The Dodo Reimagines Experiential Franchise With Virtual Guidance for Dog Owners

The pandemic didn't stop the animal brand from bringing fans the Best Dog Day Ever

Screenshot of trainer Sara Carson and a dog
Trainer Sara Carson demonstrates how to turn training into playtime with her collie, and how to use event partner Resolve's products to clean up accidents. Group Nine Media
Headshot of Ian Zelaya

Best Dog Day Ever has quickly turned into an experiential tentpole for The Dodo. The animal brand debuted the franchise as a one-day pop-up with activities and photo ops for dogs in New York City in 2018, followed by a monthlong, Halloween-themed experience in 2019 that drew around 10,000 pet owners to Williamsburg. 

The Group Nine Media-owned platform had plans for more physical extensions of the experience in 2020, but the pandemic has made most in-person gatherings unsafe, with or without animals. The obvious option for brands this year has been pivoting to virtual alternatives. The Dodo followed suit, with the added responsibility of helping quarantined dog owners—a demographic that has boomed during Covid-19—adapt to a new normal. 

The Dodo held its first Best Dog Day Ever: At Home edition on Nov. 13, partnering with pet experts and Instagram-famous dogs to provide fans three segments, Treat, Play and Pamper, with tips on how to cater to their pets during an abnormal time.

Guests could RSVP to the event and view the livestream on a custom microsite.Group Nine Media

“Best Dog Day Ever is about creating a day where dogs are front and center and can experience joy,” Lindsay Leaf, Group Nine’s svp of experiential marketing, said. “Because we’re stuck at home with our pets, we wanted to create an extension of that IP to give tools to pet parents they can replicate for their dogs.”

For Treat, the owner of rescue doodles Charlie and Sawyer (known as @puppynamedcharlie on Instagram) demonstrated how to create homemade dog treats by letting the two pooches choose their own ingredients; Play featured trainer Sara Carson showing how to make training fun for dogs; and during Pamper, veterinary behaviorist Dr. Andrea Y. Tu walked viewers through relaxation techniques for dogs such as acupressure, and how to read a dog’s body language.

The Dodo produced the event with agency Zenith and carpet cleaning brand Resolve as part of an ongoing content partnership. 

“Reaching pet lovers through endemic partners, like The Dodo for Resolve, has been a critical part of our brand and content strategy,” Kim Iadevaia, Zenith’s evp of content, said. “Building on our partnership success, we’ve evolved the program to include more social and digital content, scaled to reach more pet parents while driving awareness and sales for Resolve.”

The Treat segment showed how to make homemade dog treats (with guidance from actual dogs).Group Nine Media

The Dodo also used the event to launch Box’d, Group Nine’s new direct-to-consumer product, a box of pet items curated by editorial staff. Through an online sweepstakes, the brand sent 350 winners boxes with items including a leash, a dog bowl, treats and Resolve products. 

While admission was free, guests were encouraged on the event’s microsite to donate to community partner Paws NY, a nonprofit that provides volunteer-led services to help vulnerable city residents take care of their pets. 

Leaf said the brand is viewing the virtual extension as a success, based on post-event metrics. Nearly 500 people RSVP’d in advance of the event, while the livestream drew more than 7,400 unique views and some 4,000 chat messages. 

Depending on the state of experiential marketing in 2021, Leaf said The Dodo will continue to adapt the event in a way that is safe, but still engaging for fans. 

“It’s about innovating on ways to keep creating these moments for our pets,” she said. “Whether the content is in person or virtual, we will continue to expand, extend and iterate on that mission.” Ian Zelaya is an Adweek reporter covering how brands engage with consumers in the modern world, ranging from experiential marketing and social media to email marketing and customer experience.