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Blue Light Special on Featured Dogs

SPCA of Wake County

A $10,000 winner in the 2008 Maddie’s Fund Marketing Competition; submitted by Hope Hancock, Executive Director, SPCA of Wake County, Raleigh, N.C.


BLUE LIGHT SPECIAL-TARGETED PETS
Through the Blue Light Special on Featured Dogs, the SPCA of Wake County (SPCA) is able to highlight dogs with darker and/or indiscreet-colored coats. This campaign focuses attention on specific dogs that are easily overlooked due to the similarity of coat color. This allows adopters to see the uniqueness of each dogs character as opposed to the color of their coat.

OUR APPROACH
The SPCA approaches hard to place darker-coated dogs by shining the spotlight on them during the Blue Light Special on Featured Dogs. This approach allows the SPCA to draw attention to these great dogs by highlighting them through a multi-faceted marketing campaign.

TACTICS
1) The adoption fee for all Blue Light Special dogs was reduced from $115.00 to $99.95. This small deduction may appear as a great deal to potential adopters. The $99.95 cost sounds similar to a price tag found in a retail store.

2) The SPCA of Wake County started at the ground level when marketing this campaign. To draw immediate, in-house attention to the darker-colored dogs, the SPCA placed a large eye-catching display near the entrance of the dog area of the shelter. The sandwich board display had bright, colored background paper with photos of all the dogs included in the special. The dogs names were printed on bright blue paper next to their photo. The photos captured the dogs unique characteristics and showed their individual personalities. Next to each dogs bedroom profile was a large, blue paper cutout of a light bulb. This indicated that the dog was included in the Blue Light Special.

3) The SPCA created a webpage with a dog, graphically altered to appear blue, as the link off the SPCAs homepage. Each dog had high-quality and detailed photos taken of them. Next to each photo was a paragraph written in first-person by the dog, describing their individual personality. A link was attached to each dogs photo leading to its adoption profile. The SPCA went a step further while marketing the Blue Light Special dogs online. The SPCA created a YouTube site and filmed each of the featured dogs. The films highlighted each dogs individual personality and showed what tricks they already knew. The videos were then uploaded to YouTube and linked directly to the photos on the SPCAs Blue Light Special Web pages.

4) To gain media attention, the SPCA sent out a press release explaining the idea behind the Blue Light Special on Featured Dogs. In response the SPCA was featured on all four of Raleighs evening news channels. The SPCA also acquired pro-bono airtime on the local news-talk radio. The radio time drew attention to all the dogs and encouraged people to visit the Web site and view the YouTube videos online.

5) The SPCA also placed a brightly-colored, Blue Light Special advertisement in Raleighs main newspaper. The SPCA made sure to mention everything that the adoption fee includes and the actual retail value of the deal.

RESULTS
The Blue Light Special ran from August 1, 2008, to August 20, 2008. The SPCA adopted out a total of 33 dogs that qualified for the Blue Light Special. There was a total of 42 dogs that were included in the special, giving the Blue Light Special an adoption percentage of 79%. This averages an adoption rate of 1.65 Blue Light Special dogs adopted each day.

CONTROVERSY AVOIDED
The adoption promotion was originally named Black Dog, Blue Light Special because of the number of black-coated dogs that were still available for adoption. After an ad ran in the local newspaper, representatives from the Nation of Islam called the SPCA and threatened to picket the animal shelter if the ad ran again. They felt the use of the term black dog was derogatory. The SPCA quickly agreed not to run the ad again and even removed the black dog wording from the rest of the collateral material and the name of the promotion. From the beginning of the promotion, the SPCA had been extremely sensitive to avoiding any racially-sensitive words such prejudice or discriminate. By implying the black dogs are experiencing discrimination (a word entrenched in racial overtones) simply because of the color of their fur and the dogs with light coats are receiving better treatment (adopted more quickly) simply because of the color of their fur, it opened a mine field of potential misinterpretation. Plus, there was no quantitative evidence that fur color was a motivating factor in the number of black-coated dogs still available for adoption. It was equally important to avoid any of the positive words and slogans created by the movements of African-American identity and African-American pride. By respecting and being sensitive to this type of complaint the SPCA was able to leave the focus of the promotion on the animals and demonstrate responsiveness to people in the community as well as the animals.

Simple digital photo editing by SPCA staff turned one of the dogs [in the ads] from black to bright blue. Original photograph and modification were both created in-house by SPCA staff. Several SPCA supporters contacted us to say they did not approve of spray painting dogs blue. SPCA staff had anticipated (and secretly hoped) there might be a few of these calls and were delighted to explain to callers that is was done digitally. This feedback from the public supported the idea that the image was provocative and eye-catching.

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