Jason Wehner is a senior brand manager for Milk-Bone, a division of Del Monte Pet Treats. In 2009 Milk-Bone launched an $8-million “It’s Good to Give” campaign, which includes a multi-million-dollar national print and TV ad program. In April Milk-Bone month sponsored a PBS documentary, “Through a Dog’s Eyes,” which highlights the benefits of service dogs for people with physical disabilities and special needs.
Q: Jason, why did Milk-Bone start the “It’s Good to Give” campaign, and has it been successful for the company?
A: We’ve been partnering with Canine Assistants [an organization that provides dogs for people with disabilities] for more than 12 years and we’re always looking for new ways to promote the incredible work done by the organization. The “It’s Good to Give” campaign was created to draw attention to the many ways that we enable consumers to give back. By simply purchasing the product, consumers are giving cleaner teeth and fresher breath to their dogs, and they’re also allowing Milk-Bone to improve the lives of others through the Canine Assistants organization. We’ve received an overwhelmingly positive response.
Q: What else does Milk-Bone hope to accomplish with “It’s Good to Give”?
A: We hope that this campaign will educate consumers about the critical importance of service dogs and the affect that have on the lives of people with disabilities. We also hope that consumers will feel as passionately as we do about the work of the Canine Assistants organization and that they might be inspired to get involved themselves. [We’re building awareness] through the PBS documentary, advertising campaign, website, and activity on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
Q: Does the actor portrayed in the Milk-Bone commercial have a mobility disability, and do you strive to use disabled actors?
?: Jake Jeter, the current star of the Milk-Bone commercials, is an incredible young man who experienced an unfortunate accident when he was 17 years old; he now uses a wheelchair and has no movement below his chest. He’s 26 now, and is able to live a life of normalcy with the help of his assistance dog Phoenix, who helps him with everyday tasks. Before being matched up with Phoenix, Jake had to wait two years for an assistance dog. Due to the lack of funding that is needed to train, feed, and pay for the veterinary care of all the Canine Assistants dogs, the waiting list can span up to five years. Fortunately, Milk-Bone was able to aid in covering Phoenix’s training costs.
Q: Will there be any new Milk-Bone commercials to look for?
A: Yes. Another installment of the “It’s Good to Give” campaign commercials will premiere later this year and will feature a different assistance dog recipient.
Q: How many dogs have you placed with recipients in your estimation, and does Milk-Bone ever see the fruits of its success?
A: Approximately 1,000 service dogs have been placed throughout the U.S. from Canine Assistants since their inception in 1991. Milk-Bone has provided millions of dollars to Canine Assistants and has sponsored between 35 and 50 dogs each year for almost 13 years.
Q: Do the dogs all eat Milk-Bone biscuits on the farm?
A: Absolutely! Milk-Bone provides all of the treats necessary for training the service dogs at the Canine Assistants camp in Alpharetta, Ga. Milk-Bone representatives have visited the camp several times. It’s truly a life-changing experience.