If you ever wondered whether Danny Trejo could successfully pull off a role dressed as a floppy-eared mutt, you can rest easily at last.
The dude from Breaking Bad and Machete delivers a memorable turn in "Ruff Life," a 90-second Friends of Animals PSA that pounds home the importance of spaying and neutering pets.
Created by Atlanta agency breensmith, the work is reminiscent of its controversial print and OOH campaign last year, where it cast dogs as homeless people and a cat as a hooker. A hooker cat does appear here—played by Victoria's Secret model Cynthia Kirchner, with a long tail and ears for a hat—but Trejo is definitely top dog, portraying a scruffy pooch who can't get a break.
"My mom spent most of her life in and out of this place," he begins, behind bars at the local animal shelter. "My dad wasn't so lucky. He got hit by a drive-by when I was just a pup." Some prison humor follows (all the dogs are members of packs with gang names like Canine Crips and Bloodhound Bloods), and there's a goofy flashback to Trejo's capture, where he starts screaming, "Animal abuse!"
Fun fact: That's Jaleel White—Urkel from Family Matters!—making the collar.
Rescue Dogs Rock NYC recently took an similar left-hand approach, using the Ashley Madison hacking scandal as a springboard for a pair of pet adoption videos.
In the end, Friends of Animals directs viewers to its website for affordable spaying and neutering options, with a sobering reminder that "more than 3 million dogs and cats will die in shelters this year."
I'm not worried about Trejo rotting away on the inside, though. He knows a good lawyer.
Agency creative director Chris Breen answered a few questions for AdFreak:
Danny Trejo did time for quite a few years at one point in his life. How did he respond to the dog-as-prisoner scenario?
It never came up. Danny was amazing. One of the nicest people we have ever worked with. He did this out of the goodness of his heart and because he liked the script. I think he appreciated the slightly-off nature of the humor. He's always played the tough guy—the personification is what we wanted. I'm sure his life experiences have made him what he is today.
Are you concerned that the controversial elements might overpower the message?
We did weigh the fact that we are using the struggles of people to underline the plight of millions of animals. The idea for the video actually came from a great response we got on the outdoor and digital we created with the same messaging. We know it's a balancing act. Hopefully people understand the intent and at the very least it makes them think of the issue in a new light. At the end of the day, it's a topic that kind of gets glanced over. We wanted to give Friends of Animals a platform to break the ice and wake people up to the seriousness of the issue without preaching or putting them to sleep. OK. That was the worst pun ever.
Any amusing stories from the shoot?
Danny can literally howl like a dog. That wasn't in the script, he just started belting out howls and we were all like, Wow. We have to use that. He would howl, and the dogs would howl back. Thank goodness no one got bit. And to the best of my knowledge, no doggie messes were stepped in. That could have thrown off the whole schedule.