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A modelling agency for animals says it can make your pet a TV star

A modelling agency with a twist is putting household pets in the limelight.

Based at MediaCityUK, Animal Directions seek out pooches with panache to star in national advertising campaigns.

And with clients on board including Aldi, H Samuel and Amazon Prime your beloved pet could be next.

From domestic cats and dogs to horses, parrots and chameleons Animal Direction has more than 3,000 pets on its books.

They work alongside pet brands and lifestyle clients to source the best pets for TV commercials and online video as well as print advertising.

The pet casting agency is run by self-confessed animal lover Davinia Hamilton-Maddox.

The 39-year-old uses a network of dog trainers, animal handlers and vet nurses across the country to help deliver photo and video shoots.

Enthusiastic pet owners can sign up for free by registering on the website but work is not guaranteed.

So what are they looking for?

Pete the miniature schnauzer who became the face of Aldi

“We look for the level of training and basic obedience.

“Pet modelling isn’t for everybody. It doesn’t suit every animal – with cats in particular they can be very nervy and they only like their own environment.

“What I always say to every owner who wants to sign up is you know your pet better than anybody else.

“Imagine them outside their own home and in a studio full of people, how do you think they will react? And because we all love our pets they are honest.”


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With around three assignments coming in a week Hamilton-Maddox sifts through her books to find the perfect match.

They don’t go out to meet all of the pets beforehand but for the more trickier briefs, such as performing tricks, they will often conduct a Skype interview.

Owners will get paid between £50 for a short photo shoot up to £250 for a full day of filming on a TV advert.

However, the Solihull founder has a warning for anyone in it to make a quick buck.

“Don’t sign up if you’re just in it for the money because it is all about ethics with Animal Direction.

“We’re not about exploiting animals whatsoever. That’s why we have a trainer and/ or behaviourist on set every time because I want to make sure the animal’s happy.

“If they show any sign of not being happy we take them out straight away.”

Recent projects include a TV advert with Amazon Prime involving a Cavachon puppy, which was filed at The Sharp project in east Manchester.

Lulu the Pomeranian

They also found a dancing dog to appear in a music video by indie rock band Glass Animals.

Not to mention Pete the miniature schnauzer who became the face of Aldi in a recent campaign for a new dog bed.

“It’s fun and it’s something you get a sense of pride from as an owner” adds the Cheadle-based founder.

“We don’t work with breeders because it’s not about that. It’s about working with real household family pets and giving them their five minutes of fame.

“It is brilliant to see your pet in the limelight. I get some fantastic feedback from the owners and I love it when my dog is used.

“They’re our children aren’t they and it would be the same if your child appeared in a national TV ad.”

Asked why animals are so popular in adverts she answers: “We are a nation of animal lovers and the population of cats and dogs in particular grows year-on-year.

“Creative directors and TV directors pick up on this to create a campaign that will emulate with the consumer. It makes it relatable and adds a bit of humour.”


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Hamilton-Maddox set up in 2012 after noticing a gap in the market for pet agencies while working in marketing.

“I needed to organise a photo shoot and I could not find an affordable and nice agency to deal with.

“I actually ended up using my own dogs, all my family dogs – I went to cousins, aunts and uncles – anyone I knew that had a dog helped me out.”

Animal Direction now employs one other person and has a turnover of between £30,000 – £50,000.

“I’m not in it for the money, it’s more about the fun of doing it and seeing the project come to fruition.”

Asked if there have ever been any ‘mishaps’ on set she starts to laugh.

“The funniest moment was during a shoot with a Golden Retriever on Southport beach.

“We were working on a photo shoot for a pet brand and there was nothing but sand and sea for miles.

“This poor little dog just needed a wee but he had nothing to go up except the director’s leg.

“He took it in good spirit and washed it off but you need to have a lot of patience to work with animals.”

Asked how it works on set she explains: “We get a creative brief from the director and we then need to interpret that into dog language.

“I’m not a trainer but I understand dog behaviour – it is all just bribery really – treats and food.

“A dog leads a very simple life and if there’s something in it for them they will do it. It’s as simple as that.

“They want to please and once they have understood what you are asking they will do it. You just need to communicate with them in a way they can understand.”

Hamilton-Maddox has big plans for Animal Direction, including a possible franchise model in the next five years.

But the businesswoman, who also heads up Pheonix Digital, is taking it slow.

“I get a lot of enquiries from abroad in Europe, America and Australia but we just cant service that yet.

“I do have very ambitious plans for Animal Direction but just not yet.”

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