‘Save a Dog’ Facebook App Draws Pet Care Sponsors

DogTime Media, an online community for pet owners, has signed two sponsors in the pet care arena for its Facebook apps that help animals in shelters find homes.

The apps – “Save a Dog” and “Save a Cat” – allow users to virtually foster animals. And in doing so, users also create awareness of those particular pets and ultimately help find permanent homes for them.

One sponsor, Hill’s Science Diet, is renewing its sponsorship of Save a Dog. The other, Clorox Company’s Fresh Step cat litter, is a new sponsor of Save a Cat.

Virtual fostering means users can browse animals in shelters via zip code and choose to virtually foster up to two dogs and two cats at a time. Points are awarded for “petting” and “walking” these animals and for inviting other Facebook users to co-foster them.

For every 2,500 points a user earns, DogTime donates the financial equivalent of a cup of food to organizations like RescueGroups.org, a non-profit that provides free and low-cost technology services to animal shelters and rescue groups. To date, the apps have generated over $36,000 in donations. Those funds come from DogTime as well as its sponsors.

Save a Dog launched in July 2009 and was followed by Save a Cat in October based in part on a vocal community of cat lovers who wanted an equivalent app to help homeless cats, said Trevor Wright, DogTime CEO.

In addition to virtual interaction with these animals, users are helping to gain exposure for animals in need. Wright says that when a user virtually fosters a dog or a cat, a post appears on his or her profile and news alerts go out to his or her friends. Users can also hang posters and make comments. Every action helps gain exposure for an animal that needs to be adopted, Wright said.

DogTime has also launched a feature that allows users to become fans of specific shelters to promote the shelters themselves.

“When we launched the app, we thought it was an opportunity to be different than social gaming apps,” he said. “When I say different, I mean impacting real world events and it’s great to see that play out with treasure hunts, coupons, petting and all that fun stuff. But, at the same time, (users are) generating real money that goes down to the individual shelter level and that ultimately gets a real dog or cat into a loving home.”

Wright said the dog and cat applications have basically the same features – except for their sponsors. In addition to Hill’s Science Diet, Save a Dog is also sponsored by the flea and tick medication Frontline, which Wright says likes to advertise during flea and tick season, or March through September.

Nearly 400,000 people have installed the apps, Wright said.

Shortly after Save a Dog launched, Hill’s Science Diet partnered with Save a Dog to promote its “3-Bag Challenge,” a contest that asks participants to feed their pets three bags of Science Diet food to “start making a noticeable difference in your pet’s overall health,” as well as for a chance to win pet food until 2015 and a $5,000 donation to the Hill’s shelter of the winner’s choice.

DogTime says Hill’s is renewing its sponsorship of Save a Dog for 2010 based on strong performance of the initial campaign.

“Really powerful and cause-based marketing is what a lot of our advertisers are asking for and this really gives it to them,” Wright said.

Indeed, Laura Major, media planner for Hill’s advertising agency VML, said the Save a Dog app allowed the 3-bag Challenge to connect with an audience of pet enthusiasts that drove a high level of engagement with its promotion – including a click-through rate of 62 percent.

“We felt [Save a Dog] was a great opportunity that encouraged users to save dogs by sponsoring a dog at no additional cost,” Major says.

What’s more, Major said Hill’s campaign will extend to cats this year as well, because the dog campaign was so successful.

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