Dogs are supposed to be man’s best friend. But if the New Zealand media was anything to go by, NZ dogs were far from friendly. Reporting of dog attacks had been on the rise, with children often the victims. This negative publicity wasn’t helping the dog adoption efforts of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), with interest in adoptions flat. Approaching the Christmas holiday season, a peak time for even more dogs to be abandoned, the SPCA needed help.
As a long standing, but little known, supporter of the SPCA, MINI wanted to help make a difference and raise its own brand profile in the process. But where to start? To make a difference MINI first needed to understand the barriers the SPCA brand faced. SPCA research confirmed they were facing a perception problem: the single biggest barrier to adoptions was the perception that dogs from shelters had behavioural problems. People think because a dog’s in a shelter, it must be damaged goods.
FCB Media was tasked with creating a campaign that would benefit both parties –specifically:
1. Increase the number of people with a positive perception of shelter dog behaviour
2. Increase awareness of MINI’s association with the SPCA by 10%
3. Leverage the campaign to double engagement with MINI brand on Facebook (from 5% to 10%)
The insight was simple: these weren’t just dogs being asked to adopt - they were family members, and no one wants a new family member with behavioural problems. With media coverage of bad dog behaviour up nearly 50% over the last two years, it’s no wonder people were nervous.
This meant that MINI needed to convince people beyond all shadow of a doubt that shelter dogs don’t have behavioural issues and are just as trainable and intelligent as regular dogs. So FCB Media's strategy was to deliver an extreme, real life, display of SPCA’s dogs’ intelligence and trainability to prove they didn’t have behavioural issues. But how to do this in a way that also delivered MINI’s objectives?
The idea: Prove that SPCA dogs are smart by teaching them to drive a MINI – yes, starting the engine, releasing the brake, engaging the gear, hitting the accelerator, steering the wheels and then stopping the car again!
Sound unbelievable? The agency thought people would think the same. Dogs appear to drive cars in adverts and movies all the time so people would be naturally cynical if they just made some ads featuring driving dogs. To change perceptions they needed people tobelievewhat they were seeing. This meant that how the idea was delivered was just as important as the idea itself.
So the comms strategy was to use media to make people believe the unbelievable and to do this by staging one incredible, real life media event, told by the nation’s most credible influencer. The agency would then leverage this “can’t believe my eyes” moment, scooping people up in the anticipation beforehand and then making the event famous to change people’s perceptions.
First, the dogs. FCB Media's approached New Zealand’s #1 animal trainer and selected three SPCA shelter dogs: Monty, Porter and Ginny to undergo a world-first 8 week “doggy driving” training course. Then, the car. Hundreds of unique modifications were made to a MINI, incorporating feedback from training daily. Finally, the event itself. The agency convinced NZ’s leading news and current affairs TV show,Campbell Live, to act as hosts. First, they revealed the idea, showing training footage and instructing viewers to tune-in one week later to see the event: A world-first demonstration of shelter dogs driving a mini, broadcast live on national primetime TV!
Once this teaser show had aired, the agency used social media and PR to build anticipation and hype for the event. This targeted local and global news and social media influencers, knowing that any global coverage or endorsement would fuel more hype in New Zealand.
So people could invest in the event’s outcome, FCB Media's promoted and seeded over 800 pieces of content across 11 different digital and social platforms in just one week, wanting the nation engaged and excited! As the event neared, press, radio, TV and digital reminded people to tune-in.
Then on December 10, MINI staged SPCA Dogs actually driving on national TV.
Once the event was over, the content was seeded via video and social outreach ensured as many people as possible had the chance to see it for themselves.
In just seven days, the event was not just famous, but world famous.
- Exposed to over one billion people worldwide
- News media coverage in over 70 countries
- Over 100 million reached on Twitter
- Over 10million YouTube views
- Trending everywhere from Twitter to Huffington Post to the BBC (where it was more popular than the royal baby news!)
- Support ranging from dog guru Cesar Milan to Snoop Dogg
- The dogs even got a segment on Letterman!
Audience figures lifted a massive 50% for the live drive episode. FCB Media smashed its objectives:
1. Changed perceptions by making people believe the unbelievable:
- People twice as likely to have overcome their perception barrier once they had seen the dogs driving
- 113% increase in number of people with a positive perception of shelter dog behaviour
2. Increased awareness of MINI’s association with SPCA:
- 40% increase (target 10%)
3. Beat Facebook engagement target for MINI brand by 1,700%
- Engagement rose from 5% to 27%