Pedigree: K9FM

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Pet food brand PEDIGREE’s mission has always been to look after dogs’ wellbeing – not only via the food bowl, but also emotionally by providing wide-ranging dog care information and supporting initiatives such as a dog adoption drive.

PEDIGREE New Zealand challenged agency partner Colenso BBDO to create deeper engagement with the brand and come up with new opportunities to get PEDIGREE products into the hands of dog owners.



Colenso BBDO’s strategy was to engage with dog lovers by engaging with their dogs.

Research had shown that dogs get stressed when left alone at home. Although many owners leave the radio on to keep their dogs company, it’s radio aimed at humans. The solution was to create a radio station specifically crafted for dogs: K9FM.

The research also revealed details about canine personalities and behaviour, including the facts that classical music calms dogs down, a relaxed human voice eases their separation anxiety, and ambient sounds keep them interested.

Armed with this insight, Colenso BBDO partnered with Clemenger BBDO, Australia, New Zealand Radio Broadcasting School, music and sound studio Franklin Road, canine behaviour consultant Jess Allsop and a group of actors. The team created hours of original content designed to have a positive effect on dogs’ wellbeing and keep them entertained.

Top dog-themed shows included: Talkies, discussing important topics like “Where is the ball, really?”; Fetch in the Park – a live outside broadcast from a dog park; Meditation and Relaxation with Vet Joanna; Cuts of Meat, Types of Ball, Stupid Cats and much more.


The campaign ran for 12 weeks from May 2014, broadcasting a mix of music and speech 24 hours a day on 87.7 K9FM, with content rotated and refreshed to ensure no two days’ output sounded the same.

The station launch was supported by a promotional and PR campaign. Multiple activations at targeted locations designed to connect with dog owners included a branded van distributing promotional materials and broadcasting live from local parks. As word spread, the story was covered by national media, thereby increasing the station’s potential audience.

An important piece of insight from the research was that the sound dogs love to listen to most is their owner’s voice. So owners were given the ability to interact directly with their homebound hounds by calling the station live on air to leave personalised ‘shout outs’.  This introduced fresh content and was a key engagement feature, helping the campaign to fulfil its objectives.



I am in no doubt that it was the depth of content as well as its sheer scale that made this work. Typically, once a campaign has run we’re asking: “What next?” But the brand content we made for K9FM was such fun to make with so clear and real a purpose, the focus now is on how to push it out further.

Levi Slavin, former Creative Director, Colenso BBDO, (now Creative Director, BBDO, New York)


The K9FM branded content campaign attracted significant earned media interest, social comment and online content sharing during its three-month broadcast. The idea of engaging with dogs first and foremost unlocked a deeper emotional connection with dog owners.

The campaign won a multitude of marketing industry awards, including three Silver and two Bronze Lions, a Gold and Grand Prix Spike, a Gold Pencil at The One Show, a Gold and Grand Prix Axis Award, a Mashie – and two Yellow Pencils and the prestigious Black Pencil at the D&AD Awards 2015.

Perhaps the ultimate success indicator is that PEDIGREE’s parent company Mars is now considering how best to roll out the idea in other markets.

It has been an amazing year for PEDIGREE. The secret behind all the creative recognition we’ve had is the trust that exists between the Colenso BBDO team and the local Mars team. They are the real heroes behind all our record D&AD and Cannes wins this year. With trust, fear goes away, possibilities emerge and ideas are freely shared.

Leonid Sudakov, Chief Marketing Officer, Global Petcare, Mars

This case study was originally published in the BOBCM Special D&AD Edition collaboration, co-edited by Justin Kirby and Greta MacFarlane.

About the author

Justin Kirby is a consultant, educator and thought leader with a 20+ year career in industry as a digital strategist, producer and entrepreneur. He chairs and speaks at conferences around the globe, judge industry awards, and advise brands and agencies.