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Adoption campaign capitalizes on viral video trend

From Animal Sheltering magazine July/August 2014

Cat videos. You love ’em. We love ’em. Minneapolis, Minn.’s Walker Art Center even launched a hugely successful Internet Cat Video Film Festival. In the face of such a phenomenon, what’s a local shelter to do but use the trend as a springboard for an adorable adoption campaign?

“We really wanted to capitalize on the playful, joyful nature of our brand at Animal Humane Society (AHS) while at the same time leveraging the … concept of how fun cat videos are online,” says Susan Bruce, director of marketing for AHS. That plan paid off last summer when one of the ads in the Twin Cities organization’s social media-focused “Take Me Home” campaign went viral.

The campaign is comprised of two ad concepts. One with a dog reads, “Think of this as a friend request.” The second features a kitten and the playful copy, “Think of the hilarious videos we could make.” Both include the “Take Me Home” tag line. Bruce says between the two ads, the creative team—which was comprised of both internal staff and talent from Sussner Design Co.—tried to target a broad audience. “The whole Facebook friend request really spoke better to the older audience, and the cat videos really spoke more to kind of a younger, ‘let’s go viral’ audience.”AHS placed the ads in a variety of outlets that focused on their seven-county Minneapolis/St. Paul service area, including the popular MinnPost blog, as well as a variety of regional print publications. They also bought space on bus tails because “it’s cost-effective and it kind of plays well with our content,” says Bruce. The campaign ran May 6 to July 9, 2013.

Things took off when someone sent the back-of-bus image featuring the kitten to the blockbuster site In just a few days, the ad went global, accruing 36,000 likes on viral meme sites. They hit a 22 percent click-through rate on MinnPost—more than twice the site’s benchmark for “good” on similar types of ads. AHS also experienced a significant increase in Facebook and Twitter traffic in terms of likes, shares and re-tweets.

Most exciting for the shelter was the surge in traffic to its adoption page. “Year over year in the same period of time, visits to the main landing page and the adoption section of our website were up by over 33 percent,” says Bruce. “So we feel really good about how we were able to push visits.” And though it’s difficult to tie these types of ads directly to actual adoptions, the shelter did experience an increase in adoptions during the campaign.

About the Author

Kelly Huegel is a former staff writer for the Humane Society of the United States.