Media for the Dogs

You know that 40-something neighbor of yours with the two Labradoodles she refers to as “my babies?” Bet you didn’t know she represents a highly attractive audience for major advertisers ranging from car manufacturers to entertainment companies.

In fact, she’s just the type to visit a site that’s part of DogTime Media, the largest pet-oriented vertical ad network. If your target customer is female, 25 to 54, educated, affluent, with an active lifestyle and a propensity to shop online, DogTime is the place to look. According to its VP of Marketing Simon Tonner, DogTime isn’t a network for pet-lovers. It’s a network for women who happen to have a passion for their pets.

In keeping with the trend toward specialty networks pulling in more users and more advertisers, San Francisco-based DogTime Media — launched in 2006 — is going strong. Marketers are in part attracted to its sites, of which there are about 350 along with another 360 blogs. These publishers are segmented into content channels that include “pet enthusiast,” “entertainment,” “power shopper,” and “auto intender” based primarily on comScore audience data. To date, the network boasts 13.7 million unique visitors and 62 million monthly impressions across North America; DogTime reports that its audience grew 43 percent from January to March of this year.

DogTime’s eagerness to create unique and memorable campaigns for its clients is largely responsible for its latest successes. Take, for instance, a campaign for the Toyota Venza, a pet-friendly vehicle with features specifically geared toward the comfort and safety of the family pooch. To promote these, DogTime Media and Toyota created custom advertorial-style sponsored editorial content that included an article penned by Lucky the Dalmatian titled “The Best Car for Dogs: A Dog’s View.” The campaign included rich media display ads like roadblocks, expandable units, corner peels, and video banners targeted to potential car shoppers within the DogTime network.

More recently, the network developed a campaign for the 20th Century Fox film, “Marley and Me.” Ad units mirrored the title character’s rambunctious nature; a corner peel made it appear as though Marley was taking a bite out of the site page, while the “Where’s Marley” contest challenged site visitors to find Marley’s image on banners hidden throughout the network that linked to the contest entry page (those familiar with the storyline know that Marley’s whereabouts can sometimes be a mystery). “It was a cool way to drive traffic into the network, and extended the theme of the movie,” Tonner says of the promotional contest.

One of DogTime’s most interesting features is, naturally, also dog themed: a Media Center aptly called “Sparky.” Sparky delivers added value content on both DogTime’s own sites and the partner sites within its network, and is currently deployed across about 180 publisher sites. (It can also be installed on consumer desktops and applied to social media pages, widget-style.) DogTime updates its content regularly with everything from articles to video clips, refreshing its feed every 15 minutes.

Publishers like the tool because it attracts and helps to retain site users; some content is produced by DogTime, with the majority resulting from licensing agreements with other media companies and even veterinarians. Advertisers, meanwhile, can use it to display branded content and accompanying ads. Earlier this year, an advertising partnership with the Mars-owned Pedigree brand found the Sparky Media Center acting as an additional vehicle for displaying Pedigree’s 2009 Super Bowl ad supporting the Pedigree Adoption Drive. Brands currently advertising with Sparky include Procter & Gamble’s Eukanuba, which is sponsoring its content across a number of DogTime Media channels through video clips and adjacent 300 x 250 banners. Marketers can also advertise in the Media Center on a site-by-site basis.

DogTime Media will tell you: if there’s one thing you’ll get from its sites besides women, it’s impassioned consumers. “There are very few things people care about more than their pets,” Tonner says, noting session times with the DogTime Media community of sites averaged 13.1 minutes in January.

Has you rethinking the term “dog person,” doesn’t it?

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