ACVO promotes clear vision for itself, service dogs

The American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists has run a national campaign to provide free eye exams to as many eligible service dogs as possible during May and raise awareness of the organization.

Client: American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists (Meridian, ID)
Agency: Fetching Communications (Tarpon Springs, FL)
Campaign: 5th Annual ACVO/Merial National Service Dog Eye Exam Event
Duration: January 2 - July 16
Budget: $27,600

For the last five years, the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists (ACVO) has run a national campaign to provide free eye exams to as many eligible service dogs as possible during May and raise awareness of the organization.

“I was tasked with exposing the public to ACVO and veterinary ophthalmology in general,” explains Dr. William Miller, MS, DACVO, who is also the former chair of ACVO's PR committee and event spokesperson. “We've been donating time to service dogs for years because we recognize the value they contribute to society. Some, like the drug detection dogs, cost $40,000 or $50,000 to replace. If they have an eye problem we can treat, we can keep them in service longer.” 

Fetching Communications has worked on the campaign on a project basis since 2009 to help extend reach and increase exam registrations.

Strategy
Service dog owners who registered on acvoeyeexam.org between April 1 and April 30 gained access on the website to a list of participating vets they could call to schedule an exam.

Media and blogger relations, PSAs, and social media outreach drove awareness.

Tactics
A video PSA created by ACVO and radio PSA scripts created by the agency were distributed in January.

Media and blogger outreach prior to April was designed to drive registrations. Pitches highlighted previous success stories and provided information about what veterinary ophthalmologists look for in an exam. Outlets were also invited to cover eye exams in doctors' offices in May.

National print and broadcast news and general consumer outlets, veterinary trades and other specialty publications, as well as bloggers covering pets and pet health were targeted.

Results of the exams, including this year's success stories, were pitched in June.

Kelly Farnan, senior veterinary account executive at the agency, says bloggers and journalists shared stories on their own social media channels.

ACVO also promoted the campaign and media coverage on its Facebook page.

Results
Exam registrations increased 21% over 2011 to 4,827 (up from 1,500 in 2009).

“Every year, we've seen increases in the number of dogs we're seeing and also in the value of the PR in reaching the public,” Miller says. “It's amazing return.” 

The campaign garnered 131 media hits (about equal to 2011) in outlets such as Petmd.com, Dog Fancy, and the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.

Audience reach hit 118 million this year, down from 217.5 million in 2011 when a Good Morning America affiliate story spiked reach, but up from 89.5 million in 2010.

Future
ACVO will work with Fetching again on next year's campaign. The team is currently considering ways to expand the effort.

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