How Cats Protection used search to stop the sale of under-age kittens

John Ayling & Associates won in the ‘Not for Profit’ category at The Drum Awards for Search 2022 with its work for Cats Protection that used search to stop the sale of under-age kittens. Here, we find out more about what went into this successful project...

Kittens are being torn away from their mothers before too soon after birth to be sold online for profit, resulting in dire consequences for their behaviour, health and survival. So UK cat welfare charity Cats Protection has been raising awareness by driving traffic to its website, encouraging people to take part in the Kitten Care quiz and interrupting the cat purchase journey starting at the source – with search.

The brief

Cats Protection had launched the ‘Eight Precious Weeks’ campaign to educate people about the dangers of kittens being taken from their mum’s too soon and the life-threatening dangers this poses to them and the resulting distress to the owners. The fully integrated campaign ran across linear TV, VOD, national and regional press, social, display and PPC throughout November and December 2021.

From a search perspective, the objectives were to interrupt people as they searched online to buy a kitten and redirect them to the Cats Protection website to educate them on the dangers of buying a kitten too soon.

The target was to get 50,000 clicks through to the website and to generate hundreds of thousands of impressions and thousands of clicks on the Cat’s Protection search ad for the keywords ‘Kittens for Sale’, ‘Buy a kitten’, ‘Kittens for free’, ‘Gumtree kittens’ and ‘Protect Kittens’.

The idea

The search strategy from John Ayling & Associates was two-fold: interrupt the online search for kittens for sale and supply information for the advocates. A disruptive PPC campaign was designed to interrupt user journeys for those looking to buy/sell a kitten. The plan was to appear above kitten selling ads and divert as much traffic as possible away from the people selling ‘under-age’ kittens. By being present with its own ad in the search results for kittens, it was able to divert, educate and stop the onward journey of a kitten purchaser.

The PPC ad directed users to the Cats Protection Kitten Care landing page where they were encouraged to complete a quiz about kitten mis-selling thus drive education and knowledge.

The integrated ‘Eight Precious Weeks’ campaign included TV and supplementary activity that was driving awareness of the issue and was using ‘Protect Kittens’ as a keyword. It therefore needed to make sure it was providing information to those who were interested when they came to search, so manually up-weighted bids around TV spot times for the keyword ‘Protect Kittens’. This would be the familiar call-to-action when viewers saw the TV, social, display and press ads – and hence would be using them when searching for more information.

To help increase top impression share, it put ‘Protect Kittens’ into its own campaign and opened up daily budgets to make sure we were hitting as many eyeballs as possible. We achieved a 68% top of page rate.

The results

Over 27,000 potential kitten purchasers were educated on kitten care by taking the Cats Protection quiz, exceeding the target by 17,000. There were also 60,000 clicks through to the website, exceeding target by 10,000. For the keywords,

‘Kittens for Sale’ saw 650,000 impressions and nearly 5,000 clicks, ‘Buy a kitten’ had 750,000 impressions and 2,600 clicks, ‘Kittens for free’ 200,000 impressions and 3,000 clicks, ‘Gumtree kittens’ 275,000 impressions and 2,300 clicks and ‘Protect Kittens’ 345,000 impressions and over 24,000 clicks – all well in excess of original targets.

This project was a winner at The Drum Awards for Search 2022. Check out which of The Drum Awards are currently open for entry.