Q&A: The Woof Agency

Jane Peh

Co-founder of The Woof Agency

The business of pet influencers is a high growth industry that shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. We spoke to Jane Peh, Co-Founder of Singapore-based ‘The Woof Agency’, to discuss the pet economy and the power of pets as a marketing tool.

WHAT IS THE WOOF AGENCY?

The Woof Agency is a digital and social media agency that specialises in pet marketing.We work closely with pet influencers to launch strategic social media campaigns and create engaging content for brands.When we first started the company, we were a generalist influencer marketing agency with a speciality in pet influencers. However, as we started to work with more brands, we realised that the pet industry is rapidly developing, especially with the increased humanisation of pets in general.This is something we wanted to harness and so we increasingly did more work with pets. Now that is our main focus.

WHAT IS THE STORY BEHIND THE WOOF AGENCY – HOW DID YOU GET INTO THE BUSINESS OF REPRESENTING PET INFLUENCERS?

We have always been pet lovers, so we would actually spend hours looking through pet photos and videos on social media sites like Facebook and Instagram.We became emotionally attached to these dogs and would purchase their branded merchandise or rent their Airbnb to play with the pups. After a while, we had a thought: why are there human influencers but not pet influencers? So, we set out to change that, and let the world know that a pet can be a great influencer too! Because of my background in advertising, I saw an opportunity and I took it. That’s how I startedThe Woof Agency with my co-founder Tay Sijun.

IS THERE A BUSINESS REASON TO BASE THE AGENCY IN SINGAPORE?

It was a natural choice since we are based here and Singapore is renowned as an accommodating place to start a business in terms of regulation. However, beyond that, for pet ownership, Singapore is a great place to be in since people here have higher disposable income and many see pets as family members, as opposed to just an animal. There is also a gradual shift towards owning a pet versus having kids, and Singapore is very similar to the US and Australia, for example, which are our key markets due to the huge potential.

WHAT IS A PET INFLUENCER?

Think of Kim Kardashian – but a four-legged version. Technically, in this context, an influencer is an individual who has the power to affect the purchase decisions of consumers because of his/her authority.

HOW HAS THE PET INFLUENCER ECONOMY DEVELOPED IN RECENT YEARS?

Overall the influencer marketing economy has been increasing year on year, with the influencer marketing industry size set to hit $15 billion by 2022. Pet influencing is a relatively new phenomenon, but with the rising popularity of pets and increasing internet penetration across the world, more and more people are actively engaging with pets on social media, which in turn has exponentially expanded the pet influencer economy.

WHAT DOES IT TAKE FOR A PET TO BECOME SOCIAL MEDIA FAMOUS?

Great content. A lot of pet owners misunderstand that taking Insta- worthy photos (great background, aesthetic, and photo edit) is the way to get famous, and whilst that might have worked for some, we do believe that it’s the content that makes people engage. Each pet has a story.Your dog might be a fussy eater, your cat might be a diva who hates the bath, your hedgehog might have been abandoned but living his best life now, etc. Go beyond the photos, videos and the screen – tell the story, share your pet’s everyday antics and treat your followers almost like they are co-parenting your furkids with you. We find that the best performing account often has a unique trait and the pet owner creates great content around that.

WHO IS THE AUDIENCE FOR THESE PET INFLUENCERS? IS IT PRIMARILY OTHER PET OWNERS OR IS IT BROADER THAN THAT?

It ranges from other pet owners following their furkids friends, to everyday people wanting to follow the life journey and daily happenings of a particular pet they like! Nowadays, with the humanisation of pets, more and more people are curious to find out the general life of pets on social media because it’s so cute and heart- warming.

WHAT DO PET INFLUENCERS TELL US ABOUT THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN HUMANS AND OUR PETS? HAS SOCIAL MEDIA CHANGED THAT RELATIONSHIP?

The increase in the social media presence of pets means that we are now increasingly personifying and humanising our pets, treating our pets as a companion rather than just a pet. The rise of social media has definitely increased the humanisation factor in pet ownership and provides an avenue for pet owners to share their pets daily lives with people all over the world.

WHAT KIND OF BRANDS ARE ENGAGING PET INFLUENCERS AND WHY ARE THEY DOING IT?

The most common brands working with pet influencers are pet related verticals such as pet food, treats, accessories and Internet of Things devices as they have direct synergy with pet ownership. However, there is also an increasing number of brands from human verticals, such as vacuum cleaners,TV, home furnishings and furniture working with pets. This is because the growing number of pet owners now take into consideration their pet’s wellbeing and journey when making a purchasing decision for their home. For example, a pet owner may purchase a strong portable vacuum cleaner so that they can make cleaning up their pet fur easier, or a pet owner will not furnish their house floors with wooden floorboards as it scratches easily with their pet’s nails.

HOW EFFECTIVE IS THIS KIND OF MARKETING?

It can be really effective, but the brand just needs be able to resonate with
pet owners. Millennials will make up 75% of the workforce by 2024, and brands know that.That is why they are using pets as an entry point to speak to the end consumers. By talking about something most millennials love (dogs, cats, small animals – pets in general), it is easier to cut through the noise and get the attention of these people, as opposed to advertisements that all brands do. For example, Mercedes- Benz Canada also came up with #DogsofMercedes to promote their models and speak to millennials.

ARE THERE CONCERNS ABOUT THE WELFARE OF PETS BEING USED FOR SOCIAL MEDIA FAME? ARE PEOPLE BUYING PETS TO MONETISE THEIR VALUE ONLINE? HOW DO YOU ENSURE THAT YOUR CLIENTS ARE NOT EXPLOITING THEIR ANIMALS?

Within The Woof Agency, we conduct stringent checks on the profiles before accepting them under a campaign. Our rationale is that – pets do not lie. You can tell by their body language when they are under huge stress or being forced to do things against their will. We have a social media team (not bots, actual humans) going through each application, their newsfeed and information to ensure that there is no abuse of the system. This is something we are very strict about as pets form the core of everything we do within the company. We also look at a range of criteria when selecting profiles – mainly on the type of content they push out on their newsfeed. This will give us a good insight into how the pet owner interacts with the pet on a daily basis. We work with animal shelters and push out a series called #TWAstories to encourage adoption versus buying pets. We don’t want people to have the mindset that only pure breeds and cute dogs are loveable – all pets are beautiful and there are very successful pet influencers such as @keepingfinn and @Popeyethefoodie who were adopted and evidently loving every moment of their life now.The value we provide to our clients is that we know our pet influencers. Some of them are friends in real life, and we engage with them over social media to form a working relationship with our active users within the community. Clients trust us because we are the experts when it comes to pet marketing and so far, many of them are recurring clients with us.

WHAT IS THE FUTURE OF PETS ONLINE? DO YOU THINK PET INFLUENCERS ARE A LASTING PHENOMENON OR A PASSING TREND?

We believe that pet influencers are here to stay, especially in today’s world where humans crave the emotional support pets provide. Data shows that pet influencers often perform 10x better when it comes to online engagement as compared to their human counterparts. People love looking at pets and their content just makes people happy. Additionally, more and more people are turning to pet ownership as opposed to having kids, or at least that’s a trend we are observing in Singapore.With pet spending poised to exceed $100 billion in the US in 2020, brands know and understand the potential of the pet market, and what better than actively using pets to convince consumers to spend on their’s. On the side, we have also done lots of research of pet owners within our network and find that more than 90% of them found reviews really important before they decide to purchase a product.This closes the feedback loop of why we believe pet influencers are here to stay.

YOU ALSO RUN ‘PAWJOURR’. WHAT IS IT AND WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?

Pawjourr is all about making pet ownership affordable. It’s a one-stop platform for pet owners to find and compare brands, read authentic reviews and redeem free samples. Pawjourr is not just about making pet ownership affordable, but also about building an ecosystem to support pet owners around the world, be it from a price-saving perspective and/or an educational angle. Many pet owners do stress over what to feed their pets, behavioural issues and health problems – but if you take a close look, there’s really no company around the world helping to solve this problem. There’s Ollie’s Food, Chewy, BarkBox, etc, but these companies are fundamentally selling to pet owners but not helping to solve the main problem – conflicting information. Pawjourr aims to be the only website a pet parent will ever need; almost like a friend who is there to advise on problems or questions you might have during the course of ownership whilst at the same time acting in your best interest from a price and time-saving perspective.