Article
May 26, 2011

Shift Away From Negative Ads Increases Giving to Animal Shelter

Many organizations worry about making a bold change to their advertising, notes M.P. Mueller, an advertising-agency owner in Austin, Tex., who writes for a New York Times blog. But doing so has increased donations and recruited scores of new volunteers for the Austin Humane Society, in Texas, she notes.

Aided by Ms. Mueller's advertising agency, Door Number 3, also in Austin, the humane society dropped its grim spots about animal abuse and neglect starting early last year. Such heart-wrenching advertising works with animal lovers, but the results tend to be short-lived, the charity found.

Instead the charity has opted for a series of happier messages, like the ad shown here that focuses on the lifelong bonds and emotional connections between owners and their pets. "I'm not on Twitter," the exuberant dog in the ad promises readers, "but I'll still follow you."

The campaign also added to the humane society's Web site several humorous videos featuring talking animals, as well as "Trap Cat," an online game that educates players about the charity's efforts to spay and neuter feral cats.

Results have been impressive. By the end of last year, the Austin Humane Society   reported a 13-percent rise in contributions, not including bequests and other planned gifts, and it has maintained the gains this year, says Amanda Ryan-Smith, director of development. The charity's most recent year-end appeal based on the ad campaign's approach generated $100,000, double the amount it raised in 2009.

Animal adoptions also increased last year and have continued to grow. From January through April of this year, for example, the humane society has placed 838 pets with new owners, up from 770 during the same months in 2010.

What's more, the charity gained many more volunteers after it started the ad campaign: Last year volunteers logged 95,000 hours, up from just 40,000 hours in 2009, before the campaign started.