Paws and clause: Get your ads purrrfect and avoid an advertising cat-astrophe

As a nation of animal lovers, featuring animals in ads is a sure fire way to stir consumers’ emotions and encourage them to engage with a product or brand, but when marketers depict or imply any kind of harmful treatment of an animal, they risk getting into trouble with the ASA.

Take care with ‘humorous’ concepts

Marketers wanting to create ‘humorous’ executions, which depict animals in situations or environments which could be unsafe, should ensure that any potentially hazardous scenarios are obviously fictitious and that there is no implication that the animal has been, or will be, harmed.

Don’t use unduly graphic images. Consider the product or service you’re advertising

Marketing communications should not contain anything that is likely to cause serious or widespread offence, or undue fear or distress. Marketers distributing material that features images of animals which some may find upsetting, for example charities seeking donations to support animal welfare projects, should carefully consider their audience and whether the ad is suitable for untargeted media.

Unsurprisingly, consumers are far more forgiving of upsetting content appearing in ads for charitable causes. An ad depicting a malnourished dog, for example, is more likely to be considered acceptable in an ad for a charity working towards helping such animals, than an unrelated organisation or commercial company.

Beware of the risk of emulation

Depicting anything that is potentially harmful and could feasibly result in emulation is likely to be considered problematic. Marketers should, therefore, take care when considering such approaches and ensure the content isn’t likely to result in harmful emulation.

Look after all animals

Regardless of the content of an ad, all animals featured must be looked after well and should not be harmed or distressed in the process. However light-hearted the execution, marketers should take particular care when depicting an animal in the context of eating something which would harm them and must ensure it isn’t likely to lead to dangerous emulation. Marketers may wish to have a vet present to ensure animals are treated and cared for appropriately.

Don’t mislead about animal testing

Vivisection is a controversial subject, rousing strong passions on both sides of the debate and marketers should take care to ensure they don’t make claims that go beyond the evidence they hold, however passionate they are about their cause.

Marketers who claim they do not test on animals should neither have tested a product or its ingredients on animals, nor sourced ingredients from suppliers who have tested them on animals.


More on


  • Keep up to date

    Sign up to our rulings, newsletters and emargoed access for Press. Subscribe now.