Every dog has its day—and today definitely belongs to the Boston terrier.
After starring in a rash of ads back in the early aughts, the breed is back in a big way, appearing in the Doritos spot “Transformation Machine,” an Infiniti commercial and MasterCard’s “Lost Dog” campaign, to name a few.
“On a macro level, it’s just like anything in advertising—there tends to be trends in dogs,” said Patrick O’Neill, ecd at TBWAChiatDay. “People just like certain breeds of dogs in certain cultural moments. Irish setters in the 1970s were everywhere. Now you never see them.”
Steven Ritt, who has trained hounds for the camera for more than three decades, agreed: “If you look at the ’80s, golden retrievers were big in episodic series. A lot of producers and directors owned them as pets, too.”
Of course, as in the casting of humans for commercials, there is more to the magic than just a mushy face.
For example, TBWACD did the Infiniti spot, which called for a dog in a sweater. “You couldn’t have a long-haired dog because of the sweater,” O’Neill said. “Those kinds of things figure in.”
Sometimes, an ensemble is required—as in last year’s popular spot for Subaru, “The Beach,” which required a variety of dog faces and dog personalities for a day of sun and fun.
“On a practical level, the dogs were chosen for their temperament and ability to do tricks and be around other dogs,” said Randy Hughes, ecd at Carmichael Lynch, which produced the spot. “On a storytelling level, we wanted a dog pack to represent a group of friends. A quiet big guy. A gruff one. A petite one. A rascal. The mix gives us more chances to portray human ideas through the dogs so that we end up relating more because we see ourselves.
“The fact that the bulldog could surf was, of course, a plus.”
While the Boston terrier’s status as “it” dog has no doubt influenced much of the creative, in some cases the inspiration was more personal.
Mark Yates, storyboard artist on the Infiniti spot, did that work while staying with a friend who has two rambunctious Bostons named Chumley and Charlie.
“There was originally a Boston in the treatment,” he said. “It almost got changed, but I insisted on drawing a Boston.”