Puppy Love: Playing with Perceptions

By Drew Conger

10.19.17

 

I have been, and always will be, a dog person. From childhood, I begged my parents for a dog, a puppy, a playmate. My father–who, I should point out, is not a dog person–told me that when I was 10, he would get me a dog. Little did he know that I, a dedicated nine-year-old, would hold him to his promise. The December before my tenth birthday, a young puppy entered our home, and entered my heart. He never left.

Thus, you can imagine the emotions running through my heart–and the tears running down my face–when the following advertisement aired during the Super Bowl in February of 2014.

You can also probably imagine the confusion and disappointment I felt at the conclusion of the advertisement. I have never and will never purchase beer, from Budweiser or any other similar company. I couldn’t help but laugh, exasperated by the lengths to which Budweiser was going to secure my purchase and dependability.

However, I have to admit that this advertisement, Puppy Love, was incredibly influential and effective. It might not have secured my money, but it likely secured the funds of many other Americans. Budweiser was successful with this advertisement, and they used framing to accomplish that success. Framing, according to John Pavlik and Shawn McIntosh, is “the presentation and communication of a message in a particular way that influences our [the viewer’s] perception of it” (Pavlik & McIntosh, 42).

In the first ten seconds of the advertisement, several different things happen.

First, a popular and heartfelt song plays in the background, immediately setting the stage for a heartfelt and tear-jerking story. The song alone attracts the attention of all who love the song and, perhaps, many who don’t like it–people who watch the advertisement to see how it plays out or to figure out how to mock it later.

Second, a sign appears with the words “Warm Springs” and “Puppy Adoption” in front of a cozy looking farmhouse and estate. And suddenly, the advertisement has the attention of everyone who has ever lived on or dreamed of owning a farm, as well as everyone who has considered or carried out pet adoption.

Third, several puppies are present in those first–crucial–moments of the advertisement, thus attracting the attention of every dog person in the room. The words ‘puppies’ and ‘adoption’ just bring warm feelings to the hearts of all animal enthusiasts.

Fourth, one of these astronomically adorable puppies sneaks his way from the main happenings–something dog people find both endearing and infuriating. Now everyone who has ever had to chase after a puppy or go through ‘puppy-proofing’ procedures is paying close attention to this advertisement.

Fifth, an unexpected element enters the scene–a horse. This attracts the attention of every retired rancher with fond memories of his horses, every middle-aged farmer hanging up the saddle, and every young child who dreams of the freedom and love brought by horses.

Thus, in the first ten seconds, and only in the first ten seconds, the advertisement now has the strict and enthusiastic attention of almost every person watching the Super Bowl. Fans of the band Passenger and their song “Let Her Go,” farmers and ranchers (and all those who dream of such a life), dog owners and puppy lovers, and horse enthusiasts are all now enthralled with the story presented in this advertisement. That’s a pretty good chunk of people.

The rapt attention of all of these people is due to the way the producers–Budweiser and company–framed Puppy Love. Because of their understanding of who would pay attention and how viewers would react to stimuli, Budweiser was successful in accomplishing the purpose of the advertisement–to sell more beer.

Additionally, Budweiser cultivated certain feelings (nostalgia, love, ‘the feels,’ friendship, attachment, etc.) and then connected those feelings to their brand. Therefore, over the weeks, months, and years following the Super Bowl in which Puppy Love aired, when people saw or thought of Budweiser–or, more generally, beer in and of itself–they recalled these emotions and were thus more inclined to purchase their products.

 

Pavlik, John V., and Shawn McIntosh. “Chapter 2: Media Literacy in the Digital Age.”Converging Media: a New Introduction to Mass Communication, Fifth ed., Oxford University Press, 2017, p. 42.

Puppy Love advertisement video embedded from YouTube. Accessed on 10.19.17

Golden Retriever Puppies photograph accesses through Google Images on 10.19.17