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Back in 2019….

Pre Covid, when it was normal to walk around the streets and see everyone’s faces, people would gather in groups and do fun activities. One such activity would be going to the cinema, to watch a new movie with friends or family. We were fortunate enough to be graced with an opportunity that was really a one in one million and our lives will never be the same for it.

Dusty’s first meme

The Secret Life of Pets had been a smashing success, generating $875.5 million US dollars. It garnered audiences of all ages, ethnicities, social status and humour types as it reached straight into our hearts with funny, fluffy and slightly dysfunctional characters. Pet owners form a strong knit community of their own, with fierce pride over their treasured pals. Imagine the frenzy when they realised they finally had an opportunity to bring to life, the vision of what their four legged friends get up to while they were away. 

So, with the premiere of The Secret Life of Pets 2 on the horizon in June 2019, it was no surprise that owners and those pondering adoption were bombarded with promotions of the movie all over their Facebook and Instagram. But this wasn’t your standard “click here to watch the trailer”. Oh no. This was something, far more genius and captivating, and a true example of how powerful digital marketing can be. 

They ran a social media contest. Participants all over New Zealand could send in photos of their beloved, with a story and win the chance for one of the 50 slots. These 50 would then have the opportunity to attend the premiere, and have their photo displayed on social media for the duration of the campaign. Imagine the likes, comments & shares across our team of 5 million!

Well, with Madam Dusty around, there was no way we were going to miss out on this. We thought a fluffy black cat, who was once homeless and chose us as her parents, wouldn’t garner much interest and going against the thousands of entries, it just seemed impossible. But, as every pet owner was, we were thrilled with the opportunity to show someone – anyone – a picture of our beautiful Chantilly Tiffany.

This is the photo we sent in – we thought it flattered her curves

So imagine our surprise and utter delight when we found out we were one of the 50! We attended the premiere in the IMAX theatre in Queen street and boy, we were underprepared. The red carpet was rolled out, with cutouts of the characters planted left, right and centre. Kids and adults all shrieking with delight as they found their pals alongside the wall. We didn’t think anything of it, just marvelling in the excitement and love that was so pure. Then, we found her.

Can you see our DustyGirl?

And just like the three year old in line in front of me, I started to cry. 

Here was our baby, once starving and homeless, who didn’t meow for two years, on the wall of an international film premiere. Hundreds would see her face and know her name. The waterworks were impossible to stop, and it was almost embarrassing, but the elation of being her owner was far superior. This was the heart of marketing – getting right in there, knowing who your customers were and what values they held – and it was sure an experience we would never forget. We were encouraged to make use of hashtags and selfies to advertise not only our pet but the movie (sure, why not?) and this was a critical and powerful ploy in advertising that created immense engagement while keeping operational costs fairly low. 
We got our free drink and popcorn and sat in our seats, impressed with the tactic and slowly returning to reality when I shrieked again. Dustygirl was on the big screen – and the waterworks started again.

Dusty on the big screen inside the cinema

The fellow family next to me saw me, then saw my fingers trembling towards Dusty. The little boy sitting next to me and said “she’s a pretty cat, what’s her name?”, while his mum gave me a big knowing smile. 

Thank goodness for pet owners. 

The lucky magnet we will forever treasure

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