As civil war loomed in 1861, Abraham Lincoln urged the deeply polarized nation to remain united. “We are not enemies, but friends. … The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched … by the better angels of our nature.”
Rob Schwartz, seasoned ad-man and political citizen, feels much the same way, but rather than angels, he’s putting his money on dogs. As this fractious campaign season winds its way to November 3, Schwartz suggests that “calling forth our canine instincts” is the way to go. Not surprising, considering that the words “be more human (and if in doubt) be more dog” are emblazoned on his company’s walls in massive, sans-serif letters.
Surfing the internet, Schwartz—CEO of TBWA\Chiat\Day New York, an A-list agency—turned up wonderful photos of Joe Biden and dogs, which led him to dive deeper, looking for connections between dogs and leadership. As he says in a recent piece in AdAge, he not only found articles supporting the idea that dogs bring out the best in people, he also discovered that they were a kind of unifying factor across party lines, with dog ownership high in both red and swing states. In these contentious times, there are aren’t many things Americans of all political persuasions can come together on, but certainly, their love of dogs is one of them.
Thinking about the tradition of dogs in the White House, Schwartz saw a theme, and he ran with it. He kicked around the idea with some of his creative friends—including editor/director Dan Bootzin, who cut Apple’s iconic “Think Different” ad—and they came up with a political spot and a website to support it: DogLoversforJoe.com.
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As you can tell by the name and the political commercial they created, they are unequivocally Biden supporters. The upbeat, 30-second spot, which reflects both their politics and their ad craft, shows a series of modern-era presidents with their much-loved dogs—Ronald Reagan with Lucky, a Bouvier des Flandres; George H.W. Bush and Millie, an English Springer Spaniel; Bill Clinton with his chocolate Lab, Buddy; George W. Bush and his Scottish Terrier, Barney; and Barack Obama with Portuguese Water Dog, Bo.
Then we come to the current resident of the White House, whose aversion to pets, particularly dogs, is used to good comic effect. We see President Trump addressing a crowd, mocking the idea of living with a dog. “How would I look walking a dog across the White House lawn?” he asks his supporters, a faux disbelieving look on his face.
As the ad points out, “Trump is the first President without a dog in the White House in over a century.” Cut to a photo of his rival, Joe Biden, nuzzling Champ, one of his German Shepherds. Along with the Biden-Harris logo, the ad ends with this advice: “Choose your humans wisely.”
The following statement appears prominently on the DogLoversforJoe website:
“Right now is the first time in over 100 years there hasn’t been a dog in the White House and it shows. Science shows that dogs make us more compassionate, more friendly, healthier and happier. In fact, according to a recent study published in The Guardian, ‘animal therapy helps to develop problem-solving skills, empathy, attention to the needs of others, a sense of responsibility and a way of channeling aggressive thoughts among individuals who have proved hard to reach with conventional psychiatric drugs and talking therapies.’ In other words, vote for Joe—he’s a dog guy.”
The commercial and website, along with a popular Instagram account showcasing photos of Biden with supporters’ dogs, are in the tradition of smart Madison Avenue advertising methods. Like the classic Volkswagen ads, they tackle a serious issue with humor.
But don’t be distracted by the cute dogs. The message is dead serious: Vote for Joe Biden.