Animals Go Shopping in PetSmart's 'The Secret Life of Pets' Campaign

Retailer Partners With Illumination and Universal on New TV Spots, Exclusive Products

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PetSmart will feature the animals from The Secret Life of Pets.
PetSmart will feature the animals from The Secret Life of Pets. Credit: PetSmart

PetSmart is letting the dogs out. The 1,450-unit retailer is collaborating with Illumination Entertainment and Universal Pictures on a marketing campaign around the upcoming film "The Secret Life of Pets," which will hit theatres on July 8. On Monday, the Phoenix-based chain plans to begin airing two 30-second animated TV spots. In the commercials, animals from the movie, which tells a story of what happens when pets are left to their own devices without human interaction, visit a PetSmart store. The film stars comedians Louis C.K., Ellie Kemper and Kevin Hart.

"The humanization of pets is a tremendous trend and much of what we do is based on that," said Eran Cohen, chief customer experience officer at PetSmart, noting that the film partners approached PetSmart over a year ago about the idea. The retailer, which was taken private in an $8.7 billion deal last year, is the exclusive seller of "The Secret Life of Pets" products. The two-month effort will include custom packaging, pet apparel and toys, as well as special discounts on doggy day camp sessions, where PetSmart employees provide owners with a progress report on their animals' daily activity.

A PetSmart spokeswoman declined to say how much the retailer is spending on the new campaign; PetSmart spent $112.9 million on measured media in the U.S. last year, according to Kantar Media. Though the company has had license deals with other movies in the past, this is the first time it's had an exclusive retail relationship. PetSmart's in-house team worked solely with Universal and Illumination on the campaign.

The pet industry isn't just Fido and his water bowl anymore as pets are increasingly an integral part of American families. Last year, Americans spent $60.28 billion on pets and pet-related products, according to the American Pet Products Association—that number is expected to increase by 4% this year. Retailers including PetSmart are tapping into the growing trend of pets as people by boosting grooming efforts and options in stores and expanding day care options. On a global scale, cat cafes and dog cafes, where customers can interact with animals, are on the rise while more unique ventures are also in the opening stages.

This week in Manhattan, for example, Bark & Co., a four-year-old dog-focused startup, opened a six-day "pup-up" shop where dogs can shop for what they'd like to buy via RFID tags. As the canines, wearing special vests, interact with toys, the tags communicate via smartphone app likes and dislikes to human owners. The shop will run from June 6 to 12.

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