Big brands are known to be dogged in their pursuit of publicity.

The Women's Institute stripped off to sell calendars. Red Bull even dropped daredevil Felix Baumgartner from space.

Now, though, some companies are quite literally giving consumers paws for thought - by employing dogs and cats to promote their brands, reports the Daily Mail.

Pooches across the UK are being paid up to Β£100 an hour to star in ad campaigns, feature in pop videos and model in photoshoots for everything from Vogue to High Street fashion chains.

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The big draw for advertisers is that the chosen animals already have thousands of followers, with high-profile social media pages set up by their canny owners.

As bizarre as it might seem, some are already considered extremely influential.

It means, of course, that many must follow strict organic meat diets with strenuous daily walks to maintain fitness and looks.

But while it might sound barking, it is in fact a highly lucrative business, with animals earning thousands a year for their owners.

Social media has transformed advertising.

While celebrities can still earn millions to front campaigns, more subtle forms of promotion are now widespread throughout the internet.

Young 'vloggers' such as Zoella act as ambassadors for brands and mention them in posts, while Instagram and Twitter give advertisers access to 'influencers' who can promote products instantly to followers.

The trend has led to the emergence of casting agencies for the most ambitious pets and owners.

Melody Lewis, who set up PetLondon Models, said: "It's amazing how quickly these animals take off."

The key, says Layla Flaherty, who runs pet casting agency Urban Paws, is that animals are generally more popular than human celebrities.

"You'd be hard pushed to find an advert with a cute chihuahua or kitten annoying," she said.

Meet the pups bringing in the big bucks...

β€’ Dolly Pawton

Instagram followers: 71,000
Can earn: Β£10,000 ($19,000) a year

Shoutout to that one ex who thought you'd never get over them, but here you are glowing like a f*cking angel πŸ˜‡πŸ˜‰πŸ’― #GlowUp #AllMySingleLadies

A post shared by α—ͺOα’ͺα’ͺY α‘­α—©α—―TOα‘Žβ„’ (@dolly_pawton) on

Described as the fashionista of Instagram, two-year-old chihuahua Dolly is also an LGBT activist, with fans on both sides of the Atlantic.

She is signed to a top US agency and has worked with Selfridges, Benefit Cosmetics, Sudio Headphones and Daniel Wellington watches, with features in People magazine and Vogue.

She will even have her own float at the gay street festival London Pride this year.

Dolly is owned by London fashion stylist Lucy London, 39, and writer Stella Clements, 34, who left her job to run Dolly's Instagram feed when it took off 18 months ago.

Stella said: "Dolly has so much personality and likes to push boundaries. She loves dressing up and posing. She's outspoken and fun, and helps convey the LGBT message."

β€’ Lil Belle and King

Instagram followers: 600
Can earn: Β£75 ($140) a day

King the bulldog in the DJ Fresh vs Diplo music video. Photo / YouTube, Vevo
King the bulldog in the DJ Fresh vs Diplo music video. Photo / YouTube, Vevo

Lil Belle and her fellow bulldogs have helped earn owner Karen Chamberlain about Β£10,000 a year.

As well as appearing on Britain's Got Talent, Come Dine With Me and Celebrity Big Brother, they've helped campaigns for SunLife and estate agents Purple Bricks.

King the Bulldog also featured in the music video for Bang Bang by DJ Fresh and Diplo.

Mrs Chamberlain, 49, from Dover, said: "I spoil the dogs so much that it costs me far more than they earn. They love being on TV and the attention."

β€’ Marcel

Instagram followers: 49,000
Can earn: Β£35,000 ($66,000) a year

It's Sunday, therefore I'm 100% motivated to do nothing today 😴 #LeLazy #SundayMood #PyjamasAllDay (πŸ‘˜ by @dogrobesuk ) #Ad

A post shared by α΄α΄€Κ€α΄„α΄‡ΚŸ "ΚŸα΄‡ ᴄᴏʀɒΙͺ" (@lecorgi) on

Welsh corgi Marcel is so well-bred, he once appeared in the the Queen's Christmas broadcast and has his own stationery range.

He's modelled with iLife, Ray-Ban and P&O Ferries.

He lives in London with Auriele Four, 37, and husband Pierre, 37.

Auriele said: "I think his success is down to him being like a normal dog... getting covered in mud."

β€’ Barry

Instagram followers: 37,000
Can earn: Β£250 ($469) a day

A relative newcomer, pug Barry has already starred in a Virgin Media campaign.

His fame began when owner Nicole Barr, 29, from Coventry, realised pictures of her dog were proving more popular than her own selfies.

"I'd put a photo of me on and no one would bother, but if it was Barry, everyone liked it," she said.

"So I decided to make the page his instead. Then a friend suggested I sign him with a model agency. He is so well behaved and calm."

β€’ Dobby

Instagram followers: 73,000
Can earn: Β£200 ($375) per shoot

Dachshund Dobby found instant social media fame when a picture of him as a puppy, wearing a bow on his head, went viral.

He was soon fielding requests from brands like online retailer BooHoo. Owner Frances Bott, 25, an admin worker from the West Midlands, said: "It just went crazy."

"We set up his Instagram so we could show off his puppy photos, then the next thing he had an agent!"

Dobby, who has a devoted following on Instagram, has modelled for the Next catalogue and is the face of Doxie watches.

β€’ Suki

Instagram followers: 27,000
Can earn: Β£100 ($188) an hour

Suki is a fashionista pug and lifestyle blogger - according to her London owners Bradley Stephens and Micky Johnson.

She critiques her owner's outfits in a satirical blog. Her style, always with her tongue out, has proved popular with brands such as ASOS, Jimmy Choo, Urban Outfitters, Next, Kurt Geiger and Topman.

PR worker Bradley, 23, explained: "We are sent clothes for us to wear and the captions are Suki talking.

"It means she's doing something different to the many other dog influencers out there."

β€’ Lilliput

Instagram followers: 86,000
Can earn: Β£100 ($188) an hour

The most-followed Maltese dog in the world was 'discovered' at a dog show seven years ago - where she was taking part in a fish treat-eating competition.

It was, owner Marianne Di Fiouw explains, her "Kate Moss moment".

Now Lilliput, from London, travels the world and has worked with - appropriately - the Pet Shop Boys, Good Housekeeping, River Island and Metro Bank.

Former finance worker Marianne, 35, said: "She's so self-deprecating and cute and that's part of her charm."

And the hot new CATwalk star: Starina

Proving it's not just about canines, Starina is one of Britain's top cat models.

Her striking eyes - one green and one blue - have attracted Stella McCartney, Thomas Cook Airlines, Hendrick's Gin and Asos.

London owner Sasza Esperanza, 34, said: "She's with me in my handbag everywhere I go... nothing fazes her."