Milk-Bone discovers the good in giving

Bryson Thornton, senior manager of marketing communications and PR for Del Monte Foods, says the company wanted to differentiate Milk-Bone as a brand that gives back.

Client: Milk-Bone dog snacks (San Francisco)
Agency: Coyne PR (Parsippany, NJ)
Campaign: It's Good to Give
Budget: $450,000 (PR portion)
Duration: September 2009 – April 2010

Bryson Thornton, senior manager of marketing communications and PR for Del Monte Foods, says the company wanted to differentiate Milk-Bone as a brand that gives back. Coyne PR (AOR for all pet products) helped create a campaign around M-B's sponsorship of “Through a Dog's Eyes,” a PBS documentary about its long-time nonprofit partner Canine Assistants (CA), which provides assistance dogs to the disabled. The effort was part of the larger “It's Good to Give” campaign that includes advertising and social media (which Thornton says isn't handled by PR).

Jennifer Kamienski, VP at Coyne, explains that increasing awareness of CA and the film was the primary goal.

Strategy
National print and broadcast ads promoting Milk-Bone's 13-year relationship with CA and the documentary sponsorship launched in September. Multiple phases of media relations followed. 

To entice media, the team secured actor Neil Patrick Harris to narrate the film, which aired April 21. It also worked with CA to identify people with CA dogs who were willing to tell their stories.

Tactics
Kamienski says the team pitched trade media about Milk-Bone's return to TV advertising after a 10-year hiatus. The New York Times got an exclusive on the ad launch. That this was Milk-Bone's first documentary sponsorship was also emphasized.

CA founder Jennifer Arnold, 25 recipients of CA dogs, and Harris were media trained to work in Milk-Bone messaging when appropriate.  The team also pitched local market media stories about CA recipients. Other targets included national consumer outlets, TV critics, pet outlets and bloggers, and celebrity writers. 

AP and Extra were given exclusives on Harris' involvement. He was also booked on The View and The Early Show.

Kamienski says a link to the trailer on PBS's YouTube page was included in all pitches after PBS mentioned views were low.

Results:
“This campaign is a benchmark…from a PR perspective and a relationship perspective in identifying and aligning with a…meaningful cause,” says Thornton, noting also that sales increased during the campaign and that Milk-Bone received positive feedback through multiple channels.

According to Coyne, Canineassistants.org traffic increased 700% the week of April 11 and CA got donations from 300 new people from April 21 to April 28. 

Coyne reports PBS's YouTube trailer (posted March 25) had 50,000 views on April 19 compared to less than 3,000 previously. Current views are more than 60,000. 

Media impressions exceeded 1 billion in outlets including The Washington Post, Brandweek, and PerezHilton.com.

Future:
Thornton says the team is “evolving” the campaign with new PR tactics involving CA launching later this year.

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