We designed the ‘Thunder’ campaign to better prepare urban pet owners in Costa Rica for disasters. The initiative conveyed simple, practical tips to help with the development of emergency plans for the whole family, including pets.
This communication campaign was built upon research, and aimed to promote a culture of preparedness among companion and farm animal owners respectively.
It was part of a wider program we were implementing with the Costa Rican Ministry of Agriculture and local the Animal Health Service (SENASA) to strengthen national and local capacity in emergency management.
The government recognised that, alongside wider issues of protecting livestock, there were many other vulnerable animals, most notably pets.
More than 1.3 million dogs provide invaluable psychological comfort and support to families across Costa Rica.
Based on research
To ensure the most effective campaign, its design was based on the results of a countrywide investigation (Cid Gallup, 2013) exploring the level of preparedness of urban pet owners.
This baseline study evaluated the four key criteria distinguishing a fully prepared pet owner:
- ID tag with the owner´s contact information
- Kennel and leash
- Emergency kit in a secure container
- Friend or family member that could take care of the pet in case of evacuation
Our research determined that less than 3% of all pet owners fulfilled even two of the four criteria and only 5% of the pets had ID tags.
The communication initiative therefore was designed to convey simple measures that pet owners could undertake to be better prepared and reduce risks.
The target of the public mobilisation campaign was urban pet owners. During the first stage, a media campaign launched in the Great Metropolitan Area of Costa Rica (GAM), featuring a dachshund named “Thunder” as the main character. Thunder helped promote the four most important preparedness and prevention measures (identified by analysis) to pet owners.
The core forms of media the campaign used were TV and social media. The advert aired on selected TV channels at both prime time and other times, based on ratings and target audience, to ensure maximum exposure. In addition, key messages were promoted on social media.
By the end of the campaign, the number of people who had taken at least one preventive measure in care for their pets had doubled.
The number of people who had an emergency plan in place for their pet at the start of the campaign rocketed from 2% to 21%. The percentage of pets with identification rose from 5% to 20%.
Our TV advert reached 45% of its target audience and each person viewed the advertisement an average of three times. In total the advert broadcast over 6,000 times during the three-year campaign, with approximately 700 adverts per month.
Social media was a powerful tool for the campaign, too. In 2014, 14 Facebook posts promoting the campaign reached over 4 million people in Mexico and Costa Rica. They achieved over 65,000 likes and 6,000 shares.
Research is a key component of communications campaigns. Having a baseline and post assessments was instrumental in determining the success of the campaign. Although there was no control group to help determine the exact level of impact, an important increase was shown in the level of preparedness of our target audience.
Television is an effective, but costly medium. Although our research at the time showed it was the #best vehicle through which to reach animal owners, increased exposure of audiences to social networks now allows for implementation of digital campaigns which are more cost-effective.
This process could be implemented by governments and/or international organisations who wish to improve the level of preparedness among urban populations.
The campaign proved to be very successful in getting the message to a specific target audience. One of the main features of the video was simplicity, the video identified key measures that a prepared pet should have: ID tag, vaccinations, kennel and a plan (drill).