Mon, 08/16/2021 - 9:03am

Think Outside the Box

Margaret Poindexter advocates going back to basics for the American Kennel Club

As the pandemic rages on — and rage it does here in this very red corner of East Jesus, because we have far more followers of the teachings of YouTube than those of Actual Jesus — I find myself struggling to come up with things to cook and eat. My mother is convinced that rickets, not COVID, will ultimately take me because my diet is becoming more and more like that of a picky toddler: heavy on hot dogs and Cheerios. 

Eighteen months in, I am out of ideas and the motivation to cook things from scratch. I thought I might try one of those “meal in a box” services, where they send you all of the ingredients for a gourmet meal along with “easy to follow” instructions. But none of those are geared toward a single person, and they are pretty costly, when compared to purchasing the ingredients yourself. And unless it comes with a person to actually fix the meal, I am not sure it gets me where I want to be. Despite all the marketing hype, not everything that comes “in a box” is the answer. 

If you didn’t know, the AKC has been a pioneer in the “in a box” space for over a decade. In an effort to improve efficiency — i.e., eliminate the people required to serve constituent needs — AKC has worked to create events, services and products that it can peddle to customers in as hands-free a manner— i.e., highest return on investment — as possible. Training your dog? You can do that over the phone! Create a new event and title? Let some other organization actually run that while we collect the money! 

But Meet the Breeds? How do you pull off an “in a box” Meet the Breeds? Or maybe the better question is, why would you try?

When I heard that AKC had partnered with GF Sports and Entertainment to create a “national tour” for Meet the Breeds, I wondered, how in the world will the parent clubs, many with no regional, much less local, affiliate clubs, be able to cover so many events, all around the country, and create their beautiful and thoughtful displays that tell the story of their breeds in a very personalized way? How do you find the people and resources to replicate the engaging English castles, Arabian tents and duck blinds at site after site all around the country? Surely, this big partnership deal must include compensation for the parent clubs to stage their booths based on the wildly popular and award-winning themes that have been displayed at the New York version of Meet the Breeds.

Turns out, instead, AKC opted for Meet the Breeds “in a box.” Based on the photos from the first event, it appears the marketing people went online and ordered expensive, generic backdrops for the breed booths. Those daily, devoid of substance, “Meet the Breeds” posts the marketing people throw up on Facebook — imagine those as vinyl pull-ups. (And no doubt the marketing folks had to travel in a group to San Diego at considerable expense to supervise the pulling up.) Think of any convention or trade show you’ve ever visited, and how inspired you were by the various vendor booths present. 

None of my comments should be taken to diminish the contribution of those breeders and owners who were willing to attend, who gave their time to answer questions and share information about their breeds, and who brought their beautiful dogs to interact with the public. For all the kings and queens, there’s no doubt that the dogs have always been and will always be the stars of the show.

But the point of Meet the Breeds is not to create a Dog Zoo. It’s an opportunity to tell a complete story that engages the public with the breeds, their origins, their original functions, and how that influences the kind of companion they make, so that people can make informed choices about which breed is best for them and their lifestyle. Those elaborate parent-club displays are intended to teach folks about the history of breeds, and how that history is interwoven with ours, and why it and the breeds are important to preserve. Meet the Breeds is an opportunity for the public to discover purebred dogs and see them in a way that most rarely get the opportunity to do: through the eyes of those people who have dedicated their lives to breeding them and know them best.

The AKC announced that the next stop on the tour — in Dallas — has been postponed, due to the “current state of the COVID-19 pandemic.” I hope when the tour resumes, if it does, AKC decides to set aside the box, and make it from scratch.



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