Petco Embracing the Short Story

Phelps Group’s New Ads Deliver the Message 15 Seconds at a Time
LOS ANGELES–Petco is packaging its playful TV spots in a shorter format it hopes will allow for a clearer, stronger message through more concise storytelling.
Petco’s agency, The Phelps Group in Santa Monica, Calif., has traditionally crafted two or three 30-second spots a year for the client. The new campaign, though, pools a dozen 15-second spots, each starring a critter or two and hinging on a single gag to draw in viewers.
“The shorter format allows you to present one problem/solution in each ad, and repeat the message more frequently,” said Howie Cohen, the shop’s chief creative officer.
One ad, “Fat Cat,” typical in structure and tone, shows a chubby feline propped up in a small, comfy chair. A tune whistles in the background. “Cat fat? Feed him healthier cat food,” says a voiceover, as quick cuts show many of the premium brands Petco offers. “Give them a try,” the voice says. “All your cat has to lose is weight.”
The tag, “Petco. Where the pets go,” is spoken and appears on-screen.
Stars of other ads include a dog and cat wearing gas masks (to fight kitty litter odor) and a dog in full body armor (to ward off fleas and ticks). The message is that Petco offers a better solution with its unsurpassed selection and quality of products.
“All our work for Petco is from the pets’ point of view,” Cohen said. “Pet owners really identify with the ads.”
Bruce Jesse, vice president of marketing at the client, said the more “modular” 15-second format “forces the agency creatively to be very singular and focused.” It also allows Petco to “mix and match ads to focus on different kinds of products and deliver multiple messages,” he said.
The spots, directed by Tony Dow, who played Wally Cleaver on the 1950s show Leave It to Beaver, are rolling out nationally. Radio spots support the TV. Carat/ICG in Los Angeles handled the media buy.
Billings were not disclosed. Petco spent $14.5 million on advertising last year, and $2.3 million through March of this year, according to Competitive Media Reporting.