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Photobombing gets furry

by Contagious I/O

This story originally appeared on Contagious I/O, our customisable research platform featuring the world’s most innovative, creative and effective ad campaigns and marketing ideas

Pet shelter introduces muttbombing, inserting adoptable furry friends into selfies

Animal rescue shelter and activist group Dallas Pets Alive is hijacking people’s Instagram selfies to advertise dogs who need homes. 

After finding an appropriate selfie on the photo-sharing site, the brand is taking a copy of it then using Photoshop to insert a photograph of a friendly mutt discretely into the original image. The new photo is then posted back by @dallaspetsalive, tagging the original Dallas resident in the adjusted image. The caption includes a message from the dog itself explaining that they are up for adoption, for example:

‘I can’t do the duckface because you know, I’m a dog and stuff. But I wish I could though. I’m Gigi and I’m #muttbombing you because I’m looking for a home. Follow me to to learn more about adopting or fostering.’

The campaign references photobombing, where a person, animal or object ruins a photo with a silly, ugly or simply out-of-place face.

The campaign has gone viral, sparking conversation on Twitter that reaches well beyond the people of Dallas. Dallas Pets Alive helped spread the campaign by also targeting high-profile celebrities equipped with enormous Instagram followings, including Kim Kardashian and Miley Cyrus.


Contagious Insight

Dallas Pets Alive has successfully taken three of the internet’s favourite things – photobombing, selfies and dogs - and put them together to create a sweet viral hit. In fact, this Buzzfeed list shows that muttbombing already existed, only without the snappy title. By coining the name of the craze, Dallas Pets Alive has helped the trend to gain traction, with itself at the centre.

By hijacking already flattering photos, muttbombing plays into a psychological bias. The subjects of the selfies see themselves with the prospective pet, enabling them to visualise what their life would be like as a dog owner, tempting them towards adoption. Selfies are already a means of self-promotion, so by reposting the photo, Dallas Pets Alive provides social currency and fleeting fame. The interaction is intimate and personal and the way the dog matches the style and colouring of the would-be ‘owner’ is a sweet touch.

It’s also a solid example of micro targeting: the brand has precise control of exactly who they want to see the images. However, there are ethical implications here over whether a brand should take someone’s photo and tamper with it? Only an organisation as innocent as a dog shelter could get away with this without provoking some privacy-related backlash.

Research suggests that surprise is an important trigger emotion for the sharing of content. For example, emotion-measuring technology startup CrowdEmotion monitored people’s expressions while watching various Christmas ads. The (UK retailer) John Lewis films, which were the most shared, were the only ones to evoke expressions of surprise. Muttbombing makes full use of this emotion by choosing unsuspected targets and varying the dog and the pose each time.

Finally, it’s refreshing to see an animal shelter adopting a cheeky and light-hearted tone of voice. Rescue pets are usually presented as victims and too much tugging on the heart-strings can cause compassion fatigue. After all, no-one wants to feel coerced into owning a pet through guilt. Instead, muttbombing understands that it’s the funny, cheeky personalities of the animals themselves which persuade so many people to own a dog in the first place.


This story originally appeared on Contagious I/O. Contagious I/O is our bespoke trends, inspiration, insight and analysis service, providing daily innovative marketing intelligence across a comprehensive range of sectors to brands and agencies across the world. For more information about Contagious I/O contact