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Iams Co. will target a new breed of pet owners with marketing programs using animal shelters.

The premium pet food marketer has previously used dog shows to target high-income specialized consumers who already own pets. Now it plans to build a rapport with average consumers who adopt pets.


"We hear it and feel it in focus groups where our target audience is saying that they view adopting from a shelter as the right thing to do," said Bryan Brown, group manager-communications for the pet food marketer.

And Iams hopes to reach them with samples and information at a crucial time, when new pet owners are making decisions about feeding.

The reach could be potentially huge: An estimated 15% of the 63.8 million U.S. households that own dogs or cats got those pets from a shelter. In total, 25% of pet owners said their next dog or cat will be adopted, according to the Humane Society of the U.S.

Iams with the help of agency W.B. Doner & Co., Southfield, Mich., produced public service announcements for local animal shelters to air in May, a peak time to get a new pet, Iams said.

Also, Iams will sponsor Pet Adoptathon '96 on May 4 and 5, promoted through public relations efforts by local shelters with help from pet supply retailers.


The PSAs take a lighthearted approach to adopting a pet, omitting the save-a-life tactic.

In one 30-second spot called "Faces," the camera zooms in on a bulldog with the voice-over saying, "This face won the heart of a beautiful woman."

The spot goes on to show a black cat with the voice-over, "And for one lucky family, this was the best thing to ever cross their path." Each spot is tagged with a local shelter's name and a phone number.

"The PSAs aren't going to be loaded with information about adopting. They are more of an image effort to get people thinking about the joys of shelter adopted dogs and cats," Mr. Brown said.

Almost 700 shelters in the U.S. and Canada will participate in Pet Adoptathon '96, sponsored by Iams. The 36-hour event was tested last year in conjunction with the North Shore Animal League in New York.

All the new pet owners will receive a starter kit donated by Iams, including pet food as well as information on nutrition and training.

Iams is the No. 2 premium pet food brand behind Colgate-Palmolive's Hills Science Diet.

Sales are said to be more than $300 million.

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