Direct-to-Consumer (D2C) brands are enjoying incredible growth this year thanks to their entirely contactless purchase experience. eMarketer reports that the sector’s ecommerce sales will jump to $17.8B in 2020, a 24% increase over last year, largely resulting from pandemic-induced shopping.
The trend highlights Americans’ recent preference for D2C over traditional brick-and-mortars, and it doesn’t stop with clothing retail and electronics. Pet owners across the country have been spending more time with — and more money on — their dogs, and keeping a watchful eye on what their four-legged friends are eating.
D2C dog food companies may have something to gain from consumers’ increased time at home with their pets, but what do the ads show? We analyzed a trio of digital ad campaigns from D2C dog food brands to see what trend they capture.
JustFoodForDogs Just Spends on Facebook
JustFoodForDogs delivers made-with-real-food doggy dinners to your door. Pathmatics began tracking the company’s ads in early 2017, and since then, the company has continued to invest all its digital ad budget in Facebook.
After a consistent increase over the last year, JustFoodForDogs’ ad spend peaked at an estimated $126K in February. This is followed by $16.7K spend in March, and $30.7K in April — that’s the lowest JustFoodForDogs has spent on digital ads per month since last summer.
The reason could lie in its advertising creatives. The company’s top ads in February, for example, heavily promoted its open house vet pantries, where it partners with local pet hospitals in Los Angeles and offers visitors free pet food samples, treats, and other goodies. These ads became more sparse after February, when social distancing restrictions took hold.
In fact, in February, JustFoodForDogs invested one-third of its Facebook budget targeting Los Angeles. Creatives highlighted open houses across the city and surrounding region, including Anaheim, Valencia, Simi Valley, Poway, Pico Rivera. The company pivots from promoting in-person open houses in February and March, to promoting virtual veterinary dinners for local vets, or its own webinar series depicting COVID’s impact on veterinary practice in March and April.
Other top creatives touted 50% off on your first meal purchase and “real” ingredients used in the food. In May, Pathmatics saw JustFoodForDogs premiere ad copy offering free shipping on orders $50+. One ad states, “Your dog’s health is important to us, but so is yours. That’s why if you need more meals for your pup, we’ll come to you.”
Tuning in: The Farmer’s Dog
Facebook ($699K) dominated The Farmer’s Dog digital ad strategy at 81% of total spend for the year. The company’s top Facebook creatives show a focus on fresh ingredients for a healthier dog, an offer to get 50% off your first order, and messaging promoting recognition from the American Kennel Club. The company kept creatives and ad messaging the same January to May, signifying no real change in creatives strategy.
What’s interesting is the company’s indirect and direct desktop video ($124K) and desktop display ad spend ($32K) this year. From March 19 to 22, desktop ad spend accounted for 91% of the brand’s total ad budget, and Facebook, only 9%. During these four days, The Farmer’s Dog spent $28K on CNN and $23.6K on USA Today for a combined 2.1M+ impressions.
The same creative was featured across both sites, and it featured several younger dogs running into frame to devour The Farmer’s Dog food in the middle of the screen. Given shelter-in-place measures began around mid-March, it’s safe to assume this direct ad buy was a purposeful way to reach folks tuning into CNN and USA Today for coronavirus news.
Ollie Pets gets local
It’s hard to miss an Ollie Pets ad. The creatives are colorful, well designed, and feature high-quality candids of pups of all sizes. Messaging often focuses around how Ollie ships for free, contact-free dropoff, and hyper-customizing your dog’s food based on age, breed, ideal weight, and more.
Ollie has a similar ad mix to The Farmer’s Dog, with 83% of its total ad budget this year going to Facebook, and 17% to desktop advertising. Pathmatics Explorer shows a dramatic increase in advertising for the former, with Facebook spend skyrocketing nearly ten-fold from February to April ($6.4K to $57.4K). This comes after six months of steadily decreasing Facebook spend — $69K in June 2019 to $6K in January 2020.
The company reintroduced desktop video ads to the mix in March, and saw its biggest spike in desktop spend on April 21. That day alone, Ollie spent $12.8K on desktop ads. The top ads by spend were featured on thehill.com ($6.2K), pitchfork.com ($1.8K), and news.yahoo.com ($1.4K).
Ollie Pets also advertised to a plethora of local news sites in the last 30 days, including Fox stations in Indianapolis and St. Louis Fox, ABC in Louisville, CBS in our nation’s capital, and NBC in Denver. This could signify a targeted strategy where Ollie advertises with more conservative outlets (FOX) in conservative states; and more progressive outlets (NBC) in progressive states.
The future of dog food, delivered
Pandemic fears have kept many Americans home for the better part of two months. As a result, the D2C food sector has thrived, and dog food brands are taking advantage of pet owners being home more and taking closer care of their dogs. Time will tell what the future of D2C dog food looks like, but for right now, it’s natural dog food delivered straight to your door.
The D2C economy is growing. Check out how meal delivery companies are advertising during COVID-19.
With over a decade of experience across digital marketing, content, creative, and PR, Sarah is a creative and dynamic thinker who loves to delight clients with unique and relatable content. Sarah graduated from UC Berkeley with a BA in Sociology.