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Woof in Advertising: Rocky and Dawn

If there are two things that melt the average American’s heart, they are dogs and returning soldiers.

Put them together — as in a soldier coming home and reuniting with his or her dog — and you have  a slam dunk in terms of public appeal, as the plethora of real videos of that on YouTube, and the number of views they’ve received, attest.

This one, despite what many viewers think, isn’t real, but a staged presentation aimed at selling Iams dog food.

“Rocky the dog didn’t know why Dawn was gone for so long,” the commercial tells us. “But when she showed up in military camoflouge, he was there ready to greet her with the biggest welcome home. So, to keep Rocky strong and healthy, Dawn chooses Iams dog food.”

The ad features a magnificent Irish Wolfhound (whose real name is Monster) and his real owner, named Andrea. But it’s not capturing a real reunion. (Search YouTube for “dog” and “soldier” and “reunion” and you can find plenty of those.)

Before airing it on television, Procter & Gamble unveiled the ad, and others in its “Keep Love Strong” series, on Facebook, to let viewers share, like and comment on them.

“Welcome Home was voted the favorite of the dog ads, while cat lovers chose  “Unspoken,”  in which a cat named Ziggy shows up on the doorstep of a developmentally challenged young man.

The campaign, which started airing late last year, was created by the New York firm of Saatchi & Saatchi and showcases “the important role premium nutrition like Iams plays in keeping a dog or cat’s body as strong as their love.”

“At Iams, we trust our fans and value their opinions a great deal, so we wanted to give them an opportunity to participate in choosing our  next commercial,” Iams brand general manager Ondrea Francy said in a press release about the “Keep Love Strong” campaign. “…One of the most exciting things about our new campaign is that it was all inspired by real stories of unconditional love.”

Despite all that trust they have for us, Procter & Gamble didn’t go out of its way to point out that the commercial was made with actors, as opposed to depicting a real returning vet reuniting with their pet,  leaving the issue subject to debate among online commenters.

Reading through the comments about the ad on YouTube, most seem to be from those smitten by the dog, and many are from viewers pointing out the ad made them cry.

One commenter insists he looked it up and determined that it was made with a real video of a dog and returning soldier.  (Here’s some proof it wasn’t.)

Mostly, the ad is praised, but some question whether it’s using the military to sell dog food: “You’re doing a disservice to service members like my husband who wear the uniform PROUDLY,” said one.

Maybe, but the fact of the matter is that patriotism — like dogs, catchy tunes, scantily clad models and talking babies — can be a powerful sales tool, and not too much is out of bounds these days when it comes to advertising, including shamelessly blatant heartstring tugging.

That doesn’t mean (this being a free country, where we can speak our minds and buy the dog food of our choice) that we can’t criticize or pick nits.

Some commenters point out that the generic camouflage uniform worn by the “soldier” doesn’t pass muster.

“This is not real. She has no rank or anything on her uniform. No flag, no unit patch and her hair (is) completely wrong! This is probably a really well trained dog but she is not a real soldier … And she’s wearing Air Force boots with an army uniform! This would never fly in the military.”

A couple of commenters make the point that a dog as tall as an Irish Wolfhound should not be eating out of a bowl on the floor, but from a raised feeder: “You’d think the DOG FOOD company would know that…”

A handful of viewers seemed concerned, instead, that the dog and returning soldier are getting a little too intimate.

That was also the viewpoint of a post on the blog, Why I Hate Dogs, whose author says the ad “veers into the bestiality zone…”

“It shows a woman dressed in military fatigues, apparently just back from deployment somewhere. She is seen inside the house gushing over her huge Irish wolfhound (Russian wolfhound?), and walks outside, where she proceeds to lie flat on her back on the driveway, while the dog lowers itself on top of her, its legs splayed. The genital areas match up. Yes, it looks like this man-sized dog is having sex with her.”

How do you spell “Geesh?” (Is it two “E’s” or three — as in “geeesh” — and if so, might those naugbhty vowels be having an illicit threesome?)

As for me, it’s not the canine-human genital proximity that’s of concern, or the fact that the soldier’s uniform does or does not meet specs.

It’s that people don’t know whether the reunion video is real or staged. Some commenters, with whom I’d disagree, wrote that, as long as we are touched by it, that doesn’t matter.

Maybe I just need new glasses, but the line between truth and fiction seems to be getting awfully blurry these days. It doesn’t serve us well. And it would seem to me that it wouldn’t serve the dog food company well, either. If we don’t know whether the company is showing us a real event, or a staged generic re-creation, might we also wonder about how true the advertisement’s claims are, and how nutritious their product really is?

What is clear is this: Advertisers, while they may have a hard time finding unconditional love, are quick to seize upon the theme — especially if it might sell some dog food.

(“Woof in Advertising” is an occasional ohmidog! feature that looks at how dogs are used to sell stuff.)


Comment from Southern Fried Pugs
Time November 8, 2013 at 5:13 pm

I did know this was a commercial vs a real video (no self-respecting servicewoman would have her hair like that), and it was sweet. But if I bought dog food based on cute commercials, I would buy a lot of garbage. Pedigree has some really cute ads but the food is not the quality I want for my dogs. I’m an advertiser’s nightmare.

Comment from Anne’n’Spencer
Time November 10, 2013 at 1:02 pm

That’s an Irish Wolfhound. Or maybe a Scottish Deerhound. I can never tell the difference. This would be a Russian wolfhound, also known as a Borzoi: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Chart_rosyjski_borzoj_rybnik-kamien_pl.jpg

These two endless wars we seem to be fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan are punctuated by feel-good homecoming videos. Dad surprises kids at school. Mom surprises Dad and kids. Dad sees newborn child for first time. Ecstatic dog greets returning human. Cat ignores returning human–ha, ha. We get to feel all warm and gooey and teary-eyed. It keeps us from having to think about providing these veterans with job skills, benefits, health care, and the other things they desperately need to get re-established. A lot of soldiers–active duty and veterans–are on food stamps, and they just took a hit along with everybody else. Thanks for your service–good luck feeding your family. As for the dog feel-good videos, how many soldiers have had to surrender a dog (or cat) because they were being deployed and had no one to care for the pet?

I am personally tired of the videos, whether real or staged. People should find more concrete ways of “supporting our troops.” Babysit a kid or two for a stateside spouse. Foster a dog for six months or a year. And for Pete’s sake, light a fire under your politician so that these people aren’t abandoned when they return from serving our interests. Geeesh.

Comment from vida
Time November 11, 2013 at 5:30 pm

The line between fact and fancy, or if I”m being especially cynical, truth and lies, is as bad as it ever was but no worse. Propaganda has been with us a long time, it does seem though that less and less people realize that people trying to sell stuff lie. And yes, what Anne’n’Spencer said, more help and less fluff.

Comment from jwoestendiek
Time November 12, 2013 at 5:59 am

Dear Vida-with-whom-I-always-agree: I must disagree. It’s way, way worse. This ad isn’t really an example, because it’s clearly an ad, but the line between what’s advertising and what’s objective information is definitely getting blurrier, especially on the Internet. Not a week goes by that ohmidog! doesn’t get an offer to mention and link to a product or service in exchange for money. We don’t go in for that, but what percentage of poor, struggling dog blogs do? In newspapers and on TV, too, it’s getting harder to separate the fact from the (paid for) fluff. I was watching some home improvement show I’d never seen before on television the other day and, because of all the 3M products it kept featuring, wasn’t sure if it was an infomercial or not. I like my news to be news and my art to be art and for neither to have any sneaky advertising contained therein (with the exception of that soup can painting).
john / ohmidog!

Comment from vida
Time November 17, 2013 at 11:19 am

Sorry I didn’t see this sooner, just wanted to say I’ve never been so nicely corrected. I agree that lies reach more people a lot faster now with mass communication at our fingertips and eyeballs. But I remember my grandfather talking about the posters that hyped ww1 by dehumanizing the opposing forces and the “torches of liberty” newsreels to encourage women to smoke in the 1920s. The last was the brainchild of Sigmund Freud’s nephew who learned a thing or two from old Sigmund. Perhaps it’s simply that more people are exposed to so much more of it now?

Comment from yomi
Time November 27, 2013 at 11:45 am

I quite agree that people selling stuff lie in order to sell their product but the ad agencies are doing a good job in packaging the lies and the companies paying for these ads are getting the expected returns for their investment. so we cannot help but accept the fact that these well packaged lies are quite rewarding- unfortunately though.

Comment from KIRA
Time February 21, 2014 at 8:24 pm

In response to whoever made the “bestiality” complaints – you are sick. It’s pathetic your mind even goes there. It’s obviously supposed to depict the size comparison between the dog and the woman, like he’d just knocked her over with his excitement and affection. You’re like that Wal-Mart film developer who called Child Services on the parents who took sweet innocent pics of their toddlers during bath time. You see “dirty” everywhere.
And who cares if the reunion is real or not? If it brings more positive attention to our soldiers, returning or otherwise, all the better. These brave men and women are too easily forgotten as it is.