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UO study: To get pets adopted, focus on health – not cuteness – in ads

Adoptable dog Ashley Jones-Flickr
Ashley Jones/Flickr
A University of Oregon researcher has concluded that people are 6% more likely to adopt a pet if it is advertised using straightforward language.

By Eric Tegethoff, Oregon News Service

PORTLAND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- If they want more pets to find homes, pet adoption agencies should hit pause on words like "buddy" and "companion" in their advertising, according to new Oregon-based research.

Dave Markowitz, an assistant professor of social media data analytics at the University of Oregon, looked at nearly 680,000 pet adoption ads and found that straightforward, analytical language proved most successful.

He says narrative-driven, social language to describe pets can even hurt their chances of adoption.

"So, any time a pet was described as being 'cuddly' or 'cute,' or 'a sweetheart,' that actually can get away from the central issue that most pet adopters are really focused on," says Markowitz, "which is, is the pet healthy? Does it have all its vaccinations?"

According to his research, people who read the more analytical ads were nearly 6% more likely to say they would adopt the pet, and 4.5% more likely to say they would visit the shelter in the ad.

Markowitz says analytical language has shown to be more persuasive in other arenas, such as online peer-to-peer lending and HPV vaccination ads for parents and physicians. Given this data, he hopes more straightforward pitches will become the trend for pet adoption agencies.

"There's some relationship between how it's written and how people are feeling about the process, which is the hope where adoption agencies and shelters can take notice of the power of language," says Markowitz.

Each year, about 1.5 million shelter dogs and cats are euthanized because they weren't adopted or had health problems that concerned their owners, according to the ASPCA.


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