Mutts4Trucks Connects Truck Drivers and Shelter Dogs

BBDO New York's unlikely pairing of dog food and engine oil is adorable

A truck driver holds a dog in front of a truck.
Pedigree and Mobil Delvac will continue the partnership into 2020. Credit: Amy Handegard
Headshot of Minda Smiley

What do dog food and diesel engine oil have in common? Not much, but BBDO New York recently managed to find common ground between the two, all in the name of advertising.

It all started when Mike Tunney, vice president and creative director at BBDO New York, was on a shoot in Las Vegas. During his trip, he met a long-haul truck driver who drove around the country with his pet chihuahua by his side. The interaction served as a lightbulb moment for Tunney, who leads creative for diesel engine oil brand Mobil Delvac at the agency.

“He saw this beautiful story about companionship,” said Suzanne Barker, vice president and planning director at BBDO New York. Barker, who also works on the Mobil Delvac business, was subsequently tasked with seeing if she could find any research or insights around the therapeutic effects that dogs could potentially have on truck drivers, who often describe the job as lonely and isolating.

Although Barker wasn’t able to dig up anything directly related to the subject, she did come across a few surveys like this one, which found that truck drivers have “significant issues affecting their mental health,” with nearly a third citing loneliness as a problem.

“Trucking is a really hard job. It’s very lonely for these guys out on the road,” Barker said. “If they could have a dog with them as a companion, that might reduce some of the loneliness.”

From there, the idea for Mutts4Trucks—a program that connects professional truck drivers with shelter dogs—was born. BBDO New York pitched the idea to Mobil Delvac as a way for the brand to emotionally engage with its audience, and Barker said the client was on board immediately.

But it didn’t stop there.

Not only is Pedigree one of BBDO New York’s clients but it’s also one that both Tunney and Barker had previously worked on, so they decided to pitch Mutts4Trucks to the Mars brand as well to see if it would be interested in collaboration.

Barker said the dog food brand quickly agreed to become involved, as the mission behind Mutts4Trucks aligns with its Feed the Good platform, which supports dog shelters and adoption. According to Pedigree, it has donated $850,000 to shelters this year.

“Pedigree was blown away [by] how much synergy there was with their platform,” Barker said.

The first Mutts4Trucks event took place last month in Nashville, Tenn., where truck drivers could adopt a dog from the Nashville Humane Association. Those who chose to adopt a dog received a car-safe harness, leash and Pedigree dog food.

At the event, country music singer Cassadee Pope and YouTube couple TheCraftyTrucker made appearances.

While neither brand has shared how many dogs were adopted at the inaugural event, they plan to continue the partnership into 2020. According to Pedigree and Mobil Delvac, they will monitor truckers who adopt a dog through Mutts4Trucks to see if their well-being improves over time.

The hope is that findings will support research recently conducted by the Human Animal Bond Research Institute and Mars Petcare, which found that 80% of pet owners say their pet makes them feel less lonely, and 76% agree that human-animal interactions can help address social isolation.

“We couldn’t be happier to link up the Pedigree brand with Mobil Delvac to spotlight the physical and emotional benefits pets bring to our lives,” Craig Neely, vice president of marketing at Mars Petcare, said. “With Mutts4Trucks, we’re bringing companionship to people who truly need it, while helping dogs in need find their forever homes.”

@Minda_Smiley Minda Smiley is an agencies reporter at Adweek.