March 7, 2011, 4:28 PM

Lights, camera, dog food?

Drs. Foster & Smith combines social media and movies to place products.

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While it probably won’t win an Academy Award, the movie “The Dog Father” might help generate a few more web and call center orders for pet supplies direct marketer Drs. Foster & Smith.

Recently, Drs. Foster & Smith, No. 105 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, worked with Big Shoot Productions, producers of “The Dog Father,” to place some products in key scenes of the movie.

While product placement in movies and TV shows is common, the act of supplying bags of private-label dog food was a rare event for Drs. Foster & Smith. “We get called on a regular basis regarding product placement opportunities and have occasionally provided products for movies like ‘Get Smart’ and ‘UnderDog,’” says Internet marketing and media manager Gordon Magee. “Often those product shots end up on the cutting room floor, so it can be a bit of a crap shoot as to whether they end up being of any value or not. We don’t say yes very often, but we knew that we’d get appropriate placement and we did.”

The movie, which tells the tale of Sonny, a mobster's bulldog, who swallows his master's pinkie ring and runs away, was released in theaters last year and in January went on sale on Amazon.com or for renting on Netflix.com and elsewhere.

Drs. Foster & Smith agreed to the product placement because the company had worked previously with the film’s producer. Drs. Foster & Smith also saw a chance to extend its brand to a key demographic: health-conscious pet owners who also like cute movies about animals. “Product placement is a branding play, not direct marketing and it’s a way of getting a product in front of a target audience that matches a company’s customer demographic,” says Magee. “What drives sales is the comfort level that develops for the consumer when they have an ‘Oh I know that brand’ moment from having seen us on screen and then seeing a paid or natural search ad, a banner ad, or actually coming directly to our web site.”

To promote the film—and get the word out about its product placement in the movie—Drs. Foster & Smith recently touted “The Dog Father” on its corporate blog. Drs. Foster & Smith also plans an upcoming promotion on its Facebook page. “We will do some promotional things with the movie company that will drive web sales,” says Magee. “This is a win-win-win for us, for our customers and for the movie folks. We have the fun of being connected with a family-friendly movie, the movie company gets exposure for its film and some of our customers get a free DVD.”

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