New pet lovers social network launches with talking pets viral campaign

At the moment it seems like there’s a new niche social network launching every couple of weeks, and this week its the turn of UK animal welfare charity The Blue Cross to enter the Web 2.0 world with a re-launch of its existing All About Pets information website as a new social network site. Developed by DVA, the site offers most of the basic community site features as well as providing access to the wealth of quality pet care information the charity produces.

The Blue Cross is a client of the agency I work for and as part of the site launch we’ve developed them a fun viral campaign that lets pet lovers upload photos of their pets (or use the cute ones provided), animate them to say any message they want to type in, and then email their talking pet message to their friends or upload it to their Facebook profile. Just click on the image above to see what I mean – and go to talkingpets.org to send your own messages (remember to turn your volume up).

Added to this we’ve also developed what is apparently a world first for online advertising, with ad units that scrape the web page they appear on, identify the H1 tag, and from this make the animated dog in the ad read-out the headline from the main story on the page. Readers can then type their own message into the ad to see the dog speak again before clicking-through to the talkingpets.org microsite.

All great fun and, from the first few days data, a campaign that is certainly resulting in a whole lot of talking pet emails flying into people’s in boxes – and hopefully lots of pet lovers signing-up at the All About Pets site.

I must admit that usually when I hear that a charity is developing a ‘viral campaign‘ I’m a bit sceptical, as for every great example that spreads like wildfire (like Macmillan’s virtual coffee morning) there are a great many that never get far beyond the charity’s staff and their closest friends. The truth is that providing the type of content that lots of people want to send to lots of their friends just isn’t that easy for most charities – given that, in the main, the viral momentum generated through generating shock or offence simply doesn’t fit with most charity brands. In the case of talkingpets.org it’s a combination of surprise, fun, and an extremely high level of personalisation that lie behind the strength of the campaign – or viraliciousness as JWT’s Colvyn Harris describes it in his post on what makes a viral ad.

If you’ve worked-on or seen any other really effective charity viral campaigns then do leave a comment to let me know about them.