Pup-Peroni Chases After Dog Owners

Del Monte Foods is breaking its first major ad campaign for the Pup-Peroni brand today, building on the notion that a dog really is a man’s best friend.

TV spots and a viral push, via Pup-Peroni’s new lead agency, Draftfcb in San Francisco, show dogs communicating with their owners with the help of signs. One spot, “Dogs Just Know,” opens with a series of vignettes where a woman asks her dog if it likes a red or a black dress better (the dog holds up a sign: “The red one, definitely”), while another shows a dog telling its weepy owner, “I’m not gonna cry. I’m not gonna cry,” in response to what is presumably a tragic movie.

Del Monte CMO Bill Pearce said the campaign reflects dog owners’ sentiment towards their pets: “If you look at the evolution of the relationship between pets and pet [owners], it wasn’t that long ago that the dog slept in the garage or basement . . . Now, the majority of Americans have dogs that actually sleep with them.”

While ads contain a plug or two for the product (“hearty, real beef taste,” and “mouthwatering aroma,”), the campaign’s core goal is to articulate Pup-Peroni’s emotional benefits, said Hilary Hamer, Draftfcb svp and group management director, who oversees Del Monte’s pet foods business. (The agency won the account, along with other Del Monte pet brands, from incumbents Smith Brothers Agency, Pittsburgh, and the Omnicom Group’s TracyLocke, Dallas, last month.  Media buying remains with Publicis Group’s Starcom.)

“The advertising campaign is built off of the premise that not only are your dogs irresistible, the Pup-Peroni brand is as irresistible as your dog,” as pet owners can “show their unconditional love to them with this [special] treat,” Hamer said.

Del Monte, which spent $420,000 through Nov. 2008 marketing its Pup-Peroni brand, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus, said the company is spending $8 million on the television and online push. The Web portion includes a $1-$2 coupon offer, as well as a “pup-gram” device on Pupperoni.com that allows users to send a pet-themed message to friends. Previously, Del Monte relied on in-store marketing for its Pup-Peroni line of products.

Eli Portnoy, founder of brand strategy firm The Portnoy Group, said the campaign is indicative of future pet food ads. In tough economic times, emotional advertising tends to resonate best with consumers, he said. “You’re not buying pet food. You’re buying it for another member of your family,” Portnoy added.