Subaru’s Doggie Drivers Are Back, and Just Rollin’ Along, in New Ads

The Barkleys get behind the wheel once again


They’rrrre back.

The Barkleys, Subaru’s family of dogs that drive like people—well, better than some people we know, actually—return in four comical commercials that broke during the Screen Actors Guild Awards telecast last night.

“This year, the creative team had additional inspiration in the new three-row Ascent, the biggest vehicle Subaru has ever made, and we looked for ideas that would let us give the world an early peek at this new vehicle,” Randy Hughes, executive creative director at Carmichael Lynch, the agency that developed the spots, tells AdFreak. “That led to the car wash and dropping the puppy off for the first day of school.”

In the first ad below, the car-wash crew steals the show with the sudsing and splashing and such:

Yep, the washers are pooches, too. You were expecting cats for some reason?

Meanwhile, at the School of Obedience, it goes without saying that “C” is for “canine” and “D” is for “dog”:

In addition to touting the Ascent, “we also wanted some stories that spoke to a younger audience—a teen learning to drive, and a teen picking up Dad from the bowling alley, for example,” says Subaru national advertising manager Brian Cavallucci.

Before Junior gets his license in that Impreza five-door, it looks like he’ll need a few more obedience lessons:

Luckily, dogs don’t get much email.

Next, at the local Dog Bowl (wordplay, heh), our irrepressible rrrruffian shows off a new trick behind the wheel of a Crosstrek:

As always with the Barkleys, the cuteness factor alone is pretty grrrreat. But four years into the campaign, the team works hard to make sure their latest tales live up to the work’s impressive pedigree.

“In one respect, it gets easier to do great spots because we are smarter about our furry friends, and what we are able to accomplish with them,” says Hughes. “On the other hand, it can be difficult, because there’s less subject matter that remains fresh. We have taken bolder steps in the past. For example, one year we introduced a Subaru retailer who is selling vehicles to these dogs. But we have found our sweet spot is having these dogs that drive Subaru vehicles tell human stories that let us laugh at ourselves.”

Client: Subaru of America, Inc.
Senior Vice President, Marketing: Alan Bethke
National Advertising Manager: Brian Cavallucci
Advertising Production Specialist: Michelle Shoultes

Agency: Carmichael Lynch
Chief Creative Officer: Marty Senn
Executive Creative Director: Randy Hughes
Creative Director: Brad Harrison
Writer: Michelle Lippman
Art Director: Sam Perry
Head of Production: Joe Grundhoefer
Executive Content Producer: Jon Mielke
Business Manager: Vicki Oachs
Account Management Team: Brad Williams, Paula Weisenbeck, Kendra Komejan
Product Information Supervisor: Robert Ar
Project Manager: Andrea Thelen
Brand Planning: Olivia Luterbach
Media: Betsy Burgeson

Production Company: Skunk US
Director: Brian Lee Hughes
President: Matt Factor
Executive Producer: Shelly Townsend
Line Producer: Geoff McLean
Director of Photography: Jason McCormick

Edit House: Drive Thru
Editor: Mick Uzendoski
Executive Producer: Beth Wilson
Online Artist: Derek Johnson
Telecine: Sean Coleman @ CO3
Audio House: SisterBoss
Audio Mix: Carl White & Micah Johnson
Sound Design: Carl White & Micah Johnson

Spot / Music Company: Car Wash / Barking Owl
Drop Off / South
Drive Away / HiFi Project

On-camera talent: Sera Trimble / Stunt Driver

@DaveGian David Gianatasio is a longtime contributor to Adweek, where he has been a writer and editor for two decades. Previously serving as Adweek's New England bureau chief and web editor, he remains based in Boston.