Dogbook barks up a new tree

Geoffrey Roche talks about advertising opps on the redesigned site as well as plans for his blog,

Advertising can be a dog eat dog world.

From above to below the digital fold, ads are in constant battle to catch the eye of the consumer. And while watching from the sidelines since his departure from Lowe Roche, Geoffrey Roche says that he has been toiling away at his media company, Poolhouse, to create a gratifying online experience for both advertisers and the coveted consumer.

This week sees the launch of the redesigned Dogbook, a Facebook app created by Poolhouse in dedication to man’s best friend with a worldwide user base of 3.5 million, of which 300,000 are Canadian. The company sent out an email to its users on Wednesday notifying them of the changes and since then, site traffic has increased by 500%, says Roche.

According to Roche, the revamp opens the doors for advertisers to step away from barking ads that fill web pages and create a customized site takeover that allows the brand to integrate into the site design.

The catalogue of changes includes a 300% larger profile picture (much like Facebook’s Timeline cover image space), a new “My Life Story” section where users can plug in details as to how their furry friend came to be, a “Dog Years Calculator” as well as a customizable “My Favourites” section that lists, for example, the pet’s preferred place to sleep and favourite car to ride in.

And a site for dog-lovers would be amiss without a Happy Birthday Video (which you can watch below) sent out to users on the day of their pet’s day of birth.

For users in the US, the sight of waving-tongued dogs in Subaru cars will be the norm as the brand is the first to come on board for the redesign for its “Dog Tested. Dog Approved” campaign. Ads that match the site design will cloak the user’s profile and home page for the next three months with the addition of two branded web videos and a dog bandana giveaway.

In the next week or two, Canadian audiences will be hit with right column ads, also created to blend into the design, from Global Pet Foods, says Roche.

While there has not yet been a site takeover buy on the Canadian app, Roche says that completely integrated page dominations will be the future of advertising on the app.

“To have an advertiser own the site for a couple of months really allows them to involve themselves with the users,” he says, “rather than just placing a box that flashes at you and is obnoxious until you want to look away.”

Roche’s pitch to advertisers is to execute a buy that will resonate with that specific audience, adding that he plans to look for more advertisers, like Subaru and Global Pet Foods, that have some kind of a link with the site content.

In about a month from now, a fresh and redesigned “Dogs Around You” mobile app will be released for users wanting to post pictures of their pets on their walk in a park, for example. There will be opportunity for brands to advertise through deal and store notifications on the app’s geo-locating feature, much like Foursquare, he says.

In addition to Dogbook, Roche’s company has also created Catbook, Horsebook, Ferretbook, Rodentbook, Fishbook, Birdbook and My Babybook. The cat, horse and baby sites have also undergone a redesign.

When asked why he decided to create a community space for dogs, cats and other little critters, Roche says that he recognized the profound emotional bond between pets and their owners and the excitement people have when they get a dog.

Roche also has a thing for shoes, and for the past year he has been expressing his interest on his blog, The page showcases trendy shoes across the world, with his correspondents in New York, London, Hong Kong and San Francisco taking pictures of feet to be posted for other shoe-enthusiasts to ogle.

“I guess people are getting used to me looking down at the ground all the time now. I’m always looking for new shoes,” he jokes.

While the site does not have advertising opportunities available yet, Roche says he is still tinkering about to see what works and what doesn’t. Once he and his team are happy with the pet series of sites, they will start working at bringing in shoe designers/brands to sponsor content and have, for instance, their spring collection featured on the site.