Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Whatever Happened to the sock puppet?

Just a couple of weeks ago, we added the newest member to our family, Max, a 2-3 year-old Boston Terrier that we’re adopting through the Minnesota Boston Terrier Club Rescue.  As a result, I’ve been spending an inordinate amount of time (and money) at places like Petco.  As many pet owners realize, the pet business is really big (over $10 billion annually in the U.S according to one source) and growing. Further evidence of this trend can be found by the expanding and deep pet supply sections of stores like Target and Walmart.

Because I can’t help my brain thinking about such things, it got me wondering about whatever happened to the famous sock puppet owned by If you don’t remember, it was one of the highest flying and biggest crashing examples of the bubble in the late 90s. 

The online business was founded in 1998, raised over $300 million in capital, including investments by Hummer Winblad and, went public on NASDAQ, and was in liquidation less than a year later! Not that my investment instincts are always right (I have plenty of capital loss carryforwards to prove it), but I remember at the time thinking that an enterprise focused on selling 40-lb. bags of dog food on the internet and delivering them people’s houses didn’t seem like a business with sound fundamentals. I guess I was right on this one because the stock fell from an initial public offering price in February 2000 of $11 per share to just $0.19 per share 9 months later.

The fundamentals may not have been sound, but everyone agreed that the sock puppet used in the Company’s advertisements (in a campaign designed by TWBA/CHIAT/DAY) was probably the best thing to come out of the entire venture. The puppet made many appearances on national television (including on “Good Morning America” and “Nightline”) and even had a balloon version in the 1999 Macy’s Day parade. You may remember that there was even a trademark infringement lawsuit with Robert Smigel, owners of Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog, but I’ll leave that to a post by one of my fellow entreVIEW authors, Lori Wiese-Parks or Mike Cohen, who are experts in intellectual property.

So whatever happened to the puppet?* It was purchased by an auto loan lead generation company, BarNone (1-800-BarNone), and used in a few advertisements—the Company’s slogan is “Everybody Deserves A Second Chance.” When it comes to making sure your business has sound fundamentals, I’m not sure that the slogan applies…

*By the way, the domain was purchased by PetsMart.

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