A Dog’s Purpose: A PR & Marketing Mess

January 27, 2017

Written by: Matthew Nafe

What’s the old adage? There is no such thing as bad publicity? I think the production company of the 2017 film “A Dog’s Purpose” would beg to differ. This past week, a video from the set was leaked onto the web which depicted a dog trainer forcing one of the animal actors into raging rapids. The dog looked distressed and for good reason. So naturally the response was strong; the stance being that the movie should be boycotted. So what does it mean when a film with this much importance has a sudden blast of terrible publicity? It could very well mean that the movie will be an absolute failure due to this public outrage. No matter what actually happened, the perceived animal abuse whether it being as blatant as the video shows or not; has essentially sealed the fate of the film. As we have seen, the film initially seemed to have pulled on the proverbial heart strings; everyone loves dogs. Allegedly the video was taken in 2015 and has recently surfaced shortly before the release of the film itself.

A film like this has high expectations, especially with a heavily focused animal cast and the marketing of the movie used the universal love of animals to pander to audiences. The PR behind the movie needed to be perfect for the simple fact that there were tremendous expectations on the movie by animal lovers. However not doing their due diligence to make sure all animals were taken care of properly so none of them were hurt is very dangerous. It’s essentially a marketing disaster and since the video was released they have had to cancel the premiere of the movie. PETA has obviously condemned the film as well, calling for the boycott of the film completely.


With that being said, how does a film come back from something like this? The film itself is almost helpless because at this point, anything they say can only be taken at face value. The film will now have to rely on outside influences to help turn the tide to show the film not being as bad as the video depicts.  Internet personality Philip DeFranco does a weekly video made up of the on goings of that week in pop culture. He recently made a video playing devil’s advocate and saying that maybe everything in the video is not what it seems.

Essentially saying “wait until all the facts are out until you decide to destroy the reputation of the film”. DeFranco raises some good points regarding the video such as odd cuts in the film, correct methods for filming with animals and so on. There is an investigation going on by the American Humane Association (the group that lets movies use the “no animals were harmed in the making of this filmed”). Bad press like this can really make or break a film, what DeFranco does is essentially saying “innocence must be assumed until proven otherwise.” However we live in a click bait world, and those clicks determine whether or not something will succeed. Positive results in the investigation and more positive PR could be the difference in saving this movie from being a blockbuster flop and a marketing nightmare. However it may be too little too late and the film was destined to fail and if it’s any indication early on? The 1.3 rating out of 10 on IMDB doesn’t look so great.

Matthew Nafe is currently attending Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario and aspiring marketing professional. When Matt isn’t writing articles, he is a coach for the Carleton Raven’s Ball hockey team, Stopping pucks, singing songs, or making poorly timed jokes. Find him and his humour on Twitter and enjoy his artistry on Instagram.

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