Google demos Pixel 8 Pro camera by helping rescue dogs find homes 

Tech company Google donated smartphones to animal shelters to take more appealing pictures of pups and demonstrate the quality of its cameras

Google has created a campaign that addresses America’s rescue shelter crisis (exacerbated by the rising cost of living and the post-pandemic return to offices) while showing off the capabilities of its smartphone’s AI-powered camera.

According to a study from the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, the quality of adoption profile photos can affect how quickly a dog is adopted. The research examined 468 photos of young and adult black Labrador mixed breed dogs and found that those with a high-quality adoption profile photo were adopted within 14 days, compared to 43 days for those with a poor photo. 

Based on this insight, Google created Pixel Pawtraits – kits including a Pixel 8 Pro, photography equipment, and a portrait guide to give to rescue shelters to help them capture more appealing images of dogs up for adoption. The kits were offered to eight shelters in US states with the highest rates of dogs in need of adoption; the goal of the campaign is to empower at least one shelter in all 50 states to use the Pawtraits Kit to take high-quality photos of rescue dogs and share the photos across their social media, as well as Google Pixel's social channels, to find them permanent homes.

The campaign launched on 22 November 2023 and received applications from over 70 shelters across 29 states within the first week. Google Pixel is amplifying the campaign by featuring weekly shelter spotlights from participating shelters on its social channels, starting with The Animal Pad in San Diego. Shelters who would like to participate can apply via a Google Form to receive a kit and be featured on Google Pixel's social media channels.

The Pixel Pawtraits campaign was developed in partnership with social agency 1000heads, London. ‘I was personally inspired by the creative simplicity and impact of this idea,’ said Moa Netto, head of creative, 1000heads. ‘By providing shelter employees with a camera equipped with AI capabilities, we’re not only expanding their potential but also saving lives. It’s innovation with heart, empowering people to capture the personalities of dogs and enhance their chances of finding loving homes.’

Contagious Insight 

Put on a show / Above all, this campaign is an excellent product demo based on a compelling, emotionally engaging insight: letting real people experiment with the Pixel 8 Pro (rather than creating a slick, professional demo) proves that it’s easy to use and achieves results in real-world settings. The proof is in the difference in photos – the blurry, pixelated, dark, badly framed images are replaced with bright, colour-corrected portraits. The simplicity of the campaign is key. Complex, AI-enabled camera features and technical specs are conveyed in clear, friendly terms – even the least tech-savvy person can see from this campaign that the Pixel 8 Pro makes it easier to capture higher-quality images. And by offering these kits to shelters for free, Google displays confidence in its product and encourages trial.

Go for the heart / The human-interest angle of this campaign is also essential. Unlike competitor Apple’s Shot on iPhone campaign series, the Pixel Pawtraits campaign is not just about beautiful or impressive images for beauty’s sake. There is a real-world cause behind this campaign: the Google Pixel 8 Pro camera is so good it can be the difference between a dog being adopted or not. The PR-friendly campaign is designed to be shared on social and positions Google as a benevolent brand that enhances customers’ lives (in line with the brand’s mission to make users’ lives easier by making the world’s information universally accessible and useful). 

As smartphone sales slow (in the third quarter of 2023, global smartphone sales dropped for the ninth quarter in a row, according to Counterpoint Research) due to the slowing of global demand amid growing market saturation, finding new ways to appeal to consumers and drive purchase consideration is increasingly important. And with a comparatively tiny share of the smartphone market (Google has 4%, compared to Apple’s 54% and Samsung’s 24%), Google must do all it can to gain new customers – particularly given the iPhone’s staggeringly high customer loyalty rate.

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