Gone to the Dogs

The agency that found redeeming qualities in ferrets and lizards is now featuring dogs at their worse moments in two spots for online auction site eBay.

Goodby, Silverstein & Partners’ campaign, the first large national television push for eBay, demonstrates the diversity of products available by showing household items destroyed by dogs or forces of nature.

Partner, creative director Rich Silverstein says the campaign is meant to stretch eBay’s appeal beyond collectors to people who might want to buy a cellular phone, spare tire or toaster at reduced prices. (eBay spent $5 million on advertising in past years; the agency will not disclose current figures.)

“They’ve done a few different campaigns that always came down to dishes and stamps and coins,” Silverstein says. “But if you weren’t interested in those things, it wouldn’t make eBay work for you.”

Instead of focusing on rare items, the new spots, which began running on such prime-time TV shows as Will and Grace and Spin City in late December, target the general consumer. “This was an opportunity to widen the circle of people who thought they knew eBay or didn’t think these things could be found on eBay,” Silverstein says.

In the first effort, “Dogs,” a number of pooches are shown destroying different household items as “How Much Is That Doggie in the Window,” by Tin Pan Alley tunesmith Bob Merrill, plays in the background.

One dog urinates on a chair, another buries a necklace, cell phone and violin in the backyard, and a third casually eats roast turkey off the dining-room table.

The next spot, “New House,” follows a similar story line. In it, a young couple moves into their dream house and quickly discovers that everything is falling apart. A painting falls off a wall, a tub crashes through the ceiling, and a computer causes a power outage. The ad ends with the couple putting their home up for sale—as part of the house collapses and destroys their prized convertible.

Both commercials end with a voiceover saying: “If you lost it, broke it, need it cheap or just can’t find it anywhere else … eBay.”

Copywriter Blake Kelly says creatives toyed with the idea of a spot where a shopper finds a cherished item on eBay. But that story line couldn’t be compressed into 30-seconds, she said. The agency settled on a different approach before a five-day shoot in Vancouver, Canada.

“It’s a complicated back-story to show desire,” Kelly says. “The way to show [people missing something] was just to smash it. So we came up with a campaign about breaking stuff,” she says.

Much more challenging than getting household items to fall or break, however, was encouraging the dogs to misbehave. For example, the dog that had to urinate had been holding it in for hours prior to the shoot, but still sheepishly walked around the set sniffing furniture before relieving himself. “Everything we wanted them to do, good dogs are told not to do, so it was really hard,” Kelly says.

The owner of the border collie which destroys a golf club by taking it through a dog exit recommended getting the shot in two takes. Otherwise, he says, the animal would figure out how to get it though the door unscathed.

Silverstein says the client was hesitant about the approach, but eventually agreed it suited their business. “At first, I’m not sure they knew what to think,” he says. “But they became comfortable when they found out people responded nicely.”

“It’s rewarding to do ads that reflect the tone of the company,” Silverstein adds. “[They] represent the character of eBay: interesting, form-friendly and quirky at the same time.” eBay


Goodby, Silverstein

& Partners



Rich Silverstein

Creative Director

Steve Simpson

Art Director

Karin Onsager-Birch


Blake Kelly

Broadcast Producer

Matthew Winks


David Shane

Production Co.

Hungry Man

Santa Monica, Calif.