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Direct Response Marketing

A Bite as Big as His Bark

1 Dec, 2010 By: Thomas Haire Response

Former lead lobbyist Wayne Pacelle's six-year run of success as the leader of the Humane Society of the united States has a strong DR marketing plan as its backbone.


Pacelle says recent investments to upgrade the HSUS Web site ( have paid off, as has its work utilizing social media. “We are the third-largest fundraiser on Facebook in the non-profit sector,” he adds. “We’ve got an unbelievably engaged constituency, and a lot of the thanks goes to DR marketing. Our DRTV work will likely grow even bigger, and we already believe we are No. 1 in our field in social media and online advocacy.”

Experimentation and learning from the process are two keys to success using direct response, according to Pacelle. “In DRTV, one of our challenges is the number of issues we are advocating for and are drivers for member support,” he says. “Seal clubbing, animal rescue, puppy mills — and on and on. For our DR campaigns, it’s all about testing and getting the right mix that shows the complexity and breadth of the work we conduct daily at the HSUS, but keeps the message simple. At times, we’ve tried to cram too much into our marketing messages. We’ve learned we must focus on specific elements in each spot, while still providing a broader context for our work.”

Making Animals Lives Better

While raising funds and driving memberships is crucial to the continued success of the HSUS, Pacelle knows that marketing campaigns are crucial for the passionate work of his life — reforming laws to protect animals. “We have the most successful ballot measure operation in the country — we win about 80 percent of the time, which is saying something when you think about the players we come up against,” Pacelle says, citing major agribusiness lobbyists in the fight over California’s 2008 Prop. 2 and the National Rifle Association (NRA) in battles over canned hunting grounds.

He talks extensively about the recently passed Missouri ban on puppy mills that shut down an estimated 3,000 operations in the state. “They raise dogs in factory farms, with no exercise and no human attention, and then they are sold through pet stores or Web sites. It was a huge win for us, and part of larger anti-puppy mill campaign. We support responsible dog breeding, and rescue from shelters,” Pacelle says.

In both the California campaign in 2008 and this year in Missouri, Pacelle says that TV ads made a powerful difference. “Our investigations unit got compelling undercover footage,” Pacelle says. “We also used social media, medical doctors and veterinarians, who spoke with credibility. We really used our full suite of DR capabilities to get the voters informed and excited to vote.”

He also mentions a new project that the HSUS is working on with the Ad Council. “It’s a big shelter-pet project, and it’s the first time the Ad Council has taken on an animal welfare campaign,” Pacelle adds.

Other key campaigns currently underway take on the troubling worlds of dog fighting and cock fighting. “We’ve changed several state laws and federal laws. We work with law enforcement to raid these operations,” Pacelle contends. “We’re also working with at-risk kids and animals in pitbull training programs. Kids learn about compassion for the animals, and it benefits both dogs and kids. We’ve also worked with (NFL quarterback and controversial convicted dog fighter) Michael Vick to speak to kids across country about the wrong of dog fighting.”

Pacelle also credits the many agencies and vendors who have helped the HSUS achieve success with direct response, and speaks about a few of what he calls a “phalanx of consultants who help us in various activities.”

“For DRTV, we use the California office of Euro RSCG Edge, and they’ve been excellent at targeting our media for success,” Pacelle says. “For our direct mail, we’ve worked for a long time with Market Development Group, who have maximized our enormous list and helped us achieve the highest membership retention rates we’ve experienced. Another key player has been Deno Seder, who runs the production house we use to create our ads for the ballot measures. He understands what we need and executes it extremely well.” ■

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About the Author: Thomas Haire

Thomas Haire

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