This Commercial Wrecked Me

A dog food commercial that goes right for the heart.

Advertising is the devil's work. I like to be very aware of how I'm being sold things, and in the modern age we're being sold stuff more and more, and what's worse is that advertising has become an appreciated artform. It used to be standard to hate commercials and look down on them, but these days people seem to embrace them like legitimate pop cultural events. It's terrifying, and it's a sign of the intellectual apocalypse, I believe.

But I also respect advertising. These guys aren't throwing darts at a wall - at least the good ones aren't. They're using advanced psychological and artistic techniques to completely manipulate you in a way that leaves you unaware of the manipulation. Advertising works. I know the comments section of this article will be filled with people claiming advertising doesn't work on them, but they're the people most impacted. The less aware you are of how advertising is playing you, the more played you are.

Which brings  me to this commercial, which I saw last night during the Westminster Dog Show, and which reduced me to tears. I think it's kind of a masterwork of manipulation, and it's just about perfectly edited. It begins as a cute commercial but it slowly and without warning morphs into something that's going right for your soft spot. You're sucked in by the cute puppies, and they lower your defenses so that when the serious stuff kicks in you're left helpless. And as an advertisement it subtly reinforces that Purina is the dog food that supports service dogs and rescue dogs and the dogs owned by our brave men and women in uniform. Like I said, it's an extraordinary piece of manipulation.

Always be aware! Don't dismiss advertising! Pay attention and parse what you're seeing, and more than that parse what you're feeling.