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The Secret Life Of Pets

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Established animation franchises Ice Age and Finding Dory were launching new films in the summer of 2016. So it was the worst possible time to launch a new animation property.

Universal Pictures had to make its unknown title stand out, make The Secret Life Of Pets a must-see for all audiences and achieve a blockbuster scale Box Office.

Research showed that the core concept of seeing what pets do while humans are out, as well as the comedy of the characters, were the key factors likely to make consumers want to see the film. And in its top 12 territories, an average of 77% of those who expressed definite interest in seeing the title were pet owners. 

It was clear that connecting with consumers’ abiding love for pets would allow it to stand out from the competition.

MediaCom realised that pets have become part of the family and are an ever-growing industry with $98 billion spent globally each year on furry friends. Animal videos now receive more than 213m views on YouTube each month and the Top 100 most watched of these videos have generated more than 2.6bn views. Half of those watching own a pet and another 30% were previous owners, showing that they love other people’s pets as much as their own.

The agency needed to connect its animated pets with the pampered pooches living with its target audiences.


To keep it out of the dog house and reach Universal Pictures' ambitious Box Office targets the agency identified two key target audiences: Kids and Parents, to whom this film would most appeal, and a broader cinema-going population. A mammoth task given the competition it was facing. 

The strategy focused on extending to the audiences’ abiding love of pets on top of its base of building a strong core campaign reaching the family audience:

• It looked to utilise a targeting strategy to smartly reach audiences it knew were pet owners.

• Secondly, knowing that pet owners loved to talk about and share content of their pets, it would encourage them to do so in partnership with the title and raise awareness. Giving pet owners a platform to make their pet famous would in turn help us make the film famous. 

• Finally, using contextually relevant environments and experiences across channels would give the perfect chance to be tactical and align with content the agency knew this audience would be consuming.

This strategy would allow it to reach pet lovers in the lead up to release and give them opportunities to fully engage with the themes of the film, which it knew would drive consideration, intent and ultimately get bums on seats.


Universal Pictures dominated pet-themed environments but went much further...

To effectively reach pet owners, the agency put data at the core of the campaign. Working with partners such as Amazon, it targeted users who had bought pet food or accessories or had looked to purchase/adopt pets.

On social media it capitalised on audiences’ ‘pet-pride’, by looking to make people’s pets ambassadors for the movie. 

In Spain MediaCom executed a competition to find the most pet-friendly city. Users uploaded videos of their pets and the most liked/shared posts won local pre-release screenings.

In Australia, it conducted a nationwide search for the next Pet Superstar with the chance to have your pet immortalised in animation form and star in the sequel title. 

Experiential events captured audiences when out-and-about, from photo exhibitions of celebrity pets misbehaving in Ireland, to shopping-mall pop-ups across the UK where passers-by could identify which of the title’s pets they were most like. 

On TV it sponsored the most relevant animal-themed programming with bespoke creatives, from The Secret Life Of Kittens in UK, Gaticos y Perretes in Spain, and having the characters interact with the on-screen dogs in a popular Brazilian telenovela.

Centrally, the agency partnered with YouTube leveraging multi-market investment to secure a media first buying method, enabling it to be more precise and targeted than ever. In each market MediaCom cherry-picked the top animal themed channels on which the campaign ran exclusively. This not only minimised wastage but also built frequency among pet lovers.


Results for this campaign remain confidential at the client's request.

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