Hartz's Plan for the Pet Fan

Hartz Mountain Corp., the world's leading maker of pet-care products, is concluding a $10 million, two-year rebranding effort with an ad campaign that partly spoofs television's current reality makeover craze.

The direct response TV component of an effort that includes print and the Web site shows pets getting the ultimate makeover using an array of Hartz products. Consumers are encouraged to call or go online for free sample packs as well as register for Hartz news and offers.

“This is part of a total brand makeover for Hartz — products, packaging and the actual customer advertising,” said Steve Thibodeau, president of Hartz direct agency dotglu, New York. “They're rebuilding the brand inside out. They felt this is the right time to go to market. They're the No. 1 player, and they own so many categories on the shelf space. But what's happening is that small companies are stealing mind share.”

The 60-second infomercial on national cable and some local channels is a key foot soldier in influencing consumer attitudes. It shows a team of hosts arriving at a couple's house. The pets are ragged and disheveled. After a quick review, the pets are taken to a studio and groomed. They are then dropped back in a limo.

Products used in that ad include Hartz Pet Shoppe Living Botanicals shampoos, Hartz Dental Breath-Strips and Hartz Advanced Care Brand Flea and Tick Drops Plus. The spot urges viewers to call a toll-free number for a free product sample pack worth $20 to $25. They also can visit the site at www.hartz.com.

The sample pack, which also contains literature and coupons for store redemption, itself is a fluorescent orange case with a zipper. It looks like a toiletries bag and contains products for dogs, cats, birds, fish or reptiles, whatever the pet owner requests. The bag bears this line: “Fabulous Pet Makeover at Home.”

“The goal is getting packages into people's hands and getting names in the database so that we can start up a relationship marketing program,” Thibodeau said.

Hartz.com supports that effort. No longer cluttered, the site zeroes in on the ties between pets and their owners with images that reinforce health and joy.

“We need to inspire these consumers through all of the imagery and content, engage them and ultimately motivate them to buy these products,” Thibodeau said.

The site provides information and offers but does not sell products. Visitors can sign up for coupons and e-mail newsletters. Hartz, Secaucus, NJ, claims a sizable database but does not disclose the numbers.

Preceding the TV and online efforts is a print campaign in Dog Fancy, Dog World and Cat Fancy magazines running since April. Created by dotglu sister agency kirshenbaum bond + partners, New York, the ads promote Hartz Advanced Care Brand Flea and Tick Drops Plus. Print discusses products and benefits. There are also trade media and promotions.

Dotglu is sure the DRTV spot will work, more so in a TV environment rife with popular makeover shows like “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” “Trading Spaces,” “While You Were Out” and “Extreme Makeover.” Pet owners may appreciate the humor in the sell.

“No one owns the idea of transformation,” Thibodeau said. “The strategy here is, if you were a pet, you would choose Hartz — that's how pet owners internalize their relationship with their pets.”

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