campaigning in the media, putting out press releases and setting up interviews so our officer team can raise awareness of the issues these animals face as a result of their breeding. 

We’ve also written to major retailers and organisations who use brachycephalic breeds in their advertising asking them to consider the health problems endemic to their new poster pets. We’ve had a good response with brands such as Comic Relief pledging to avoid use of brachycephalic breeds in future.

What can vets do?

We’re going to keep sending these letters but, unfortunately, it’s not possible for BVA to contact every brand directly. It’s important that there are voices all over social media pushing back against the use of brachycephalic breeds in marketing, and vet voices carry more weight than most.

Recently the Veterinary Voices group, set up by Danny Chambersand Sarah Brown has had some major successes challenging brands such as Costa Coffee and Heinz Beans over their use of pugs on social media. By adding dozens of comments from individual vets highlighting the health concerns relating to flat-faced breeds under these posts they demonstrate to brands the strength of feeling among vets on this issue and counter the ‘cute’ effect for members of the public viewing them.

We followed up on the direct action of these vets with letters from BVA and both Costa and Heinz have since apologised and pledged to avoid using brachycephalic animals in future campaigns.

How you can help

When you see images of brachycephalic animals on Facebook you can make a real impact just by adding a comment about why the image is problematic, including reference to your role as a vet, and also direct messaging the brand. By commenting on these brand’s Facebook accounts, you are making it more likely that your network and peer group will also see your comment on their own timelines – therefore it is important that vets utilise their own spheres of influence. Feel free to link to BVA statements about brachycephalic breeds on our website and to let us know but the opinion and comment should be yours. It doesn’t have the same impact if we tell you what to say!

If you want to do more, consider setting up or joining an online group with other concerned individuals. There’s definitely strength in numbers when it comes to consumer pressure.

Twitter is another platform brimming with marketing images featuring brachy breeds. If you see brachycephalic animals being used to promote brands you can reply citing the health issues and link to our statements if you think they’re appropriate. 

We can only do this together

We’re really pleased to see so many members of the profession speaking out on behalf of these animals. Thank you so much to everyone who’s already active on this topic. We’ll continue to support you with press releases and media interviews but hearing from individual vets really has an impact on these brands so it’s vital that your voices are heard. We’ll be providing a letter template in the near future for those who would like to approach brands via email. In the meantime you can contact us on our Facebook page or @BritishVets if you’d like our support in challenging examples of irresponsible marketing using these breeds.

More on this topic

Nina Rossi

Written by Nina Rossi

BVA Media Manager

Nina works for the BVA Media team ensuring the veterinary voice is heard through national, regional and social media across the UK.