Mars Petcare brand Pedigree’s “Feed the Good” campaign is now digging into history to show how dogs bring out the best in people. A moving film from BBDO New York and directed by Biscuit Filmworks’ Noam Murro recreates an obscure U.S. war story from 1777 when General George Washington and his troops were in the throes of the Revolutionary War against British Forces Commander-in-Chief William Howe and his soldiers. Amid the fighting, a terrier made its way into Washington’s camp, and the dog’s collar identified it as belonging to General Howe. Although Washington’s soldiers had plenty of their own ideas on what to do with the pup, Washington, a dog lover himself, graciously returned it to his enemy.
The new ad “directly reflects the core of our Feed the Good campaign, which is that universal truth that dogs bring out the good in us, and that our job at Pedigree is to bring out the good in them,” said Craig Neely, VP-marketing for Mars Petcare. “This has been such a great platform for us to bring a variety of diverse creative to life. The story shows that the universal truth that I mentioned is just as true today as it was more than 200 years ago during the Revolutionary War.”
According to Neely, the media plan is still being finalized, but it now focuses on digital with a broader roll out this summer.
With its dramatic production and look back into history, “Howe’s Dog” brings a fresh approach to Pedigree’s story, which most recently has leveraged current, real-world issues to deliver its message. The “Vote for Good” effort, for example, during the election sent a woman looking for her lost dog among both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump supporters while she wore a T-shirt for the opposing candidate.
The idea for the new film, too, feels especially relevant in today’s political climate, but that wasn’t intentional. “We were looking for a timeless story that matched with the brand tone, but we didn’t have anything with a political bent in mind,” said Kevin Mulroy, BBDO New York creative director and copywriter.
Landing on this historical tidbit required an unprecedented amount of research. “The story itself is just a small blip, so we had to do a little digging to piece it together,” said Mulroy. “That became a labor of love, to learn all about the weapons, the clothing, the temperature and the battles leading up to this. We put together a 20-page deck of all the details you’d find in the tent. We researched this more than half the papers I did in college.” The agency worked closely with the Historical Society of Pennsylvania to make sure all details were true to real life in 1777 and to fill any story gaps not documented in history books.
“That was a big thing, which is why we went with [Director] Noam,” said Mulroy. “He’s such an amazing storyteller and is so committed to the details. He wanted to make sure it was authentic as possible, right down to the filthy dental hygiene and dirty nails.”
Even the production was intense. “It was a challenge to shoot at night,” said Bianca Guimaraes, BBDO New York associate creative director and art director. “But it helped bring the reality for the actors, even one who didn’t want to bring a jacket so he could feel what it was really like for soldiers back then.”
Perhaps the biggest challenge on set was Ruckus, the pooch playing Howe’s dog. He was supposed to meander through the camp, but wouldn’t budge, until the team came up with a clever idea. “We made the trainer an extra soldier in the film, and Ruckus happily followed him throughout,” said Diane Hill, executive producer at BBDO New York.