Client: Tails in Need (New York)
PR Team: Rubenstein Public Relations (New York)
Campaign: Great American Mutt Show
Time Frame: March 1, 2001 - April 30, 2001
You've seen the Westminster Dog Show and its primped and proper
purebreds with perfect haircuts and nails manicured more flawlessly than
most Park Avenue debutantes.
Many canines, however, are not like that. In fact, the dogs who need
attention and love most - those in animal shelters - are mutts, who many
still consider to be the lower class of pooches. It doesn't help that
the folks who run the shelters rarely have the money or PR savvy to
promote the cause.
Enter the aptly named Tails in Need, founded by Kitty Hawks and Bunny
Williams, two of the US' most prominent interior designers and avid dog
lovers. They wanted to create an event to raise awareness and money for
groups that don't have the time or finances to devote to fundraising
without sacrificing their main focus of caring and finding homes for the
Their brainstorming led to The Great American Mutt Show, held on April
21 at Pier 92 in NYC. The event benefited the Humane Society of New
Cute dogs are a natural press magnet, but Hawks and Williams needed help
to mold this into a one-of-a-kind event. Rubenstein Public Relations
(RPR), founded by Howard Rubenstein's 36-year-old son, Richard, a proud
dog-owner himself, stepped in.
The event followed - albeit loosely - the Westminster's format. In 20
categories, hundreds of adorable mutts competed for honors like Best
Kisser, Longest Tail, and Best in Show. But the similarities end there.
Westminster dogs dance. Mutt Show dogs drool. Westminster dogs win for
Mutt Show dogs strive to be named Most Mis-Tactics
RPR had to get past the cute angle and drum up participation and
First, mutts for the show had to be chosen. Flyers were given out
announcing the qualifying event. Many celebrity dog-owners gladly lent
their support. Hundreds of dogs convened in Tompkins Square Park to
strut their stuff.
It wasn't hard attracting the media to the lovable dogs. Getting them to
focus on homeless animals' plight was tougher. So RPR set up many
interviews with Hawks and Williams to discuss not just the show, but the
cause and how the public could make a difference.
The campaign's centerpiece, of course, was the hounds. RPR made sure
that every Mutt Show interview had a cute, cuddly dog in every shot.
After the event, which included approximately 400 mutts, RPR arranged
media tours for the victorious dogs and sent pictures of the winners to
all appropriate publications.
"We went a long way to create a greater awareness for the plight of
mixed-breed dogs," says David Posternack, vice president at RPR.
"There's clearly a lot more work to be done, but we feel this is a
Pre-event coverage included live interviews with Hawks and/or Williams
on NBC's Today in New York, Good Day New York, ABC's Eyewitness News
Sunday Morning, and Fox & Friends. Feature stories promoting the event
ran in the New York Post and the New York Daily News.
On Mutt Show day, every local TV station attended, along with
representatives from Good Morning America, Animal Planet, and even NHK
Enterprises (Japanese Public Television).
In addition, post-event coverage included The New York Times, New York
magazine, and Town and Country. On April 23, Good Morning America ran a
thorough review of the show, complete with many Mutt Show winners. The
dog that won the Best Trick competition even performed his amazing
three-card mutty feat. (The game where a small object is placed under
one cup in a line of three, and after the cups are rotated, the dog
guesses where the object is.) The event raised $29,000 for the
Humane Society. However, it's difficult to put a figure on the awareness
created by all the media coverage.
The success set the groundwork for future shows, including a return to
New York City next year, with other cities possibly joining. RPR is
likely to continue its role as well. (I know one thing: my mutt Sydney
will be entered, though not in the Looks Most Like Owner category. I
wouldn't want to insult her.)