Dogs in advertising – how deep is the love!?

Have you noticed a trend of dogs in advertising, and particularly advertising for cars? Maybe I’m way late to the game here (or am I dreaming?) but watching TV the other evening I was suddenly struck by not one but two ads for cars, in fairly quick succession, both featuring dogs.

Is the way to our hearts, and the way to get us behind the wheel of a particular automobile, through the appeal of our four-legged friends?

The first one that caught my attention was the recent ad for the Range Rover Evoque – not that I paid much attention to the car. The only Rover I had eyes for was the dog.

The ad features a delightful Jack Russell cross staring out of an apartment window. Peering down at the street he sees a 2020 Range Rover Evoque. As the SUV passes by, the dog daydreams sitting in the backseat with the windows rolled down, feeling the wind in his hair and enjoying the sunshine.

It struck a particular chord because, of course, recently most of us have done our fair share of staring wistfully out of the window wishing we could go out. Talk about good timing, given that the ad was created late in 2019.

Yes, we’re all dreaming of getting back out there – downtown or into the countryside. And what a great song (‘A Place in my Heart’ by Dom James, sung by Emma Smith), which has also sparked considerable interest of its own. So much so, in fact, that Emma Smith has now recorded a full-length version of the song, which can be downloaded from her band camp page.

“Dear Music connoisseurs, thank you for patiently waiting for my full-length version of ‘I Found A Place In My Heart’, the song I sang on the Range Rover Evoque Ad – Dog’s Dream. Your response to the 30 seconds-or-so of it on the ad inspired me to create a full-length version and I hope you like it! With love, Emma Smith.”

Range Rover pedigree

Actually, Range Rover has pedigree in featuring dogs in advertising.

The 2017 ad for the Range Rover Velar stars a group of White Swiss Shepherd Dogs (Berger Blanc Suisse), caught in the headlights as the car owner arrives home. 

The White Swiss Shepherd is one of Britain’s most recent pedigree dog breeds, only recognised as a pedigree breed by the Kennel Club in 2017.

The ad was first aired at the end of September 2017 and had immediate impact, at least among aspiring dog owners: in the following month there was a huge 1,407 percent increase in searches for the White Swiss Shepherd Dog on the Kennel Club’s Find a Puppy site.

Although very different in style, given Jaguar Land Rover’s return to the canine theme in 2019 with A Dog’s Dream, I’m guessing the effect on car sales was positive. 

Barking along with Subaru’s Barkley family

Another dog-loving car brand is Subaru. They’ve had a long-running love affair with dogs in their advertising, starting as far back as 2009. 

I only really became aware of the extent of this history when the most recent installment (originally from 2019 I think) caught my attention the other night: one of the Barkley kids in the back seat, waving to get the trucker to sound his horn.

I’m yet to sit up and beg for a Subaru but this ad, like many of the others, is as cute as it gets:

Even the Subaru strapline is dog-related: ‘Dog tested, dog approved’. The reasoning behind all this? According to Subaru’s research, pets, especially dogs, are a big part of their customers’ lives; about half of Subaru buyers own dogs.

The current stars, the Barkley (geddit!) dog family of Golden Retrievers, traces its on screen lineage back to 2014. The ads show the Retriever family in the car – mum and dad in the front, kids in the back – doing everyday family things like visiting the car wash; first day at school; mother Barkley driving around trying to get the kids to sleep, etc. They’re cute, fun – and real dogs. 

‘In the Doghouse’ is one of my favourites: Dad Barkley’s eye is caught by a passing poodle; mummy Barkley growls her disapproval.

The brand follows through on the ‘dog tested, dog approved’ slogan with options for water-repellent seat materials and consistent sponsorship of pet safety tests, pet adoption, and more. 

How did they teach a dog to drive?!

The question ‘How do they do it?’ springs to the mind when watching the ads. In an interview with Subaru spokesman Dominick Infante lets the cat out of the bag: it’s all done with… food.

“The dogs are very good at staring at a piece of food when they have to. That gets them looking in the right direction for the cameras. We use a person to control the vehicles. He is laying in the footwell below what the camera sees and is operating the accelerator and the brake.”

Are these the cutest dogs in advertising?

Oh, the tug on our heartstrings of our best four-legged friends behaving as only they can. Is this advertising’s version of the twilight bark, calling to us over the airwaves; and do we obey the call? Is acting a proper career for a dog, or altogether beneath his/her dignity?

Whether these ads are effective, as advertising, is not really a question for this article, though it would be interesting to know.

But have I found the best examples of dogs in advertising? Are there great commercials with dogs that I’ve missed?

Which are your favourites? Let me know in the comments.

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