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Blue Rubicon & Dogs Trust: stopping the illegal puppy smuggling trade

Dogs Trust

MMedia Group won an award for best Traditional: Special Build at the Creative Out of Home awards 2016. We find out what challenges and strategies they used to produce this award-winning concept.


The illegal movement of puppies into the UK from Central and Eastern Europe as part of a black market trade has been a major concern for animal welfare charities, including Dogs Trust, for many years. While ways to tackle puppy smuggling and the many implications it brings to government organisations and charities is currently being debated, consumer awareness of the issue remains low.


In the first major consumer facing activation on the issue, Dogs Trust needed to introduce the words “puppy smuggling” to the public lexicon in order to interrupt potential dog owners before they make an ill-considered online purchase of a puppy.


Our client Blue Rubicon, working on behalf of Dogs Trust, collaborated with MMG to bring to life the creative concept – an interactive ‘smuggled’ billboard made up of hundreds of toy dogs – in order to raise awareness of the horrors of the designer puppy black market.

The client wanted to launch the first billboard on a busy street in Shoreditch, London. The public were free to pluck a puppy from the board as they passed by and as more and more were taken the billboard artwork revealed further messaging about avoiding fuelling the puppy smuggling trade by buying through online classified advertisements.

For the build, MMG created the two-metre high billboard which held 750 toy puppies, each with a collar and tag that with a website link through to profiles of real life dogs smuggled into the UK through these means. The campaign was supported by extensive social media activity and video content in order to drive traffic to the billboard on the day and raise awareness of the activity to those outside of London.


The campaign was a great success both on the ground and with target media. By the end of the day on 4 August 2016, every single one of the 750 puppies had been plucked off the board and taken to a new home.

Widespread media coverage across multiple channels included features on the Guardian Online, The Daily Telegraph and Channel 5 News meaning the word on #puppysmuggling was well and truly spread.

For more information on the Creative Out of Home Awards visit the website here.

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