Case study: the pet food start-up that made a custom poster for every dog in NYC

There are just fewer than 101,000 dogs in New York City, and in April of this year, Puppo made a personalised poster – including name and bespoke dietary advice – for every single good boy and girl in the city. Here’s why, and how.

This article originally appeared in The Nurture IssueMarketing‘s current print issue.

Campaign

Every dog has its ad

Client

Mars Puppo

Agency

Colenso BBDO

Background

New York City thrives on the uniqueness of its inhabitants, and we’re not just talking people. More than 100,000 dogs reside in The Big Apple, and each of them is pretty unique, too. Puppo, a New York-based pet nutrition company, created a product that caters to every dog’s uniqueness by personalising nutrition plans for each dog’s individual dietary requirements. This refreshing take on pet nutrition got us thinking:

If a dog food company can create a product that’s tailored for every dog, why shouldn’t its advertising be equally unique?

To reflect Puppo’s personalisation in our advertising and to introduce the brand to New York City, we created a unique ad for every registered dog in the city. All 100,729 of them. 

Dog food products are generally categorised by size, either made for small, medium or large breeds, but this isn’t necessarily what’s best for them and may not be answering any health concerns. We were tasked with introducing Puppo to NYC, to break through the FMCG mass-market, and to differentiate the start-up from other pet food companies.

Objectives

Puppo 1

In order to raise awareness of the unique functional product benefits that Puppo provides, we wanted to tell a unique story to dog owners who were already buying quality nutritional food and who had an instinctive feeling of responsibility towards their dog’s health.

We aimed to increase the share of voice in an incredibly competitive market by demonstrating that each dog requires a unique dietary plan, and in turn, direct owners to sign up for a Puppo subscription nutrition plan for their dog. We also wanted to raise Puppo’s profile in the offline world and integrate it with Puppo’s rising online presence and organic conversations.

Strategy

Puppo 5

Even though it’s backed by Mars Petcare, Puppo is still a start-up company and a new challenger to the market. It didn’t have the resources for large scale advertising. Fortunately, a smaller, highly targeted campaign was the best solution to tell the story of Puppo’s personalised product and service.

Pet nutrition is an established and very competitive category and its brands typically employ mass-marketing tactics. We saw an opportunity to break through the noise of big competitors by playing off the uniqueness of Puppo’s direct-to-consumer business model. We strayed from the typical one-ad-for-100,000 consumers format, instead creating one ad for each dog that was registered in New York City. This allowed us to connect with owners in a more meaningful way, and help them find the right diet for their dog. 

‘Every Dog Has Its Ad’ was a data-driven tech campaign at its core. This was also aligned with Puppo’s use of data – Puppo gathers information from each customer in order to create a bespoke meal for each pet.

We used three key data sources: 

  1. Dog registration information: dog owners residing in NYC are required by law to license their dogs and the data was publicly available from the DOHMH Dog Licensing System within the Department of Mental Health and Hygiene, under The Freedom of Information Law.
  2. Breed, health issue and health benefit information.
  3. NYC zip code boundaries. Finally, we used Google Maps for zip code definitions and boundaries.

Execution

In order to create a unique ad for each of the 100,729 dogs registered in New York City, we created a world-first, bespoke piece of technology that algorithmically created personalised ad placements. It utilised data from the NYC Dog Licensing Dataset and linked each dog to a unique Puppo health benefit. It then inputted all of this data into a sophisticated modular copy and art direction system to generate thousands of combinations of iconography, colours and fonts alongside the dog’s name, breed and health benefit.

To ensure dog owners saw their dog’s individual ad, we deployed posters and digital OOH that targeted owners by zip codes within dog-walking distance to where they live. Placements were supported by geo-targeted digital displays to ensure we achieved the reach and scale needed for every NYC dog parent to see their advert.

The way we implemented this data allowed us to begin a one-on-one conversation with dog owners, driving them to start a shopping experience tailored to their dog via a unique QR code from their poster or click through from their digital display.

Results

New Yorkers responded well to the ambitious idea of 100,729 unique ads for dogs, and in turn sought out to order their dog their very own personalised meal plan. The Puppo website saw a 68% spike in new users in just one week. From those, 28% of new users came directly from our posters. In addition, there was a 144% increase in organic web searches for Puppo.

We set out to create a data-driven tech campaign in order to individually address each dog in New York. We designed ‘Every Dog Has Its Ad’ to break through the traditional format of one-ad-for-100,000 consumers, and instead created an ad for every individual dog.

Use of data allowed us to design this audience personalisation. By personalising our advertising, we were able to connect with our audience on a one-to-one level, and individualising the consumer experience evoked a positive response.

Personalisation further defined Puppo’s functional product benefits, but moreover, it beautifully illustrated the brand’s genuine belief that every dog is unique and deserves to be treated as such.

At a time when ecommerce businesses are struggling to define their offline presence, Puppo’s campaign demonstrates the flexibility that start-up companies and direct-to-consumer brands must possess in order to thrive, particularly as a new challenger to the market.

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