A new ad campaign for a company called PuppySwap promises a no muss, no fuss way to trade one puppy for another.
Simply pick a breed, love your new puppy, and watch it grow — then swap it for a new one.
“Puppies are cute,” reads PuppySwap.ca. “Then they grow up.”
If you’re feeling unsettled by the notion of a puppy subscription service, the Toronto Humane Society’s new campaign has hit the mark. PuppySwap is a fake company, but the campaign is raising awareness about a real issue: pet abandonment.
And it seems to be working — the YouTube video has gone viral, with around 70 thousand views since the campaign launched on Friday.
Makyla Deleo, manager of media relations and event logistics for the THS, says the concept came from Toronto ad agency Grip Limited. “I was really drawn to PuppySwap immediately,” Deleo says. The idea hit home for her after witnessing pet abandonment first-hand during her time as the THS’ former manager of intake.
Deleo says for the most part, surrendering a beloved pet is a heartbreaking experience. “But there were the people who surrendered an older animal,” Deleo recalls. “And the next sentence is, ‘Do you have any kittens up for adoption?’”
Over 180,000 animals are surrendered to Canadian shelters each year, according to the THS, and 40 per cent don’t leave the system alive. The numbers are better in Toronto, Deleo notes.
“Just under 4,000 animals are surrendered to the Toronto Humane Society each year (and) well over 90 per cent are adopted out again,” she says.
According to marketing and advertising experts, the PuppySwap campaign is an example of “prank advertising” used effectively to raise awareness.
“It’s so outrageous that it captures your attention, and that’s one of the biggest battles in marketing,” says David Soberman, professor of marketing at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management.
“Before a person watches to the end of the video, this unexpected idea of trading in your dog when you get tired of it will be upsetting and induce anger and outrage,” adds Matthew Thomson, a marketing professor at Ivey Business School. “It’ll engage by getting the blood boiling.”
According to Bhupesh Shah, a professor at Seneca College’s School of Marketing, pranks like PuppySwap often have the potential to go viral, but can cause backlash against the brand. In this case it works, he says, because the THS is positively viewed and the video makes a real emotional connection with viewers.
Soberman says the hoax is effective because it’s resolved right away in the ad campaign — quickly alerting viewers to the THS’ underlying message.
Of course, not everyone gets the hoax, and some angry online commenters think PuppySwap is the real deal.
“But even the anger isn’t a horrible thing,” says Deleo. “Because the idea behind PuppySwap is horrible.”