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Company: Companion Animal Placement
    View Company Scorecard / Contact Company
Brand: Companion Animal Placement
Ad Title: Unconditional
Business Category: Public Service Announcements
Media Outlets: Television
Country: United States
Region: North America, US Regional
Agency: Suburban Advertising
Year: 1998
Target: Mainstream


Insufficient Masculinity/Femininity

Problematic Language

Theme Breakdown

AdRespect Score: 
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To a quaint piano tune, an older man undresses after work as his dog sits with him patiently.

Down to his underwear, with no enthusiasm he flexes momentarily in front of the mirror, then walks over to the bureau and pulls out a black satin bra to put on.

Continuing to get dressed with little emotion, he adds lipstick, pumps, a wig and stuffing for his cleavage. In between, he notices his age by pulling up his sagging neck in the mirror, and finishes dressing.

The dog brings over a matching purse and gets petted by his owner.

The text then reads, "That's the great thing about pets. They really don't care."

Although this commercial won a Silver Clio Award, it isn't particularly friendly to transgendered people -- implying that if you're not a pet, you should care that a man puts on women's clothing.

While some suggest that the ad engenders sympathy for the transgendered, much can be surmised from the ad's tone. With the black and white film, joyless elder man and downbeat music, it comes off more depressing, rather than flattering.


J. Powell , Plainfield, NJ
Only my opinion, but come on, it's a funny ad that your staff is taking it way too seriously. It is actually stated how people really feel about how they are looked at. I agree it doesn't put a positive spin on cross dressing, but it certainly does not knock it.

Tim , Hickory (state unknown)
I really gotta disagree with you on this one. The message I receive is that perhaps we can learn something from the unconditional love of this man's pet. Wouldn't it be great if our human friends could be so non-judgemental and love us just as "unconditionally"? Much more positive, I believe, than you give it credit for.

Julie , London, Ontario, Canada
This ad touched me...I think it is a neutral portrayal of a cross-dresser and the unconditional love of the dog. You can put a negative spin on almost anything but I have to argue that this one doesn't merit it.

Mike , Los Angeles
I disagree, what this ad implies is . . . the nice thing about pets is they don't care . . .wouldn't it be nice if people didn't care either. It makes the viewer think about being judgemental.

Aoife , Dublin, Ireland
Being transgendered myself I disagree with your assessment of this ad. I think it is quite positive. If only people were as non-judgemental as pets.

Tanja Guven , Victoria, Canada
Are you sure "sympathy" is a good thing, as opposed to respect? Sympathy implies something bad has happened.

Rick , Harlingen, TX
Wow! this ad really moved me, it's very simple, sweet, and shows that animals love you unconditionally. I think that it's showing how animals are better companions than most people, and that they don't judge you for what or who you are. As for the transvestism, I think it's almost satirical how it shows the man going through his daily moves of changing into a woman and the dog loves him reguardless. It's extremely POSITIVE!

Margaret A. McGregor , Waterloo, Ontario
I can see why some would find this ad negative, since one could imply the ending statement that you are supposed to care if someone is "not normal." However, I tend to see this ad as a positive in that by using the dog as a symbol of unconditional love/support the advertiser is making us think of what the world would be like if society wasn't so hippity-dippity about crossdressing, transgendered people, gays, lesbains, and so on. You can see the ad as a negative or a positive. Since we all have differences on how this ad should be rated, I say let's claim it a neutral ad. That way everyone (well, almost everyone) would be happy. This is just my humble opinion so feel free to disagree with me.

Mark , Woodridge, NJ
The message is probably that we can learn from animals. Also, maybe the line "That's the great thing about pets. They really don't care." isn't saying we as humans should care, but merely pointing out the truth that some people do.

Allison , Tulsa, OK
I agree with Tim and J. Powell. The ad is trying to say that you should't care what cross dressers do like the dog doesn't care.

Jacob , Dallas, TX
Note the ad says "That's the [i]great[/i] thing" about the dog, which implies more that the dog's response of acceptance and love is the correct one. I think it is also a reference to the whole "getting dressed in front of your pets" phobia that many people have. The tone also seems more mundane than either "depressing" or "flattering," that the dressing is just part of a normal daily routine.

Andrea James , Los Angeles, CA
This is a brilliant ad and one of the most non-judgmental portrayals of crossdressers ever. It’s even dead on strategy. I don’t see how anyone could have a problem with this.

Eric Johnson , Seattle, WA
I've viewed this ad a number of times and have never once taken anything negative away from it. I honestly feel that Commercial Closet has over reacted in labeling this as a negative ad when in fact it's quite dignified. Let's all please stop waiting to be insulted, that's no way to live.

Jim , Seattle, Washington
I was moved to tears by this ad. However, it should have been placed in the positive category, as far as I'm concerned. Your pets will love you, no matter what! I identify as a gay male bear and have friends from all walks of life. In my belief, there's a great portion of this world that should take a page from Fido, and live life lovingly and unconditionally. The meek shall inherit the Earth. I hope that Fido is provided with opposable thumbs to take on the task.

Kris , Nashua, NH
I thought this ad was awesome. I never once saw it as negative. I believe this ad should be moved to the Positive or at least Neutral category.

Jim Adams , Seattle, Washington
As a gay male living on the west coast, and pet owner, I was truly moved by this ad. Even though I've never 'cross-dressed', the message is clear, that your pet's love for you is truly UNCONDITIONAL. The cat and the dog have never gotten upset seeing me leave the house in my leather chaps and boots before riding off.

Kristin , Olympia, WA
I think this ad is quite sweet, I agree with those who see this as positive or, at the very least, not negative. Unfortunately people do care and make negative assessments about cross-dressers. This ad seems to be implying that it's better to be non-judgmental.

Nurith Amitai , San Diego, CA
Like the previous commentators, I find this ad touching and inspiring, and completely positive, for the reasons mentioned (the tag line is much more likely to praise pets as an example of nonjudgmental behavior than to imply that anyone *should* care). What bugs me, though, are the reasons your site gives for why this ad is supposedly negative. Just because the man is getting on in age and acknowledging it, he is a "joyless elder man" and the ad is "depressing"? Aren't you just showing your own prejudices here? I found it especially nice that the ad dares to portray a person who is older and overweight with such empathy. While all transgenders and cross-dressers have to deal with society's prejudices, it's even harder if you don't happen to look like Ru Paul, which makes the pet's unconditional acceptance even more meaningful. It's wonderful to see an ad that doesn't just show people who look like models. (And once you come off the "old people are inherently negative and depressing" trip, you will notice that the music is quiet and calm but sweet, not downbeat.)

This reminds me of other ads where your site complained of gays being portrayed as "ugly" or "ridiculous" or "stereotypical" simply because the ad depicts a leatherman or a bear. LGBT people aren't all mainstream-pretty, mainstream-masculine gym bunnies. If you put aside your own prejudices and narrow ideas of what is "beautiful" and what is "ugly" or "depressing," it would set a great example for those whom you're trying to educate to be less prejudiced!

TexasToby , San Antonio, TX
I also don't agree with the interpretation of the man as "joyless." I often have the same expression when I am extremely happy. My friends often ask why I don't smile in my vacation photos, when I AM smiling.

RL , Leicestershire, UK
This advert shows that a previous customer of the service, who the audience as possible future customers are presumably meant to identify with, as being a cross-dressing man. The message is clearly 'the dog doesn't judge him, and won't judge you either' - in other words, putting him in the same group as the audience for them to identify with, rather than an outsider to be looked upon as alien.
He is not shown in the usual way - as a campy, extreme 'man in a frock' and a sexually predative threat towards straight men, with the audience meant to identify instead with this 'victim' - but as a normal man, going through a normal routine. His lack of extreme emotion heigtens this normalcy; I don't as a rule grin joyfully from ear to ear when I'm gettting changed after work, either. The calmly emotional (NOT downbeat) music seems specifically chosen to counter any comedy that might be inferred by the less-informed viewer, and the slogan at the end makes it clear that the dog's lack! of judgement is a good thing. It's difficult to see how this portrayal could be much more positive.
To interpret the final slogan as meaning others "should" judge him as wrong would make the message of the advert something like 'our previous customer was a deviant, and our dumb dog doesn't care. Immoral people, you can adopt too'. Not likely!
There is a different advert on similar lines, in the UK, showing amongst others an average-sized middle-aged woman who struggles and fails to fasten her jeans over her stomach. She looks over to her pet, who looks back at her with unconditional love, not caring that she falls short of society's irrational demands for thinness. Even coupled with the slogan from this advert, 'That's the great thing.. they really don't care', there's just no way that could be interpreted as saying women "should" be judged for being plump, merely an acknowledgement of the reality that they are, and the same applies here.



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