About 50 dogs annually during recent years have been awarded medals by the company's Ken-L-Products Division, honoring them for heroic acts. These awards to individual dog heroes are purely local affairs. But they frequently result in state-wide, regional, or even national publicity.
A top man locally, perhaps a mayor or police chief, usually seems glad to present the medal and the citation,
particularly when he learns of local newspaper and radio-TV interest.
Seeing how these local dog-hero awards invariably resulted in solidly worthwhile news stories for Ken-L-Ration, Quaker Oats' product publicity chief began pondering ways to build these good local stories into good national stories.
He outlined and discarded plan after plan, but finally settled on a national Dog Hero of Heroes award named the Ken-L-Ration Award. And the national competition was opened automatically to all local dog heroes honored during the year.
To strengthen the national competition's newsworthiness, a special Ken-L-Ration medal was created. Added annual prizes included a $1,000 U.S. Savings Bond, a gold leash and collar, dog blanket, plaque, and three-day stay at a luxury hotel suite in Chicago for the dog and its owners.
The PR man presented his ideas to Ken-L-Products executives. They listened and approved. The first annual award ceremonies were set for the "dog days" of August in Chicago.
When the new project was tried out for size in its first year, it was strictly a publicity affair. No concurrent advertising or sales efforts were attempted. It seemed wise to make such a test before spending important money.
The campaign was announced with news released to the general press, wire services, dog writers, columnists, trade press, and radio and TV news rooms. Immediate response was gratifying. Other wire services gave the story wide distribution, heavily accenting the prize angle.
Hal Boyle, Associated Press columnist, turned out a wonderfully whimsical column on the announcement. He pretended to greet with alarm the whole idea of bestowing any further heroism awards on dogs. He went on to imagine dogs pushing folks in front of subway trains just to jerk them out at the last moment.
Alerted to what was coming, the company's sales force helped spread the word. Sales executives in each major city received localized news releases which they forwarded to daily and weekly publications in their own areas.
One story that went particularly well in nearly all sales office communities was a piece which began, "Are there any dog heroes in this community?" The story then went on to say that the manager of the Quaker Oats office in the city wanted word that would qualify any of the city's dogs for the contest.
Public response was immediate and favorable. Letters, word-of-mouth statements, and editorial comment testified to the impact of the first releases. Many seemed pleased that any heroic dog had a chance.
As the campaign continued, suspense was built up by narrowing the field to five finalists. Stories of the heroic deeds of these finalists and the prizes they could win were issued. Personalities to be present at the awards ceremonies in Chicago were featured in other stories.
Chicago dinner. From then on stories and pictures regarding the winner and the contest flowed steadily.
The winning dog in the contest's first year was Tang, a beautiful collie, owned by an Army captain, his wife and two small children, of Denison, Texas. This dog was credited with saving four small children on four different occasions by pulling them off the highway just in time to keep them from being struck.
It was fortuitous, but naturally useful, that the dog's hometown was the birthplace of President Eisenhower. That fact alone resulted in a number of good national stories and pictures.
Best news picture of all, however, came a few days before Tang and his family of owners left for their big days in Chicago. The picture was a simple one showing Tang and a group of small youngsters parading in his honor. Most of the children carried home-made, but legible, signs such as "Our Hero Is Going to Chicago."
The photo chief of one of the press associations in Chicago classed this picture as the best dog shot in several years. Nearly ever}' newspaper in the country seemed to agree with his evaluation.
When the dog and his owners arrived at the Chicago airport they were met by a battery of newsreel cameramen. Film of the arrival and the banquet ceremonies was shown in theaters and on TV across the country, and in such faraway countries as Afghanistan, Brazil, Indo-China, Norway, and Siam.
The banquet ceremonies, attended by notables of the dog world and by representatives of press, radio, and TV, were held with appropriate dignity. With the orchestra playing, "My Hero," the winning dog was led into the banquet hall by his child owner and the award of the gold Ken-L-Ration medal was made by one of the country's Congressional Medal of Honor winners. Presentation of the other prizes was made by the vice president of the company's Ken-L-Products Division.
The award dinner and prizes were featured in news stories. The return of the dog to his hometown in Texas was the signal for still another group of stories.
Starting with the second year, the impact of the first national award was evident everywhere. Each local award to a heroic dog began to carry the additional note that this dog would now be eligible for the national award and for the many prizes going to the national winner.
Apart from press support, the project began to get more support within the company. Immediately following the second annual dinner, for example, the Ken-L-Products advertising manager ran a series of ads featuring pictures of the winner in the general territory of the winning dog. The sales manager assigned area salesmen to special activities in the area's stores. The sales promotion director set up radio-TV and other programs in the territory. And the manager of the company's pet foods department generally coordinated advertising, sales, and sales
promotion efforts with the publicity activities.
The national Dog Hero award project has continued to be a useful one. With advertising and sales efforts being coordinated with publicity activities, results should be still better annually for some years to come.
A few years ago the Kellogg Company found it desirable to put on a special product publicity program to aid the Institutional Division. Cereal consumption in the home was on the increase month after month. However, cereal consumption in restaurants was not enjoying the same rate of increase.
Advertising alone could not do the job as it is difficult to find media that reach specifically the person who cats breakfast in a restaurant.
Therefore, the job had to be done by means of a publicity project with the necessary advertising support to make it a well-rounded program.
It was decided that in order to reach the public properly, it would be necessary to have the help of the restaurant manager, the waitress, and the buyer of cereal.
It was decided:
- There should be some kind of a contest staged on a national basis to obtain the cooperation of waitresses.
- A special breakfast menu should be publicized during this project.
- The Kellogg Company should also give a special service, in addition to this contest, to the restaurant operator. Since the turnover of chefs is very fast, a quantity-recipe service was proposed.
- The Kellogg Company should build further good will by tying in with the National Restaurant Association, National Restaurant Month, and special local and regional programs carried on by other restaurant groups.