Animal charity unveils world's first 'virtual newshound'

Creative Match
July 30, 2008

In an exciting world-first, online ads designed to promote the viral will feature a 'virtual newshound' - a talking dog that reads the news headline from its host site in real time!

The online campaign aims to raise awareness of, a new online community for pet lovers, run by Britain's pet charity The Blue Cross. It is hoped that the viral will help drive traffic to the site and boost sign-ups prior to its official launch next month.

Debbie Curtis, The Blue Cross Head of Communications said: "This viral campaign is fun, entertaining and a perfect way to reach pet owners who will enjoy being part of our new online community, All About Pets.

"It has been exciting to work on something so innovative, creative and unique, and we are confident that it will help us to attract even more members to the site in the run up to its official launch."

The viral campaign allows users to create their own talking pet by choosing from a selection of virtual cats and dogs (avatars) or by uploading a picture of their own furry friend. Technology from avatar specialists Oddcast allows the virtual pets to be customised with accessories and animated backgrounds while uploaded images can be fitted with an appropriate mouth.

Users can then type a message for their talking pet to say or choose a pre-recorded message with a range of different voice options. The final talking pet can be sent to friends or uploaded into a Facebook profile.

Online ads (MPUs) to promote the viral will run over four weeks on AOL and MySpace. An interactive talking dog will use text-to-speech technology to engage the user by encouraging them to type in messages for the dog to say. The user will then be directed to click through to the talking pets microsite.

One of the ads, appearing exclusively on AOL, will combine text-to-speech functionality with page-scraping technology for the first time ever to create a 'virtual newshound'. It is hoped that this ad will be even more successful in engaging users and achieving click-throughs as the dog will be able to read the headlines of the host webpage in real time.

The concept of the viral campaign and its promotional MPUs were devised and created by The Blue Cross's marketing agency, WWAV Rapp Collins London.

Digital PR agency Hot Cherry will promote the online viral campaign and the new social network across a network of bloggers, online communities and other websites. The Blue Cross will measure its success with click throughs and analytics.

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