In May, Pedigree launched its new global positioning, 'Feed the good', in Brazil and Australia via a pair of ads premised on the idea that dogs help humans be the best versions of themselves. And now, following on from this, the dog food company has launched a US spot, which was developed by Colenso BBDO in collaboration with BBDO New York.
While the gritty imagery in the Australian spot was bold as far as advertising for pet sustenance goes, the US spot is by far the most contentious in its portrayal of the tension that pervades race relations in the United States.
Shot in black and white, the spot shows a stern, older white man taking his mastiff for a walk in predominantly black neighbourhood. After ensuring that his security gate is locked, the man starts his walk and along the way judgementally glares down at a few locals sitting on the sidewalk before losing his patience with driver as he tries to cross the road.
These events set a tense atmosphere that's intensified as he approaches a younger black man who is also out walking his dog. But then, as the pair cross each other, the mood changes instantly as the tail-wagging dogs greet. Seeing this has an immediate effect on the human protagonists, which leads to the pair greeting each other and exchanging smiles and dog names.
"Dogs have a view on the world that's completely unbiased, it's completely apolitical and it's not motivated by anything," Colenso BBDO executive creative director Nick Worthington previously told StopPress in an interview. "There was a thought early on that dogs don't judge, and the client held onto it very strongly."
Locally, this idea has already been reflected in a series of print and radio ads released in this market, but the television spot is significant because it extends the new positioning onto television in the US market.
Last year, the team at BBDO New York contacted Worthington and Colenso chief executive Nick Garrett as well as several other agencies in the international BBDO network to participate in the process of contributing to the new global campaign for Pedigree.
"BBDO has a global creative network and it’s a generally a case of choosing the right team for the job," says Ahmad Salim, the Colenso group business director working on the Mars account. "Whether it’s a global pitch for another brand completely or a different category, it’s not infrequent for us to have a request from New York to help them out with a project. And I think when it comes to things that require a big idea, we tend to come in from a different point of view and this keeps things interesting and often leads to something quite nice. That’s what happened in this case, and ultimately they chose the idea that we had to be the lead on the campaign. And with that being the case, they also decided to run with a few our executions that have been in development for some time now."
Worthington says that the use of Colenso's creative on this global campaign illustrates that the BBDO network is taking the Kiwi agency seriously.
"We're not just seen as a little satellite office anymore that does cheeky work down in New Zealand—we're actually seen as people that can provide big brand platforms and ideas," Worthington says.
This is also something that Salim has noticed since joining Colenso earlier this year.
"The Mars Pacific is very much a global piece of business in terms of how the BBDO as a network operates. It's a case of dealing daily with the guys in New York and London ... We've got an incredibly supportive network. There's none of that, 'We're in London and you're in New Zealand, so you should pipe down and do what you're told'. They're really hungry to find out what we've got and supportive in terms of getting that network working."
Given the sensitivity surrounding race relations in the United States, the ad is a risky play and it's somewhat surprising that it made through the global approval process.
"It's very hard to have good ideas, and it's very hard to keep them pure," says Worthington. "[And] it's exciting for Colenso in terms of the purity of some of the thinking that came out of this office nine months ago, especially since it survived the global meat grinder. It's a lot of credit to our relationship with [BBDO chief creative officer] Dave Lubars and the guys in New York. They've been massive supporters."
But Worthington admits that getting to this stage didn't happen overnight.
"This was one of the first ads that was put on the table at around August last year, and it has remained the front-runner all along ... It's more relevant than it ever has been and it's a beautiful way of summarising that simple feeling of dogs bringing out the best versions of ourselves."
Title: “The Walk”
Agency: BBDO New York
Chief Creative Officer, Worldwide: David Lubars
Executive Creative Director: Greg Ketchum
Executive Creative Director: Tom Godici
Creative Director: Greg Gerstner
Associate Creative Director: Banks Noel
Creative Director: Andy Blood
Art Director: Scott Kelly
Copywriter: Ben Polkinghorne
Director of Integrated Production: David Rolfe
Senior Content Producer: Sofia Doktori
Head of Music Production: Rani Vaz
Group Planning Director: Crystal Rix
Managing Director: Kirsten Flanik
Senior Account Director: Mark Mulhern
Account Director: Sally Nathans
Account Manager: Brandon Jansa
Account Executive: Rachel Greenlee
Production Company: Park Pictures
Director: Lance Acord
Executive Producer: Jackie Kelman Bisbee
Executive Producer: Dinah Rodriguez
Head of Production: Anne Bobroff
EP / Producer: Caroline Kousidonis
Editorial: Whitehouse Post
Editor: Russell Icke
Assistant Editor: James Donahue
Executive Producer: Lauren Hertzberg
Producer: Alejandra Alarcon
Post Production: CarbonVFX
Colorist: Ben Gibbs
Lead flame: Matt Reilly
Flame Assistant: Joe Scaglione
Executive Producer: Frank Devlin
Producer: Bree Bracket
Music: Barking Owl
Audio Post: Sound Lounge
Mixer & Sound Designer: Tom Jurcarone