Petco Takes Aim at Supermarkets

Nudging pet owners away from the supermarket and into Petco specialty stores is the focus of a new campaign from The Phelps Group.

Two 15-second TV spots launching Oct. 31 feature the over-the-top antics of people who treat their pets as members of the family. In one spot, a couple takes a bubble bath with a dog named Pebbles. As the dog gets a shampoo and the woman pampers him with baby talk, a voiceover says: “People who love their pets this much don’t shop in a supermarket.” The other execution has an aging hippie serving a homemade cake to his cat.

The ads keep the tagline, “Petco. Where the pets go,” which was created by the Santa Monica, Calif., agency roughly six years ago.

Campaign spending was undisclosed. The San Diego client spends an estimated $15 million on ads annually.

While Petco has previously mentioned brands it carries that supermarkets may not, the new work marks the first time the chain has focused specifically on choosing Petco over a supermarket, said client vp of marketing and advertising Bruce Jesse.

“A very large percentage of the pet-food and -supply business is done in supermarket and mass-market channels,” said Jesse. “The biggest issue with supermarkets is convenience. We can overcome this by convincing people if they really care about their pet, they will be well-served to go to a place that specializes in pet things.”

Jesse added that the ads target a specific kind of person: “pet pamperers who are highly involved with their pet and treat their pet as a member of the family.”

According to Phelps Group chief creative officer Howie Cohen, the ads convey “charm and humor,” which he said mirrors the personality and mind-set of pet pamperers.

The campaign also includes a 30-second TV spot, now airing, that has pets picketing a supermarket that, unlike Petco, does not allow them in the store. Another spot promoting Pet co’s Web site is testing, and a holiday campaign is also in the works.

Ads are running on network and spot TV. Carat in Los Angeles is handling the media buy.

Petco had sales of roughly $1 billion in 2000, an increase of 1 percent over 1999, making it the No. 2 pet-supply specialty retailer behind Petsmart. The company has more than 550 stores in 41 states.