Purina Feeds Cat Chow Channel to Users Through Wireless Site

Seeking new ways to promote its Cat Chow brand to pet owners, Ralston Purina Co. claims it has developed the first wireless site for the pet food industry.

Available on the free AvantGo mobile service for 2 million users and catchow.com, the Catchow.com to Go application is a succinct adaptation of the Purina site for one of the market-leading cat food brands.

“We think cat owners are a little bit of a upper-scale audience looking for ways to help simplify their lives,” said Michael D. Moore, worldwide director of the Purina Interactive Group, St. Louis. “PDAs, cell phones and things like that do that, and that's why we launched the catchow.com application. It's for these consumers that are mobile but still want to have that relationship with their pet.”

Content on the Cat Chow channel includes a Q&A session with mentors, feature articles, tips and a kitten center. Consumers also can follow the progress of Purina's nationwide grass-roots Way of Life Tour.

R/GA, a New York subsidiary of Interpublic Group of Companies Inc., an advertising agency holding company, created the Cat Chow application for personal digital assistants. The agency in March 2000 redesigned catchow.com, following up with online marketing initiatives such as e-mail.

“The great thing about the pet food space is that people are very connected to their pets, [and] they're very information-hungry about their pets,” said Dawn Winchester, vice president of client services at R/GA. “Particularly in the segment of the pet-owning population that we're targeting with Purina Cat Chow, they're highly involved pet owners who care for their pets as much as they care for their children and require that kind of level of in-depth information about health and nutrition.”

AvantGo users can automatically add the Cat Chow site to their channels. So, the next time they connect, or HotSync, users can open the AvantGo application and start reading.

For first-time users of the AvantGo service, content can be downloaded to the PDA directly from the Cat Chow site whenever they connect. PDAs with a wireless modem can connect directly to the AvantGo channel with MobileLink.

“The challenge is many consumers are mobile, whether they're traveling to work or traveling on pleasure, and that they may still have questions about animal health that they may want answered while on the go,” Moore said.

The application was born after Purina found that cat owners were among the most tech-savvy of U.S. households.

“We know that pet owners in general and cat owners in particular tend to be [adopting] technology at a slightly greater rate than households at large,” Moore said.

There are an estimated 30 million cat-owning households in the United States.

According to Forrester Technographics for 2001, 62.4 percent of cat-owning households were online in the past three months versus 60.4 percent for dog owners and 57.4 percent for total U.S. households.

Cat-owning households also led those groups in at-home broadband connections, but trailed dog owners in cell phone penetration. But in PDA penetration, cat owners had an edge, with 6.1 percent versus 6 percent each for the U.S. population and dog-owning households.

Moore hopes the PDA application, live since Oct. 16, will grow the Cat Chow brand.

“We hope that it will forge a stronger bond between consumers and the Cat Chow brand,” he said.

Purina may introduce PDA versions for other company brands based on response to the Cat Chow effort. A cell phone online application is also a possibility.

“This is the first wireless application that we have,” Moore said. “We have others planned. We think it's an area of interest to pet owners, but [Purina] does not have any particular plan [it] can share right now. But it's on our horizon.”

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