With a new ad designed to get the attention of every dog within earshot, Bark is kicking off a new approach to the holiday season. "Carol of the Squeakers" turns squeaky toys, treat bags and doorbells into a symphony for canines, featuring selections from this year's holiday collection. The company also wants people to film their pups as they watch the ad, posting them to social media.
Mike Tevolini, Bark's director of growth strategy and performance, talks about the D2C company's latest tricks.
D2C Insider: We have to start with this spot because my dog perked right up when I played it. He got sucked in with the squeaky toys, but the doorbell hooked him.
Mike Tevolini: Yes, we call it "Carol of the Squeakers" or "Merry, Merry Dog-mas," whichever you prefer.
The holiday is always big for us. We were thinking about ways to break through the clutter of all the holiday ads, which are usually pretty predictable. And we thought, "Why not talk right to the dogs?"
We've got it running on Hulu, cable and digital channels. We feel like it leans into the core of what makes Bark work: our understanding of dogs. It may seem chaotic, but it's also a relatable dog-parent spot. We hope it sparks joy for dogs and people.
D2C Insider: How will the social element work?
Tevolini: We've got a strong, vocal, highly engaged social community. We wanted to activate and involve them and thought there was no better way than doing something to resonate with their dogs. We're expecting this will get us plenty of earned media.
D2C Insider: What specifically are you looking for?
Tevolini: So this spot breaks the Third Wall, and creates that moment of me watching the commercial, then me watching my dog watch the commercial. We're hoping to get that pure curiosity: the head tilt, the little zoomie because there's a dog running across the screen. TikTok, especially, is built for this.
D2C Insider: Anything special about the media plan?
Tevolini: We keep every holiday fairly fluid. As things work, we double down. Last year, we tested into TV quite a bit. This year, we feel more comfortable expanding our investment there. I expect us to spend about 150% more.
D2C Insider: This ad is aimed at your core D2C audience. But you've also been expanding rapidly in retail. Will this ad increase retail sales?
Tevolini: All of our paid media is typically to drive results to BarkBox, our D2C subscription. That's where people get the fullest, best experience of the brand. The core offer includes toys, treats and chews. And people who subscribe get a locked-in pricing commitment. Even our food business has forever pricing. We've got a few million subscribers, and we have a huge opportunity to cross-sell and upsell to them.
D2C Insider: So subscribers are superfans. Are the people buying your toys on Amazon or Target much different?
Tevolini: Yes and no. With every toy we develop, we hope to have a passion point, a connection for humans and dogs. And we create different toys for retail than on the D2C site. We bring those D2C insights to retail -- that's why we've got end-caps. We understand each stores' customers.
D2C Insider: Got a favorite Bark toy?
Tevolini: My dog Leonard loves one called Lady Liberty, which was a squeaky ball with the Liberty crown wrapped around it. It was part of a New York collection we did.
D2C Insider: How important are special collections?
Tevolini: They're fun. A few years ago, we did a "Home Alone" collection that I just loved. Then this year, we came out with an "Office" bundle. We're doing more limited runs this year. We hope people will say, "I don't want to miss the boat on this one."
D2C Insider: What about your branded partnerships, like the new holiday collection with Dunkin'?
Tevolini: That's in partnership with the Dunkin Donuts Foundation, and it's just good fun. This year, there's an Iced Coffee toy that nails it. Since 2020, that collaboration has raised more than $4 million, funding service dogs for children’s hospitals.