Chewy unveils new campaign as pet interest surges
With millions housebound, now might be a good time for consumers to get a pet—and brands are taking notice. On Thursday, Chewy, the online pet retailer that went public last year, debuted a new campaign that highlights the importance of pets during the COVID-19 quarantine. In a 60-second digital spot, pet owners bond over their time in isolation with their cats, dogs—and a hedgehog.
“Especially in this time when we are not together—a lot of us are practicing social distancing, we’re physically apart—we found it interesting that pets are still continuing to bring us together,” says Orlena Yeung, VP of brand marketing at Chewy. The spot is part of Chewy’s “Pets Bring Us Together” initiative, which includes a $4 million donation in pet food, partnership with the Humane Society of the U.S. and access to coronavirus tips from veterinarians.
In recent years, pet brands have seen a surge in interest as millennials practice parenting and pamper their animal companions. Pet technology startups saw $600.4 million in investments last year, according to CB Insights. Now, interest in pets and adoption is growing even more during the pandemic. Spate, a data science firm, found that interest in pets was up 16.3 percent for the period between Feb. 16 and April 12; particularly, consumers were interested in dogs and birds. Some new brands, such as cat company Cat Person, have recently launched, and AutoPet reports its litterbox subscription service has doubled during COVID-19.
While the people in Chewy’s spot are actors, they are all actually pet owners, a Chewy spokeswoman says. The company worked with creative agency SpecialGuest, which mailed production kits to those featured in the spot. The commercial took about a month to produce, according to Yeung.
Chewy, which was formerly owned by PetSmart before its IPO, spent $101.8 million on advertising and marketing, or 7.5 percent of net sales, in its most recent quarter, the company said on an April 2 earnings call. But during the coronavirus crisis, the brand has been able to pull back slightly on spend because it is seeing heightened demand for its content and products.
“We’ve taken advantage of this period and actually scaled back on marketing where we believe it’s not prudent to overspend during this time and are banking on those efficiencies,” said CEO Sumit Singh on the earnings call, noting that Chewy “might have to go back and actually invest a little bit of that back into retention. But we’ll continue to be data driven and disciplined around that as well.”
Some brands are also pushing charitable initiatives for animal rescue organizations. Freshpet, a pet food brand, hosted a pet-centric video conference session led by Rainn Wilson, the comedian who played Dwight Schrute on NBC’s "The Office," on Thursday. On the call, which included more than 900 pet owners and their pets, Wilson announced that the timing of Freshpet’s annual charity initiative was being moved to April from September. Consumers are encouraged to nominate a charity rescue organization in need of financial help—Freshpet will donate $70,000 to charities across the country and select regional winners. Nominations are open through May 10 and consumers can vote on their favorites for a week ending May 17.
“We agree that our animals are helping us get through these really difficult, sometimes interesting days at home,” Wilson said on the call. “And we also know there are a lot of animal rescue organizations out there that are needing support and have a lot of animals that need and would love a home.”
Correction: In an earlier version of this article, SpecialGuest was listed as a production company. It is a creative agency.