Dogs in Superbowl Ads - Why They Work

Its price tag is $4.5 million for 30 seconds. More than 110 million people from vastly different backgrounds—young and old, rich and poor, men and women—will see it and then pass judgment, depending on how well you tickle their funny bones or tug at their heartstrings.

So what’s the secret to getting the biggest bang from big Super Bowl ad bucks?

Puppies!

In 2014, Anheuser Busch demonstrated the power of soft floppy ears with “Puppy Love.” The ad, which ended with a ridiculously adorable Labrador Retriever pup leading the famous Budweiser Clydesdales, became an instant hit. In addition to live viewers, the ad has drawn more than 55 million hits on YouTube alone, according to NBC market research.

And, just a few weeks before the Super Bowl, a Dr. Pepper TV vignette about a little “mop-dog” misfit went viral. “Be true to yourself and you’ll never be lost,” the tagline reads.

Suds and soda. What do these products have to do with dogs?

Actually, nothing, says branding maven Kevin Paul Scott. “The interesting thing is that most of the brands that use dogs in their advertising have nothing to do with animals,” says Scott, co-founder of the consultancy ADDO Worldwide and author of “8 Essential Exchanges.” It doesn’t matter, though, because a successful ad doesn’t necessarily have to push a product, it has to push buttons. Nothing does that better than a dog. “We associate dogs with some of our happiest times in life or some of the times when we’re sad, and they’re the ones who are always beside us,” says Scott, who has fond memories of growing up with his family’s Golden and Labrador Retrievers.

More than 60 percent of women and 40 percent of men say they tune into the game as much for the ads as the action on the field. What will be the hot spots this year? Scott says the buzz for 2015 is all about Anheuser Busch, which will once again pair canines and Clydesdales. The word is that the ad is “super touching.” Also, he says look for 16 companies making their Super Bowl advertising debuts. It will be interesting to see how many of them will call upon a wagging tail to make the pitch.

Some memorable Super Bowl moments: