Kids Leaving Home? Try This ‘Child Replacement Program,’ Says Fun Pedigree Campaign

Colenso BBDO takes lighter approach to pet adoption

Empty nesters literally go to the dogs in Pedigree’s cheeky “Child Replacement Program,” which encourages parents to adopt Fido after their kids move out.

“We were laughing about friends who had left home and promptly been replaced by a dog,” recalls Simon Vicars, creative group head at Colenso BBDO in Auckland, New Zealand, of the campaign’s conception. “I think we were mostly laughing about how their parents adored the dog a little bit more than the kids.”

Let’s face it, by the time Johnny and Janey head off to college, that backyard treehouse, once so fetching, has completely gone to seed. Dog owners, however, can find a fun new use for the rungs of that rickety wooden ladder:

“We’ve got an aging population down here, so there’s no shortage” of New Zealanders who’d enjoy the company of a pet, Vicars says. “Over half of all Kiwis live in a household of two or less [people].”

That sounds perfect for a stormy night of snuggling with your furry friend. Just remember to clip Rover’s nails:

Even if you’re a hard-ass parent whose offspring could never meet your ridiculously high expectations, Bowser knows some tricks that might impress:

The spots drive traffic to a website where you can select the perfect pup and even trade in your children’s stuff for items like canine beds and jackets. (They’ll be so pleased when they come home to visit.)

Now, pet adoption drives are nothing new, but they’re often propelled by emotional appeals. Pedigree’s own lauded “Feel the Good” campaign is a prime example, having generated some powerful work, including a film from AlmapBBDO about ex-cons who find their way thanks to adopted dogs.

Such work is compelling, but Vicars’ team scores by showing off dogs’ unique “product benefits” in a novel and unexpected way.

Sorry, kids, it’s a dog eat dog world. Maybe Mom and Dad will toss you a bone and let you walk their new best friend.

“Half the fun of this job has been working with our media partner [Starcom],” says Vicars. “They found us TV, cinema, radio, online banners and billboards in all the places frequented by this [empty nester] demographic. They even got us digital signage in the departure hall of the airport. So, as soon as your kids leave the country, you can replace them!”

It seems the folks in the print ads below did just that:

Agency: Colenso BBDO
Client: Mars NZ (Pedigree)
Marketing Director – Oliver Downs – Mars NZ
Marketing Manager – Pet – Cormac Van Den Hoofdakker – Mars NZ
Brand Manager – Dog & Specialty – Maria Granados – Mars NZ
Prod/Film Company: Exit Films
Director: Adam Gunser
Sound Design: Franklin Road
Media Agency: Starcom NZ

@DaveGian David Gianatasio is a longtime contributor to Adweek, where he has been a writer and editor for two decades. Previously serving as Adweek's New England bureau chief and web editor, he remains based in Boston.