Advantage Search for America's Best Singing Pet
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Holmes Report
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Advantage Search for America's Best Singing Pet

The Search is designed to leverage the human-animal bond, remind pet owners their veterinarian is the expert on flea control and drive traffic to clinics where Advantage (imidacloprid) Topical Solution is sold.

Paul Holmes

 

Bayer Corporation’s Advantage Search for North America’s Best Singing Pet launched in 1997 in response to veterinarians taking over the over-the-counter pet health product market. The Search is designed to leverage the human-animal bond, remind pet owners their veterinarian is the expert on flea control and drive traffic to clinics where Advantage (imidacloprid) Topical Solution is sold. It continued into 2000 due to increased popularity and enthusiasm. It was the first mobile tour ever instituted in the pet health pharmaceutical field and has gained much notoriety since its inception by media and consumers alike. The contest also is highly favored by the animal health care industry’s key audience, veterinarians, for its creativity and distinctiveness it brings to the field. These key markets ensured the Advantage Search for North America’s Best Singing Pet presence in 2000. The program year kicked off with a red carpet affair everyone would speak of, maintained momentum throughout flea season (adding an extra tour stop) and ended the search with the most vigor the program has seen.

SITUATION

Over-the-counter outlets had always dominated the animal health care industry as the primary purchase destination for flea control products. In 1997, veterinary clinics overtook the market and have been working to maintain their position as “ethical” flea control providers. Through the years, over-the-counter (OTC) brands have been a competitor as pet owners continue to spend a steadily increasing amount of their income on their pets, which are considered part of the family. Consumers spent more than $1 billion on flea control alone in 1997*, a large part of the pet pharmaceutical industry that has now grown to almost $3 billion in combined annual sales. ** Competition keeps escalating with at least five ethical flea control products, one which was introduced in fall 1999, and dozens of OTC look-alikes, as well as shampoos, dips and sprays on the market since 1998. Each one is trying to capture the edge on integrated marketing to ultimately win the pet owners’ trust and loyalty. With competitors’ market tours and a crowded market place, it was imperative Advantage remained at the forefront of veterinarians’ and consumers’ minds throughout the year. 

* Insurance Journal of Texas, July 6, 1998
** Newsweek, October 11, 1999

RESEARCH

Market research indicated that Advantage is one of the industry leaders among ethical flea control products with U.S. sales in 1999 exceeding $175 million.* Additional research shows the market for ethical flea control products has grown steadily since veterinarians overtook the OTC outlets as the number one point of purchase in 1997. Sales in 1999 alone were estimated to increase by approximately five percent.** Furthermore, feedback from the media, consumers and veterinarians all indicated a high level of interest in the Singing Pets program.

An independent study by Brakke Consulting, Inc. shows 1999 ethical flea control sales were projected to reach $440 million.

Local pawditions: Research focused on cities meeting a “cross-section” of high media visibility and a high flea-index by comparing the top ADI television markets and the high flea-index markets. In addition, sales representatives offered information about their markets and how their customers would respond to a “singing pet” event.

Consumer letters/e-mails helped to determine continued acceptance of the “singing pets” concept, with numerous requests and inquiries from pet owners regarding entry in 2000’s contest.  

1999 media results were positive and encouraging, with more than 223 million media impressions.

Competitive analysis and information gathered from trade conventions found that other ethical flea control companies were beginning or planning to conduct consumer market tours.

*Veterinary Forum, June 1999
**Veterinary Practice Staff, January 1999

PLANNING AND OBJECTIVES

The program goal was to maintain Advantage’s position as one of the top products in the ethical flea control market and increase levels of product awareness. The contest would focus on cities with a high flea-index that showed a lacking in Advantage sales and where media visibility was high. Using the findings from our research, we sought the appropriate markets to hold pawditions and tailored our local media relations to meet the needs of those particular cities. The following were the objectives:

  • Help Bayer reach sales goals and boost sales in low sales markets 
  • Increase the percentage of national television and radio media exposure by 25% from the 1999 program 
  • Reinforce Advantage’s positioning with consumers and veterinarians as the most effective flea control product 
  • Generate 195 million media impressions, an increase of 10% over last year’s program 
  • Reach 10,000 consumers directly 
  • Differentiate Advantage from the other ethical flea control products  
  • Encourage pet owners to ask their veterinarian for Advantage

STRATEGY

The strategy for the Advantage Search for North America’s Best Singing Pet is to differentiate Advantage from its competitors and keep it top of mind amongst consumers (primarily female pet owners, 25-54). This is done by conducting a nationwide looking for “cats and dogs singing the praises of being flea-free with Advantage.” It targets veterinarians as the experts in flea control and involves consumers directly by participating with a local pet-charitable organization. The Advantage name and key messages are broadcast to consumers and veterinarians nationwide in high flea index markets (with many months of warm, humid weather) during flea season (February – September).

EXECUTION

Kickoff: The Advantage Search for North America’s Best Singing Pet® kicked off Grammy-style the week of the Grammy Awards telecast in Los Angeles – music capital of the world. The pet gala mimicked the largest event in the music industry right down to the “walk of fame” and comedic host. A red carpet lined with stars showcasing the Advantage and Singing Pet logos featured past bow tie-clad finalists from the area, as well as emcee, Elayne Boosler. Also similar to the Grammy Awards, television cameras lined the carpet and cameras flashed as media captured those entering the contest. Coverage included CNN, Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, two placements on the AP Wire, NBC/Westwood One Network and USA Radio Network. Reaching an even more eclectic audience, VH-1 did a profile on the 1999 Advantage Best Singing Pet winner, a blues-singing Poodle, as the “Most Unusual Bluesman” for their show Rock and Roll Record Breakers. Web site materials went live just before the event, announcing the kick off and national tour, and included the official rules, entry form and sound clips from past winners.

Local Market Pawditions: Local pawditions traveled throughout flea season to 11 markets. In-studio interviews were scheduled on days prior to the event in markets housing finalists from the 1997-1999 contests.  This generated additional mentions of the Advantage product name and key messages, boosted attendance at the events and encouraged those unable to come to the pawdition to visit the Advantage Web site or their veterinarian to retrieve an entry form and send in a video audition of their pet.

Finale: Ten top dogs and one cat were flown to New York City to compete for the title of 2000 Advantage Best Singing Pet.  Celebrity veterinarian-to-the-stars, Dr. Jeffrey Werber, emceed the event while “Pongo” from Walt Disney’s 101 Dalmatians judged, making the finale more mediagenic. In-studio interviews were scheduled in each finalist’s respective hometown before their arrival in New York. To elevate exposure to an even greater level, the singing pets opened a New York Mayor Giuliani press conference and received “bones to the city,” resulting in a story in the New York Times and Daily News, as well as a photo in the New York Post. A Live! with Regis segment with the pets the day prior to the finale achieved even further exposure, and Regis continued to mention the Advantage contest on the show for the next two days. To maximize reach, an online “Pet’s Choice Award” allowed Web site visitors to vote for their favorite finalist, bringing thousands of people to the site. Other finale coverage included CNN, Fox and Friends, Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, All News Channel, an AP Wire photograph, The Chicago Sun Times, AP Radio and CNN Radio. The singing pets even reached an international audience with German Television Productions, RGR Germany (television), BBC Radio, Japanese Radio and New Zealand Radio.

RESULTS

Following the 11 market tour, sales figures reported a record "$6 million day," the best single day of sales for Advantage, as well as 14 straight days of $1 million sales.(according to Bayer Corporation’s National Sales Department).

More than 315 million media impressions were generated to date, heavily surpassing the 195 million benchmark.  The percentage of national media coverage increased by 58% from the 1999 program.

There was a 20% increase in the number of entries, and more than 10,000 people attended the auditions and finale—each receiving direct brand messaging.

There were more than 15,000 visits to the Singing Pets section of the Advantage Web site.  These visitors spent an average of almost four minutes on the site, learning about Advantage and listening to Singing Pets.

Advantage lead brand awareness among ethical flea control products with 72% of consumers.* (Market Facts, August 2000) 
*Ethical flea control market includes Frontline, Program, Revolution and Sentinel.  OTC products include Hartz and Sergeant’s. (see attached Results).

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