Ad campaign seeks to end kills at L.A. animal shelters


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A high-profile ad campaign rolling out this week is not designed to sell tickets, cars or computers. Instead, a prominent group of advertising executives is taking creative license to try to prevent the deaths of an estimated 17,000 animals killed in Los Angeles shelters each year.

Lee Clow, a dog-lover best known for being one of the creative minds behind the groundbreaking ‘1984’ Super Bowl commercial that introduced the Apple Inc. Macintosh computer, is leading the ‘NKLA’ effort. The largely pro-bono campaign, which stands for No-Kill Los Angeles, has a goal of dramatically reducing the number of animal euthanasias performed by 2017.


‘Our hope and our goal is to raise the conscience and the awareness of the entire community to this problem,’ Clow said Tuesday in an interview. ‘We want to start a conversation that creates its own velocity. We want to make it a movement.’

The campaign has been in the works for nearly a year. It brings together a loose-knit coalition, spearheaded by the Best Friends Animal Society and Let There Be Dragons, a unit of the advertising behemoth Omnicom Inc.

Let There Be Dragons drew on the talent of the TBWA\Chiat\Day agency in Los Angeles (part of the corporate family) to create the campaign’s visuals, website and other media platforms.

Stark, black-and-white billboards and print advertisements depict the faces of Fang, Shep, Jewel, Kringle and other abandoned cats and dogs. The animals are proxies for the thousands of occupants of city shelters.

The coalition is trying to raise awareness about the plight of unwanted animals by facilitating adoptions and encouraging people to spay and neuter their pets.

Best Friends Animal Society this year began operating a shelter in Mission Hills that the City of Los Angeles built in 2007 at a cost of more than $19 million -- but then lacked the funds to open and manage. Best Friends turned the facility into an adoption center, and plans to spend about $1 million a year managing it, according to Francis Battista, one of the group’s founders.


The NKLA coalition would like to lower the euthanasia rate to 10% of animals in shelters, reserving the practice for those that are injured, sick or aggressive. Last year, Los Angeles shelters euthanized 17,000 of 56,000 animals, or 30%, according to the NKLA website.

As part of the NKLA effort, Best Friends has allocated more than $1.2 million to make grants to area rescue leagues to encourage more adoptions, and to provide financial assistance to help people who don’t have money to neuter their pets.

Nissan, a client of TBWA\Chiat\Day, donated a vehicle which has since been dubbed ‘The Neuter Cruiser’ that will be used to ferry pets to the procedures. OMD, another unit of Omnicom, secured media placements valued at about $500,000 for the print campaign. Media organizations donated space.

‘We are just trying to support this coalition of rescue groups who are the real heroes in this campaign,’ Clow said.

Battista, of the Best Friends Animal Society, added: ‘We think that we can move the needle. But the only way for us to be successful is for this campaign to be owned by the entire community.’



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-- Meg James