“Puppies, don’t you just hate them?” comedic actor Jon Lovitz begins in an ad for Playology from agency BigEyedWish, directed by Tighe Kellner and Java Jacobs.
Taken aback by the line? That, of course, is the point.
The campaign is running across social channels and YouTube, where capturing viewer attention quickly is of primary importance.
“That’s the perfect first five seconds before you hit skip,” BigEyedWish founder and creative director Ian Wishingrad said of Lovitz’s opening line. “We’ve found efficacy with really good creative deployed through YouTube and social media. You really have to earn people’s attention.”
Lovitz is a dog lover in real life and has had his current canine companion, Jerry, for nine years.
“He’s with me all day everyday,” Lovitz said. “They become like your kid and it develops their personality when they’re with you all the time. You end up learning how to communicate with them, they’re the best.”
Lovitz said he found Playology Silver to be a great product for Jerry.
“We noticed that the options out there for toys for dogs were just not great. Everything was designed for what a human wants in a dog toy, not what a dog wants,” Playology co-founder Adam Beaty said. “The other thing we noticed is that there are no options for senior dogs, and it’s incredibly important for senior dogs to stay active.”
The Playology product in question is designed to gradually release peanut butter and sausage scents as older dogs chew on a soft toy designed to be easy on their older teeth.
Wishingrad explained that BigEyedWish wrote the ad with Lovitz in mind.
“I knew he loved dogs and had an older dog,” he said. “We needed just enough of that grimace of being able to deliver a fake hatred.”
“There’s real anger and funny anger and there’s a difference,” Lovitz added. “Funny anger is in your head and real anger is in your heart. It’s tricky to do. If you’re seriously anger, you scare people.”
That type of “funny angry” performance is one Lovitz has delivered throughout his career across any number of roles on Saturday Night Live, Llewelyn Sinclair on The Simpsons or, of course, Jay Sherman on The Critic (who also made a notable guest appearance on The Simpsons).
The spot was filmed under a series of precautions due to Covid-19. It was shot outdoors with a skeletal crew, who all wore masks aside from Lovitz. BigEyedWish shot a preliminary version of the script ahead of time on an iPhone so Lovitz could see what they expected of his performance, a process Lovitz said he found helpful. Wishingrad was not on set for the ad, instead helping to direct the process remotely.
While there aren’t currently plans for a follow-up with the comedic actor, Lovitz said he’d be game to return should BigEyedWish and Playology ask him to.
So, what would The Critic say about the ad?
“It stinks like sausage and peanut butter, “Lovitz said, or, “These toys are so good that I’ve eaten three already.”