December 18th, 2008

How 'Marley' Won Over Purina for Partnership

By Jeremy Mullman
Advertising Age

Movie Deal Is Dog-Food Brand's First Branded-Entertainment Effort

He’s been called the world’s worst dog, but Purina couldn’t say no to Marley.

Purina has, of course, been selling dog food for eons, and has passed on many canine-featuring flicks. But “Marley & Me,” the film from 20th Century Fox starring Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson, has inspired the pet-food marketer to dig into its first major branded-entertainment play.

Dog Chow’s director of marketing, Pat Mullen, said the “known quantity” of working with a best-selling book, an A-list cast and an accomplished director (David Frankel, who directed “The Devils Wears Prada” and has numerous TV credits) made this project too good to pass up.

History with ‘rascally’ dogs
Marley’s likeness to the rambunctious pooches the Chow brand has spotlighted in its long-running “Long live your dog” campaign also helped. The premise of the campaign is to keep dogs “rascally” for longer. In one early scene in the film, Marley tips over a giant bag of Puppy Chow and begins Hoovering its contents. “The takeaways there are that Marley was a voracious eater, and that Marley really loves his food,” Mr. Mullen said. “Those are very positive for us.”

The deal goes well beyond product placement and includes integrations in nearly every communication for the brands.

“Pretty much everything we’re doing is Marley-centered right now,” said Duane Johnson, a creative director on the brand at its longtime agency, Fallon. “All of our communications are focused there.”

User-generated videos
The deal also includes a number of contests and giveaways—including a Willy Wonka-esque “Golden Bone” giveaway of tickets to the Hollywood premiere—and major retail displays, such as a contest in which consumers can get their videos of their own rascally dogs included on the DVD, which comes out this spring. Finalist videos got an airing earlier this year in co-branded TV spots during the National Dog Show.

“That’s the first time user-generated content has ever ended up as branded content on a DVD release,” said Bryan Thoensen of the William Morris Agency, which helped shape the deal and, according to Purina executives, served as a guide through the unfamiliar Hollywood landscape. “That’s groundbreaking.”

Other aspects of the campaign include Chow-branded Marley calendars and holiday ornaments, created by agencies Checkmark and William Morris and Fallon. The consumer-generated-video finalists can be found on

The film will hit theaters Christmas Day. 


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