Did you see the “Underdog” commercial during the Superbowl XLIV? Or maybe later in its viral incarnations around the Internet? An adorable young Lab outsmarts a person (who has it coming) with the old bark collar–switcheroo in order to get a bag of Doritos. It was one of four winning commercials—out of 4,000 created by Average Joes and Janes—to air during the game.
Twenty-four-year-old Joshua Svoboda created the submission for Frito-Lay’s “Crash the Superbowl” contest in three days with a budget of $200 (including the cost of dog treats and toys), and filming at a favorite childhood park. For his efforts, he took home a second-place finish, $600,000, and a healthy respect for professional canine actors. A fledgling filmmaker from Raleigh, N.C. (check out his reel at 5pointproductions.com), Svoboda hoped success in the contest could kick start his career.
When we caught up with the young director a few days after the Superbowl, he was—appropriately—shopping for a television. He snuck into the mattress department to answer a couple questions.
Which came first—the dog or the concept?
The idea. We were in a friend’s basement reminiscing about electronic collars, and how as kids we would put them on.
Where did you get your dog star?
Rosie is my fellow writer/director’s sister’s puppy. She’s a Lab-Boxer mix.
When we did the test shots, she was surprisingly well-behaved. The second day [filming the actual ad], she was running around, chasing kids, barking at old people. She settled down once we threw the ball for her a few times and gave her treats.
Were those really Doritos in the bag?
Yes, she just stuck her head all the way in.
Do you see yourself directing dogs in your future?
No. I personally won’t be handling animals at all. It’s pretty difficult.
Do you have a dog?
No. I do love dogs but I live in an apartment. Right now, I have two cats.