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How to Write Better Pet Adoption Ads

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Approximately 1.5 million dogs and cats are euthanized in animal shelters each year because they were not adopted or had health problems that affected potential owners.

Agencies often use “Adopt, don’t buy!” Campaigns to encourage people to say goodbye to or donate to shelters, but their effectiveness may be limited. How can adoption agencies convince people to rescue pets in need of a home?


In an article published on December 26, I investigated the pet adoption issue using ads from the online Petfinder database. The paper quantified the speech patterns of nearly 680,000 accepted and unapproved pet ads.

Concrete & analytical style

The use of articles like “a” and “the” and prepositions like “above” and “an” indicate concrete and analytical thinking.

For example, a highly analytical ad from an adopted dog reads: “Meet Christina! Race: Bull Terrier Mix, Estimated Date of Birth: 8/21/18, Gender: Female, Weight: 6 to 8 pounds, Health: Updated Vaccination and Preventive Information, Rescued from: South Carolina. “

In comparison, pronouns and narrative words such as “he”, “she” and “extreme” indicate a more narrative style.

An example of an ad that used a lot of words to tell stories read, “Look at the cuteness! This boy is adorable and he is full of love and is super playful. Make sure you have enough cat toys around because this boy loves his toys! Jack and his brothers are also super unique in that they have polydactyl on their front paws. “

Each ad received a rating from 0 to 100, with high ratings indicating that the style of the ad was more analytical and less like a story.

The successful ads were more specific and analytical in style than the unsuccessful ads.

Animal adoption isn’t the only setting in which such verbal patterns can be convincing. A study of HPV vaccination notices showed that parents and doctors found formal, fact-based messages to be more convincing than those that were less straightforward.

Related peer-to-peer credit studies also suggest that people are more likely to get money when their online ad is written specifically and analytically.

Facts & photos

A second key adoption indicator was the frequency of social words in the ad, e.g. B. “Buddy”, “Friend” or “Helper”.

The pet data showed that social words could be red flags for potential owners. Most adopters care about whether the pet is healthy and vaccinated, and they want to learn more about the adoption process.

Humanizing details – stating that the pet is a “treasure” and will be a lifelong “companion” – could indicate that the agency is hiding important health details about the pet.

The credit study also found that people were less likely to receive money from strangers if their ad had a high rate of social words and humanizing details.

Words weren’t the only main features of adoption ads. On average, adopted pet ads had more photos than non-adopted pets. Photos can help reduce uncertainty for owners whose introduction to a pet is online.

Change how people think about adoption

There is some evidence that language patterns can affect people’s thinking and feeling about the adoption process.

In one experiment, I had nearly 1,000 people from Amazon Mechanical Turk read an ad associated with adopted pets – analytical writing style with few social words – or non-adopted pets – less analytical writing style with more social words.

Those who read the analytical and less social ad were almost 6% more likely to say they would adopt the pet and 4.5% more likely to say they would visit the shelter than those who read the less analytical and more social ad would.

These are small effects, but they can have big effects as millions of pets need homes.

Writing style is important for pet adoption. When agencies consider how their ads will be communicated, pets may have a better chance of adoption.

This article is republished by The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.



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