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Kitten, Puppy Videos Give Humane Society Silicon Valley A Viral Adoption Advantage

MILPITAS (CBS SF) -- Their movie stars spend their time off set licking themselves, chasing their tails, or napping for hours.  They eat kibble instead of caviar, and their hair stylists use a water hose, but these actors may be more captivating than anything Hollywood can dish out.  The Humane Society Silicon Valley harnesses the ubiquitous online fascination with kitten and puppy videos by using volunteer producers to create a successful Internet marketing plan for adoptions.

"Adopters have fallen in love with one of our dogs before they even meet them in person," said pet producer and HSSV volunteer Elizabeth Laverty.

It began with puppies, and then she branched out to kittens, and has now produced 36 cat videos and 320 dog adoption videos.  The two animals require very different videography techniques, as anyone whose chased their cat with an iPhone can tell you.

"I never shoot dogs in their adoption suites," said Laverty. "I only shoot outdoors or in a foster home, but I [always] shoot cats in their adoption suites."  Just like with human actors, it's about making them comfortable and confident on film.

The trend for non-profits to use viral videos in marketing is skyrocketing this year, as see in the Super Bowl and Olympics, with Budweiser's "Puppy Love" and P&G's "Pick Them Back Up." Already, in the first quarter of 2014, five non-profit campaigns have surpassed 10 million views.  In 2013, it took the entire year for five campaigns to surpass that threshold, according to Media Post Video Insider.  The most famous non-profit video ever was "Invisible Children's Kony" 2012, with more than 228 million views, proving the power of the genre.

It's a concept the Humane Society grasped early on, and continues to benefit from, as they find animals a forever home.

ADOPT A PET: Humane Society Silicon Valley

Laverty takes this task seriously, and uses a co-producer with an unusual title to make sure her videos make an emotional connection: Malcolm Bramwell: photographer and "Cat Socializer."

"What I'm looking for is a connection between a person and the pet.  I aim for every scene to show some affiliative behavior from the cat -- playing with a toy that is held by a person, sitting in a person's lap, being brushed or petted, the cat following the person as they move around the cat's adoption suite.  Our adopters are looking for a companion.  We believe that connecting a person and a pet enhances both lives.  I'm trying to capture each pet's ability to connect with a person."

So far, the videos are working, even if she isn't a movie producer at heart.

She's not a photographer, but found the consumer tools in Apple products gave her work a very professional feel.  She began using just a Flip camera, but then moved to an iPad3, and now an iPad air.  Editing is on iMovie for iPad, using the option "Movie" or "Trailer," and to enhance the mood, she uses Apple's "Playful" template.  "The music is happy and upbeat, and the captioning is bouncy.  I think it adds to the story that this pet is a wonderful companion and will be a loving addition to the adopter's home."

Her favorite videos:

Gilligan & Seraphina, the most viewed:

Gilligan & Seraphina by Elizabeth Laverty on YouTube

Mac, a cat who was adopted so quickly few people got to see it.

Mac 81770 by Elizabeth Laverty on YouTube

Besides the videos, the Humane Society takes plenty of still photos, including their favorite: "Mutt Butts."  It seems odd when you hear it, but when you realize the last image they have of every adopted animal is its furry little butt heading out the door, you get it.



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