Dogged ambition: What makes Pedigree's ad campaign one the best

Pedigree Selfie STIX campaign is about growing the saturated category, creating a brand new product, a new distribution channel, retaining the cultural connect, says Devanathan
Group Executive Officer of Dentsu Branded Agencies, Narayan Devanathanm explains why Pedigree's ad campaigns are his favourites, in an interview with Business Standard. Edited excerpts: 

Which is your favourite campaign and why?

Let me ask you a question before I get into it. Can you name a dog food brand other than Pedigree? Chances are that whether you’re a dog owner/lover or not, whichever part of the world you’re in, you’d either have heard of Pedigree or wouldn’t be able to recall any other brand. Which means that Pedigree has a big problem on its hand. Everybody knows it and those who have dogs buy it. So what else is a brand supposed to do? What they’ve been doing in the recent past — and not once but twice — in the context of being synonymous with the category and hitting close to saturation in the organised pet food sector (especially in developed markets) makes their recent campaigns my favourites. The two that especially stand out are the ones that originated from Colenso BBDO out of New Zealand — the Pedigree Child Replacement Programme and Pedigree Selfie STIX. 

On what parameter did you base your decision?

Dog owners are already buying all the Pedigree their pets need. So how do you grow your business? By bringing in new people into the category, of course. But pet adoption drives and collaborations with pet shelters and humane society type of organisations have existed forever. How do you bring freshness into the category, into getting people who have never had pets to think about and get a dog? And how do you do it in a uniquely Kiwi way (and yet in a way that will resonate across the pond in Australia and the rest of the world too)? With the Pedigree Child Replacement Programme, of course. What a brilliant way to take a business challenge, turn it into an opportunity and peg it squarely on an amazing but really commonplace cultural insight (parents becoming empty nesters when their kids turn 18). And doing all of it without being apologetic about using really good old-fashioned advertising to do it.

What do you think was the key idea the campaign was trying to drive home?

By itself, the campaign was amazing. It resulted in a 16 per cent growth in the business in a market that was growing at 1 per cent. But how do you go one up on all those parameters — overcome market challenges, being culturally relevant, creating business growth — yet again?

Enter the Pedigree Selfie STIX campaign. It’s about growing the saturated category, creating a brand new product, a new distribution channel, retaining the cultural connect, using the latest new-fangled AI and technology, integrating e-commerce into the whole thing, while tapping into the oldest trick in human psychology — appeal to people’s narcissism. Phew! Outside of the camera and allied components categories and the phone category itself, no other business (especially unconnected to these categories) ever leveraged the selfie-mania unleashed by the front-facing phone camera. Until Pedigree Selfie STIX, that is. Now try and accuse an ad agency of not being able to go beyond advertising. And if someone does, this case study is a point. The results? 24 per cent increase in sales.

Narayan Devanathan
Do you remember the campaign winning any advertising awards? Do you think these awards serve any purpose?

It won multiple awards globally across the board, at the top forums. And yes, I’m a big believer in awards. They push the industry forward in much the same way the fashion industry pushes itself forward with the avant garde creations showcased on the ramp that not too many people wear in real life. But especially in cases like Pedigree, they even more importantly highlight the importance of creativity in business success, not just in being “purpose-driven” or doing well by doing good or something like that.

Sometimes because of the emotional element in a campaign, there is greater recall for the story than the product or service advertised. Do you think this campaign runs the risk of falling in that trap?

Without an emotional connect, I doubt any campaign is worth its salt. And it would be delusional to think that any campaign—and I mean even the measliest sale promotion campaign or dealer panel-laden car ad—works purely on rationality. As the French say, le rationnel est l’alibi du desir— logic is the alibi for desire, for emotion. And while campaigns need to sometimes provide reasons to believe, the key is to first give them something to believe in.  

Did this campaign inspire any of your own work? What are your takeaways from the campaign?

Sometimes we forget that advertising is here to serve business—by making people interested in what the business has to offer to them. Instead, a lot of advertising tends to gravitate towards solving the world’s problems. All well and good. But Pedigree is a powerful reminder about the original duty and power of advertising—to sell, and to beautifully and persuasively sell.

What else could have been done to make the campaign better?

Are you kidding me? I wouldn’t change a thing. You don’t have to fix something that ain’t broken.

My take

Pedigree is a powerful reminder about the original duty and power of advertising — to sell, and to beautifully and persuasively sell

Brand: Pedigree

Year of launch: 2018

Agency: Colenso BBDO

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