It’s been hard to miss the #WhatTheFluffChallenge on social media in recent weeks. It goes like this—a pet owner stands in a doorway, hiding behind a blanket, while their dog or cat looks on eagerly. The human then runs to hide while simultaneously dropping the blanket, making it look as though they have disappeared and leaving their confused pet to ask, “What the fluff?!” Of course, the human always returns after a few moments to the relief of the perplexed pet.
But when Harsh Kapadia, ecd at VML London, watched this viral sensation proliferate across the internet, he saw more than just a silly trend that would soon fade into the ether. Kapadia saw an opportunity to spread awareness about a major issue in the U.K. and worldwide—pet abandonment.
“In most challenges, the owner comes back,” Kapadia said. “We left it as—what if the owner doesn’t come back, which is the reality for about 20,000 dogs in the U.K.”
From there, VML’s own version of the challenge was born, alongside the National Animal Welfare Trust charity and Agile Films.
While the challenge is meant to be amusing and lighthearted, the agency decided it was also a simple way to shine a light on a real problem among pet owners, Kapadia said. The video, which looks like a typical #WhatTheFluffChallenge sans the returning human at the end, is meant to not only target current pet owners, but also to get people to think twice about getting a dog if they don’t have the resources to care for it.
The agency hopes it will also help that Marcel le Corgi, the dog featured in the video, is already an internet influencer in his own right, with a following of more than 78,000 on Instagram alone.
The video is also intended to encourage potential owners to consider adoption. Regardless of whether you go to a breeder or a shelter though, the primary message is “commit to it for real,” Kapadia said.
“There is especially a surge [in abandonment] around Christmas, as people frequently give dogs as Christmas gifts,” explained Kapadia. “As soon as the holiday season is over, the rate of abandonment goes up, because vacation is over and it’s back to the real world.” He added that people need to understand owning a dog is more than a commitment for just a few hours.
VML has shared its version of the video on the NAWT’s social channels, but hopes the message—with the help of viral challenge participants—will spread much further.