Petcentric users bark with Doggie-Mail

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Nestle's Purina-branded pet social network Petcentric.com debuted Doggie-Mail, a free e-mail platform powered by technology firm Oddcast, to promote the Web site.

Petcentric's e-mail service lets its 2 million users send entertaining, pet-customized messages from a template of dogs and costumes.

"The objective of Doggie-Mail is to introduce pet lovers to the fun and entertaining world of Petcentric through an interactive e-mail feature they will be excited to share with other people," said Kristina Ryan Fauss, brand director at Purina, St. Louis. "When people log on to Petcentric.com, the interactive Doggie-Mail screen invites people to choose one of three dogs and customize the dog's wardrobe, props and scene."

Visitors to www.petcentric.com can choose from scenes including a red carpet and a dude ranch, wardrobes such as a feather boa and a Santa hat and props ranging from sunglasses to a funny nose.

Then visitors pick a prerecorded message for the dog to speak, or they type in their own line and choose a voice. They can even call an 800 number to record a message in their own voice. Once the e-mail has been customized, they send the talking dog message to friends.

Oddcast, New York, employed its talking avatar platform for the skin of the e-mail, which is the three dogs, as well as the viral features including a send-to-friends option.

To promote Doggie-Mail, Petcentric is using dog show host John O'Hurley and the launch of his book, "It's Okay to Miss the Bed on the First Jump: And Other Life Lessons I Learned From Dogs."

Excerpts from the book are on Petcentric's site, as is a short video of Mr. O'Hurley introducing the Doggie-Mail platform. He launched the Doggie-Mail preview during the broadcast of "The National Dog Show Presented by Purina," which aired Thanksgiving Day on NBC.

Also, users can enter a sweepstakes for a copy of the book or one of 25 grand prize packages filled with a bed, toys, a treat machine and other fun stuff for dogs.

Subscribers to Petcentric receive newsletters with feature stories, pets in the news, product and book reviews, a calendar of pet activities and a photo gallery of subscribers' dogs and cats.

The e-mail service aims to promote the Web site itself.

"Petcentric is a fun and entertaining Web site and online newsletter for pet lovers," Ms. Ryan Fauss said. "It is lightly branded by Purina and is about building a community of dog and cat owners who like to share and receive information."

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