Clayton -- a rescue success!

Last month I highlighted the Austin Humane Society’s awesome ad campaign, which proved that going positive is not only uplifting but effective. As a result of the new campaign the AHS saw:

A 30% increase in monthly adoptions, year-over-year, as of May 2010.
A 100% increase in holiday donations, year-over-year.
Online donations that nearly doubled since the campaign launched.

The agency that created the campaign, Door Number 3, got a great deal of well-deserved recognition for it, including an analysis of its risk-taking nature in the New York Times. But I wanted to know more about some of the key behind-the-scenes players:  The animal actors.

So I asked the agency’s Executive Creative Director, Prentice Howe, about them.

Where did you get the cats and dogs featured in the posters and videos?

It was very important for us to use rescued pets. When we started out we figured we’d just go over to the AHS and pick up some great cats and dogs. Then we started thinking about the lights and the crowds and the repetition required to get the shots right… and realized the animals weren’t going to acclimate to that setting. We decided we’d better come up with a Plan B.

So we didn’t go exclusively to the AHS, but used a mixture including several pets that had already been adopted and a great group out of Dallas called Agent Beast. They offer professional pet talent that came from shelters but are now in homes and feel comfortable being in front of the camera. One of these is Pablo, the dog that is holding the paint brush in the Tricks video; he plays Cyan [EJ: don’t you love that the dogs have screen names?].  He was formerly a shelter dog, but that’s the kind of dog “acting” you just can’t get from a pet straight out of the cage.

"Dylan," Cyan's foil, being green screened

Were there any specific things you were you looking for in your actors?

Kitty wrangling in action

We tried to get a really good representation of the types of pets that are frequently seen in the shelter. We talked to the AHS about what they wanted to feature and one of the things was pit bull mixes. We were trying to break the stereotype about pit mixes and also help with adoptions because they really have a lot of them there.

The shelter asked us to focus on certain things that were important to them, trigger points, including special needs dogs, so that was the dog with the cone (see Cone Rap). There was also Doh’nation, the one with the cat trailing toilet paper, which referred to the AHS’s need for kitty litter. That’s the type of thing that people don’t necessarily think about, things that are important to keep operations going on a daily basis.

Did you have a trainer there?

Yes, we had a pet wrangler from Agent Beast on set and she was really helpful.

Jasper,  a shelter cat from the AHS (see pink poster, below), did great but several of the others ran off. Some animals get stage fright. We had a lot of pets — about 10 dogs and 10 cats of different looks and ages, including four puppies — to made sure we covered our bases, so there was always someone around to perform.

There’s definitely an art to it, and there were still a lot more bad shots than there were good ones.

 Were there any adoption success stories?

Jasper -- consorting with a Chihuahua?

Clayton, the big fluffy grey dog against the yellow background in one of the print ad posters (pictured  above) found a home with an Austin producer. Jasper the cat also found a home and is now best friends with a Chihuahua. They curl up every night together.

These are all success stories and while that wasn’t an articulated goal, the energy comes through I think, and finding pets that were in happy homes really set the tone for the campaign.

4 thoughts on “Behind Door Number 3: A Winning Shelter Campaign”

  1. Thanks for the follow up piece with the story behind the story. That was great!

    Everything I read says that the most effective campaigns are those presented with real emotion. It’s nice to know the emotion doesn’t always have to be sadness.

    1. Glad you enjoyed it. Frankie was not very co-operative when it came to shooting my book trailer, so I was particularly curious to see find out how the professionals — pets, not videographers — do it.

  2. Wow, that was so wonderful. What conscientious and talented people! And I’m not talking only about Door Number 3…I’m talking about you too.

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