Branded content is commonplace in New Zealand and adheres to both the Broadcasting Act and the Advertising Standard Authority’s Codes of Compliance. Both bodies monitor adherence to these standards by individual broadcasters and standards vary by advertiser category and audience.
In New Zealand, shelter dogs are seen as second rate. Most traditional adoption advertising reinforces this perception by painting the dogs as victims. This makes shelter charity SPCA’s job of finding homes for these animals a real challenge.
SPCA needed to change this perception. MINI, as a long standing, but little known, sponsor wanted to help and raise awareness of their association in the process.
Our strategy was to prove how smart shelter dogs really are, by teaching three SPCA dogs to do something a dog had never done before. Drive a MINI.
We then used the incredible content this project generated to capture the nation’s imagination, gradually releasing more video footage as engagement increased to prove that a shelter dog really could drive a MINI.
We first sparked interest by releasing a sample of training footage through NZ’s most credible news and current affairs TV show. People could then go to dedicated Youtube and Facebook platforms to follow the training through a series of videos we released chronologically:
1) First the dogs’ backstories and the selection process
2) Then, how the MINI was modified for a dog to drive it
3) Basic indoor training, first with individual controls and then inside a dummy MINI rig
4) Finally the progression into the MINI, from initial test drives in fields through to driving around a race track
5) A final driving display broadcast live on national TV
By releasing content chronologically, we took the nation on the dogs’ journey with them. Each dog became a character people could emotionally invest in, creating a compelling content narrative that engaged the nation. MINI branding was subtle but constant – we didn’t want to detract from the cause, but we also wanted to make sure people knew the MINI brand was behind the project.
We created intrigue by teasing the idea “can you teach a dog to drive?” on NZ’s most popular current affairs show, and told viewers to tune-in one week later.
PR and social media to build anticipation for the live drive. Gradually releasing over 800 pieces of content, we kept the story on every newsfeed and news desk. Paid media reminded people to tune-in.
One week later, we staged a world-first display of shelter dogs driving LIVE. Paid ads reinforced the message: “dogs this smart deserve a home, adopt a smart dog today”, video seeding ensured as many viewers as possible.
We captured the imagination of New Zealand, and the world.
In just one week driving dogs dominated social and news media:
- PR reached over 200 million people in 70 countries; $15m in exposure
- 100 million+ reached through Twitter
- 10 million Youtube views
- Video content trending everywhere from Twitter, Huffington Post to the BBC – even trumping the royal baby news.
49% more people watched the live drive TV show versus the programme’s usual audience, making it their most popular story ever.
The campaign changed people’s perceptions of shelter dogs, resulting in a 590% increase in adoption interest in New Zealand, and every SPCA dog being adopted. Increases in adoption interest were also recorded across the globe including the US and UK.