Whiskas reframes cats as ‘low effort dogs’ to spur adoptions (and sales) 

Mars-owned pet care brand capitalises on web searches for ‘low maintenance dogs’ to boost cat ownership

According to cat food brand Whiskas, internet searches for low-maintenance dog breeds have doubled in the past year, with more people looking for dogs that don’t bark, need to be trained or even taken out for walks.

For the Mars-owned brand, such a ‘dog’ does exist and it’s called the Meowzer (a cat in actuality).

‘We realised the perfect dog already exists. All it needed was a name change,’ said Kimberley Ragan, creative director at Colenso BBDO Group, Auckland, the agency behind the campaign, in a press release.

In March 2024, with production partner BUCK, the brand made a series of short film ads for the New Zealand market that showcase the Meowzer as the answer to people’s prayers. Whiskas ensured that people searching for easy-to-care-for dogs would be shown the Meowzer instead, by targeting them based on their digital footprint. All campaign touchpoints linked to a dedicated website where prospective pet owners could take a quiz to find their ‘purr-fect’ match.

The campaign advances the brand’s mission to end pet homelessness by helping people find the right pet for them, thereby reducing the number of dogs being taken back to the shelter.

On Instagram, dog photographer Elias Weiss Friedman (@TheDogist) promoted the campaign, while TikTok creator @Puppysongs created a song to rack up views for #Meowzer.

Additional dog and cat influencers will join the movement as the campaign rolls out, complemented by OOH ads, both posters and digital.  

Results / According to the agency, the 11.9 million dog searches were intercepted. Cat consideration has increased by 25% and adoptions are up 27%.

Contagious Insight 

Out of the dog park / This campaign grows the category it operates in by encouraging cat adoptions. Framing cats as the ideal low-maintenance pet isn’t just a smart way for the brand to deliver on its mission of ending pet homelessness, it also makes perfect business sense. The more people own cats, the more demand for cat food, increasing Whiskas’ consumer pool.

It does this by targeting people who are in the market for a dog, speaking to  pet-minded people at a key consideration point. By intercepting common search terms for low-maintenance dog breeds, Whiskas ensures that would-be pet owners encounter the Meowzer, reframing the negative aspects of high-maintenance dogs into the positive attributes of cats. This appeals to dog people when researching breeds, tapping into an audience already emotionally invested in their quest for the ideal pet. Targeting people early on in the consumer journey diverts some of that attention and drives interest for cats while building familiarity with Whiskas – ensuring the brand comes to mind in future consumption occasions.

Poking fun / The campaign playfully pokes fun at the notion of low-maintenance dogs, effectively leveraging humour to turn dog drawbacks into cat advantages. The jokey tone communicates the brand’s approachability while underscoring the appealing qualities of felines. Rather than alienating dog enthusiasts, it tactfully pulls on competition’s leg. The inclusion of dog content creators in the campaign reinforces the message that cats have unique advantages without diminishing the value of dogs. This ensures Meowzer lands with a dog-loving audience and exemplifies how taking a gentle dig at your competition can be a healthy strategy. When you do, try and be funny about it – no one likes a bad sport.

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