by: Jamie LaReau
Leaders at Subaru of America’s advertising agency Carmichael Lynch knew they had something special last year with a TV spot called “Dream Weekend.”
Even the production of it was a tear-jerker.
“Yeah, boy — that was a special shoot,” recalls Randy Hughes, executive creative director at Carmichael Lynch in Minneapolis. “We were all choked up shooting it, and we knew it would be really something.”
The spot for the 2016 Impreza tells the story of a young man and his aging dog, experiencing one last journey. Together, they complete a “bucket list” of treats for the dog, including a ride through the countryside with the window open, a decorated birthday bone, an illicit dunk in a motel pool, a brand-new shoe to chew on, a tray of carryout barbecue and a reunion with a long-lost love. The soundtrack is a folksy Willie Nelson, singing, “You’re my buddy, my pal, my friend/It will be that way until the end.”
The spot evolved as Carmichael Lynch’s ad writers pondered how to tell a story about loyalty and longevity in 60 to 90 seconds. They wanted it to reflect Subaru vehicles’ durability, Hughes said. A writer came up with the spot’s tag line: “It’s not just the miles in life; it’s what you make of them.”
“We thought, “What can you do with miles?'” said Hughes. “What about paying back a dog? They don’t live long enough. So how can you pay them back for their service?”
The resulting ad was a big departure from the sight gags of Subaru’s 6-year-old “Dog tested. Dog approved.” series featuring driving dogs, said Alan Bethke, senior vice president of marketing at Subaru of America. “It was more the idea of man’s best friend and how does a dog fit into your life.”
The creative team also found inspiration in the canine star of the ad, an 11-year-old rescue dog named Monkey who had recently retired from acting. Despite her age — and the fact that the story line called for a male dog — Monkey’s trainer felt she could handle the job.
“That dog was really something,” said Hughes. “This is where great work, if you’re open to it, can get better.”
The Willie Nelson touch was another gamble that paid off. The agency showed the spot to the country singer, who is an avid animal rights activist, before seeking permission to use the song. Nelson liked it enough, Hughes said, to “cut us a deal” on rights to the song, titled “I’ve Loved You All Over the World.”
“We could have never afforded it,” Hughes said. “And a lot of artists won’t let their work be used in commercials.”
Subaru launched the spot in July. It inspired a Subaru social-media initiative that encourages dog lovers to do special things for their pets and share scenes on social media. And it’s an example of how small budgets can have a big impact, said Hughes.
“We don’t have to spend a lot for people to notice our work,” Hughes said. “When it’s good, it jumps out.”