Open Farm is looking for big impact in the surging pet market

With its first TV buy, a Blue Jays sponsorship and an omnichannel retail expansion, the ethically sourced pet food hopes to compete with legacy brands and new entrants.

Seven-year-old pet food brand Open Farm is taking its message to television for the first time as pet ownership grows.

“Over the last 18 months we’ve seen a tonne of acceleration in the business,” says Evan Shuster, VP marketing Open Farm. “[The pet category] has been a beneficiary of this new normal, with a bunch of new pet parents.”

According to a November 2020 survey of 1,231 Canadians by Logit Group’s Canadian Omnibus, among Canadian pet owners, 18% report they obtained a new pet since the start of the pandemic, while 55% of households report having a pet. 

Shuster tells strategy that these figures, in addition to a growing interest in Open Farm’s DTC business, its expanded retail footprint in Canada, and many consumers switching over to the brand, means now is the time for the brand to make a broader introduction via television as a true omnichannel player.

The ethically sourced and humanely raised cat and dog food brand is making its TV debut with 30- and 15-second spots featuring man’s best friend enjoying its products. The shorter spot with two pugs touts a home cooked-style meal for sensitive stomachs while the longer form ad highlights its various products for different dog breeds.

Open Farm’s differentiator is rigorous high standards and third-party certifications for its ingredients across a range of price points, proteins and formats, says Shuster, adding that the breadth of its portfolio is intentionally showcased in the longer form ad.

“For us, pet is an interesting category. A lot of brands are in a bit of an arm’s race about what makes their food better,” he says. “We wanted to showcase that every pet is unique… and with these quirks and needs comes unique meal solutions.”

While the creative features solely dogs, Shuster says it’s coming up with ideas for felines in future iterations. “This being our first foray into TV, dog makes up a larger part of our business but I think moving forward cats will be in the mix as well,” he says.

In the warmer months ahead, pet owners tend to increasingly venture outside as well as rethinking meal solutions, says Shuster of the Spring timing for the launch. He adds that the brand’s primary target is women, age 25 to 54, a decision maker for pet food choices.

Open Farm, he says, occupies a highly competitive space that includes other more premium, larger natural food brands like Blue Buffalo, smaller brands like Farmina, but also global players like Nestle’s Purina.

The message is being amplified with in-store, as well as digital display ads. There is also a partnership with the Toronto Blue Jays as part of a brand-building effort nationwide. Consumers can expect retail activation with the Jays throughout the MLB season, as well as more engagement with baseball fans going forward. In honour of National Pet Day on April 11, for example, Open Farm showed its logo behind the home plate, and recently did a homepage takeover of the club’s website.

The creative agency is Signal by Taxi, with 1987inc., Eggplant Music & Sound, and The Faculty behind production. The media agency is Kinsgstar Media.