As Iams Co. director of marketing, Mr. Kocon, 42, suggested Eukanuba make the leap beyond its traditional grass-roots promotional efforts at dog shows including passing out literature, to test three 30-second spots in certain markets to reach a specialized audience. The spots, from W. B. Doner & Co., carry the theme line, "The best you can do for your dog."
Using plays on words combining dog antics with the message, the spots use phrases such as "Let's go over dog nutrition." The spots then show images of dogs literally jumping over the printed words "dog nutrition."
"We thought that maybe we were niching Eukanuba only to the dog-show circuit," says Mr. Kocon, a dog lover who owns a Doberman named Hannah.
"Research found there were like to provide the very best for their dog and their dogs would never see the inside of a show ring."
Iams previously had moved from dog shows to TV for its premium Iams brand and, he notes, "We felt the time had come for Eukanuba."
And there's no question consumer advertising has helped build premium pet food brands.
According to analysts, sales of all brands sold through specialty stores and veterinarians racked up about $1.9 billion of the $8 billion total pet-food category.
Iams says its sales were more than $300 million last year and it's now the No. 2 premium player behind Colgate-Palmolive's Hills Science Diet.
At least some of that is accounted for by Hannah, who prefers the Lamb & Rice variety.