AVMA persuades Petco to adjust ads’ messaging

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A recent advertising campaign by Petco raised the hackles of veterinarians after it touted a 7-Point Pet Care Check by groomers. The AVMA, after hearing concerns from members, reached out to the company and since then has come to an agreement that Petco will clarify the message to promote veterinary care.

Petco 7-Point Pet Care Check ad

On May 17, the national pet retailer launched the campaign in support of its wellness and grooming offerings at local stores. The campaign includes a new television spot highlighting the company’s 7-Point Pet Care Check. In addition to “pet stylists,” or groomers, asking owners about their pet’s age, activity level, diet, any health concerns, current vaccinations, and any medications their pet may be on, “the 7-Point Pet Care Check is designed to assess the pet from nose to tail, making sure every pet appears healthy on the outside and also visually looking to identify any possible issues pet parents may need to address with a veterinarian,” according to a company press release. This involves groomers looking at the pet’s eyes, ears, nose, mouth and teeth, paw pads, skin and coat, and underside for odors, irritation, or other “warning signs” that may signal health issues.

Soon after the advertisements debuted online and on television, the American Association of Veterinary State Boards sent a message to its member boards via email to make them aware of the advertisement. James T. Penrod, executive director of the AAVSB, said the association has received several replies that state boards of veterinary medicine would be reviewing the advertisement at their next scheduled meeting.

In addition, the AVMA heard concerns from members about the ads, specifically that anything out of the ordinary discovered during a pet’s grooming visit should be assessed by a veterinarian and treated as necessary. AVMA staff and Petco leadership met May 26 to come to a better understanding about the company’s messaging.

“Petco has assured us that appropriate and timely referral for veterinary services is a key pillar of training for their grooming staff in implementing Petco’s new 7 Point Pet Care Check. Unfortunately, that message did not come through clearly in Petco’s advertising campaign. Petco and the AVMA agree that grooming visits are not a substitute for routine checkups and preventive care provided by veterinarians. Petco recognizes there is an opportunity to clarify the message and is working with the AVMA on how best to accomplish that,” according to a May 27 post on the AVMA@Work blog.

Already, Petco has adjusted information on its website and the campaign’s YouTube videos with the disclaimer “The 7-Point Pet Care Check is not a substitute for regular examinations and care from a licensed veterinarian.”

The AVMA was also told that the pet retailer will incorporate appropriate messaging for its television commercials, but because of complexities associated with that format, it may take longer to accomplish.

“In addition to addressing current concerns, Petco has expressed interest in working with the AVMA to collaboratively promote the importance of veterinary care, both therapeutic and preventive, to the pet service-consuming public. Accordingly, our conversation appears to have not only raised awareness and resulted in steps to address current concerns, but has opened the door to future opportunities to protect the good health of our veterinary patients,” the blog post reads.