|Adoption agencies do launch campaigns in the hope of encouraging people in the country to either donate to the shelters or to adopt dogs or cats / Photo by kzenon via 123RF|
Every year, about 6.5 million animals enter various animal shelters in the US and 1.5 million of these are euthanized because either they had health issues that became an issue with potential pet parent or they were not just considered for adoption. This is according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), an organization founded on the belief that animals are entitled to respectful and kind treatment at the hands of humans and must be protected under the law.
Pet Adoption: Lonely to Loved Animals
Adoption agencies do launch campaigns in the hope of encouraging people in the country to either donate to the shelters or to adopt dogs or cats. Sadly, the effectiveness of these campaigns can only do so much. David Markowitz, an assistant professor of social media data analytics from the University of Oregon, recently explained in his study that pet adoption doesn’t start the moment a potential owner steps in a pet shelter. It begins online when an ad is placed and it is a psychological and social process that is enhanced by several messages with markers of humanizing references and complex thinking.
Persuading People to Adopt Pets
The author studied 676,004 pet adoption profiles from the online database Petfinder. The use of prepositions (word or set of words that link nouns, pronouns, and phrases to other words), such as “on” and “above” indicate analytic and concrete thinking. The use of articles (words used to modify a noun and can be an idea, object, place, or person) such as “the” and “a” also indicates analytic and concrete style.
Analytic vs. Narrative Style of Advertisements
Markowitz cited one highly analytic advertisement of a dog that was adopted from a shelter. The ad reads, “Meet Christina! Breed: Bull Terrier Mix, Estimated DOB: 8/21/18, Sex: Female, Weight: 6-8 lbs, Health: Up-to-date on vaccinations & preventatives, Rescued From: South Carolina.”
There is also another style of ad called narrative. It uses more storytelling words and pronouns. Common words used for a narrative style of ads are “extremely,” “they,” and “he.” Storytelling or narrative ad reads, “Look at the cuteness! This boy is adorable and he is full of love and is super playful. Make sure you have plenty of cat toys around because this boy loves his toys!”
To determine which style is more effective for pet adoption ads, the author considered the scores provided by nearly 1,000 participants. From 0 to 100, a high score suggests that the style is less narrative and more analytic. The result shows that successful pet adoption ads were likely analytic and concrete.
The Persuasive Impact of Verbal Patterns
Human Papillomavirus Vaccination (HPV) ads are another setting where the same verbal patterns have a persuasive effect. A separate study showed that physicians and parents viewed fact-based and formal messages to be more persuasive compared to less straightforward advertisements. The peer-to-peer lending study likewise suggests the relationship between language features, persuasion success, and trustworthiness. The result shows that funding will be more successful if the ad is written analytically and concretely. However, justifications of the current financial situation and humanizing personal information were negatively associated.
Social Words May Be Interpreted As Red Flags
There is another indication that potential pet parents may consider red flags and this is the use of social words in ads. These social words include “helper,” “friend,” and “buddy.” These may be interpreted as red flags because they want to know more about the health of the pet, its vaccinations, and the process of adoption. Emphasizing social words instead of important matters may signal that the adoption center is hiding something about the health details of the pet. The findings are the same as the lending study, wherein people are less likely to receive funding from a stranger if their ad contains humanizing details or social words.
The Importance of Photos
Putting more photos is another secret to the affective pet adoption ad. More pets are adopted if their ads had more photos on it because it lessens the uncertainty of the potential owners if the introduction is through the internet. This means that both language and photos affect how people feel and think about the pet adoption process.
Out of the nearly 1,000 study participants who read the pet adoption ads, nearly 6% of them said that they are more likely to adopt the pet if the words are less social and more analytic and 4.5% said they are more likely to visit the shelter. The effects to the ad may be small but it already creates an impact since millions of dogs and cats need a home.
Pet adoption: Statistics
ASPCA shared that about 3.2 million cats and 3.3 million dogs are welcomed by US animal shelters every year, but these numbers have already declined compared to the 7.2 million pets welcomed by shelters in 2011. About 35% of US households have a cat and 44% have a dog. Approximately 46% of cat owners and 40% of dog owners learned about their pets through word of mouth.
In another survey by database company Statista between May 30 to June 3, 2019, out of 436 respondents in Italy among pet owners, 82% of them said they want to know the general information on pet care before adopting or buying a pet animal. Other information they look for is the pet’s diet (71%), where to adopt or buy a pet (31%), costs (26%), and other reasons (3%). The remaining 1% of the respondents answered: “I don’t know.”
There are plenty of reasons to adopt a pet. You are saving a life, you get healthy, it saves you money than buying a pet from a pet store or other sources, it makes you feel better because someone is always putting a smile on your face before you sleep, and you are eradicating the illegal practice of breeding puppies to maximize profit without regard to dogs’ wellbeing or health.
If pet adoption agencies will put the study into consideration, they can change the way their ads will be communicated so that more pets will have a higher chance of finding a permanent home.