How neuroscience helped The Shelter Pets Project improve its TV ads

Stephen Whiteside

Viral videos of cute cats and dogs are an online phenomenon, racking up millions of hits, "likes" and shares on social media platforms like Facebook, Vine and YouTube on a daily basis.

Offline, though, the story is often very different: approximately six million felines and canines are taken in by rescue centres and shelters across America each year, and over two million healthy or treatable animals are euthanized every 12 months as no one has given them a new home.

Seeking to redress this situation is The Shelter Pets Project, an initiative launched in 2009 by The Humane Society of the United States and Maddie's Fund – two leading animal welfare groups – and The Ad Council, a not-for-profit producing public-service advertising with the help of volunteer agencies, communications companies and research firms.