CAMPAIGNS: Event PR - Dog show has NY nuts about mutts

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

Budget: $20,000

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

good manners.

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

terrific start."


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.)

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in