VPI's effort to tout pet insurance becomes a rewarding experience

The communications team at VPI began to collect claims involving pet mishaps in 2008.

Client: Veterinary Pet Insurance (Brea, CA)
PR agency: Riester (Phoenix)
Campaign: VPI Hambone Award
Duration: August-December 2009
Budget: $2,500

The communications team at VPI began to collect claims involving pet mishaps in 2008. Following one involving a bulldog getting locked in a refrigerator, the team saw an opportunity to create a campaign that could tell the humorous side of the pet insurance industry.

At the center of the campaign was a contest for the "best" claim. Curtis Steinhoff, senior director of corporate communications for VPI, says the goal was to educate and entertain policyholders, as well as elevate the VPI brand and pet insurance as a whole.

"What we're trying to do is educate the pet-loving community that things can happen," he says, "even if you think you're taking good care of your pet."

Voting for the "Hambone Award" began in September on the campaign's microsite. VPI's AOR Riester targeted news outlets in regions where nominees lived and coordinated outreach to bloggers and pet influencers on Twitter, notes Christina Borrego, director of PR for Riester.

"Our client has all his social media tools in place, so we just laid out a plan," she explains. An e-blast was also sent to VPI policyholders.

The effort drew 3,403 contest votes, 11,173 unique site visitors, and 1,200 sign-ups for an e-mail newsletter. Coverage included USA Today and ABC News.

The team plans to measure the number of new policies that are linked to the 5% discount offered on a six-minute exclusive on the Rachael Ray Show, says Steinhoff. On December 14, Ray presented the first Hambone Award to English bulldog Lulu, who ate 15 baby pacifiers.

VPI plans to continually update the site with the top monthly claim stories in preparation of the 2010 contest, says Steinhoff.

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