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Tag: driving

Woof in Advertising: Meet the Barkleys

What can sell cars even better than a cute dog?

How about an entire family of them?

Subaru — the automobile company that has long embraced, catered to and capitalized on canines in its commercials – has released a new series of ads that follows the travels of a family of four retrievers. 

And while it’s just in time for the Super Bowl, you probably won’t see the ads during the big game. Once again, Subaru is opting to be a Puppy Bowl sponsor instead.

Subaru’s ”Meet the Barkleys” campaign consists of four 30-second spots in which the canine family experience some mini-dramas. In this one, dad ends up in the doghouse for  appearing a little too interested in an attractive female pedestrian.

In the ads, the dogs aren’t just along for the ride, they’re in charge, and on their own. Dad drives. Mom navigates. And they youngest offspring — just a pup — sits in his child seat.

Produced by Carmichael Lynch and director Brian Lee Hughes of Skunk, the ads are enhanced with CGI, but the dogs are real, and Subaru offers a website where you can learn more about them.

WIAAuggie, who plays the role of dad, is a 5-year-old golden retriever from a small town in Canada, with several movie, television and commercials among his credits.

Stevie, a 4-year-old female yellow Lab, plays the mom, and lives with Auggie in real life as well. She was rescued from an animal shelter in Pasadena and started training as an actor just six months ago.

Playing the role of little brother is Sebastian, a 12-week-old (at the time of filming) golden retriever from Moorpark, California.

From the same California breeder came Sadie, six-months-old, a golden retriever who plays the role of the daughter, and who, in another one of the ads, raises dad’s suspicion when she lingers a little too long in the car when her date brings her home.

While that’s one of  two ads that shows the dog family acting out distinctively human type dramas, the other two show their doggie side — as in going ballistic at the sight of a mail truck. Then there’s what happens when the family takes a break from their road trip to stop at a convenience store:

Highway Haiku: Cruise Control

 

“Cruise Control”

Cursed cruise control

A mind-numbing way to drive

Much less live your life

(To see the entire collection of ”Highway Haiku,” click here)

The Grapes of George (and other crops)

I’m not sure who’s behind it, but in the flatlands of eastern Washington — before the westbound traveler gets to the far more magnificent side of the state — someone has decided to label the crops.

“Crop names in fence lines next 14 miles,” reads a sign on Interstate 90, somewhere west of Moses Lake and east of a town named George.

I like this idea. For one thing, it turns a fairly boring drive into a learning experience. For another, possibly, it makes people a little more aware of/involved in the place they’re at — as opposed to the text they’re sending, the video game they’re playing, or the cell phone on which they’re blabbing.

It’s kind of like a picture book for kids: Here is the field corn, here is the alfalfa. You don’t even have to turn the page, just your head. On your left, potatoes; on your right, peppermint. Here is a field of … wheat. Here is a field of … grapes (wrathless variety, it appeared). Here is some Timothy. Timothy? (It’s a kind of hay.)

For 14 miles, on both sides of the highway, I got a lesson in agriculture — thanks to, I’d guess, the state or some agricultural commission. I wanted to learn more about crops, including why every state seems to package its hay differently. But the lesson came to an end; and as I progressed west, instead of crop signs, the only ones I saw in the fence lines — not counting those of politicians — said “For Sale.”

It struck me as a good idea, though, all this labeling and identifying — one that, if carried to extremes, could both create jobs and lead to a more informed public.

In addition to crop identifiers, why not farm animal identifiers: Sheep, goats, cows, llamas? Tree identifiers that would help us differentiate between our birch and our aspen? Factory identifiers that tell us what’s being made inside that big building? A much needed explanation of what silos (a) hold and (b) are for? The American public would get a better understanding of the importance of farming, and everything else we take for granted.

(Label this idea satire, but only kind of.)

Of course we don’t want drivers reading signs so much that they neglect their driving, but it’s nice to see signs that inform, instead of those that merely advertise, or give harsh orders — as if we were dogs or something: “No this … No that … Stay in lane … Right lane must exit … ”

I’m tired, too, of the signs that scare us: Dangerous Crosswinds Ahead, Watch for Ice, High Accident Area, Gas: $3.15.

We tend to readily identify dangers, we profusely post rules, we slap advertising everywhere — so why not label the run of the mill good stuff, like cows and creeks, steaming bowls of oatmeal and doers of good deeds?

My label-everything-on-earth plan could help the economy. Think of all the jobs. Think of the stimulus. We would need more signmakers, more sign putter-uppers, more sign repairers, more sign changers — for when the crops are rotated, or the landscape changes.

Maybe knowing what’s what would help us appreciate our Earth a little more, teach us to better “live in the moment.” Or maybe not. In any event, here’s the one I want to see:

A sign that the economy is improving.

Highway Haiku: Oh Golden Tamarack

“Oh Golden Tamarack”

Amid evergreen

Monotony, let’s hear it

For diversi-tree

Highway Haiku: “Rumble Strip”

“Rumble Strip”

Shivers climb my spine

When you vibrate my behind

I think you’re groovy

 

(Highway Haiku is a semi-regular feature of “Travels with Ace.” To read them all, click here.)

The rise and fall of kudzu dogs

With leaves getting past their peak, turning brown and taking a dive — at least up north — my journey is losing some of its luster.

And I’m losing one of the ways I pass the time while driving: Soon, the kudzu dogs will be gone.

As some of you may remember, I got a little wrapped up in kudzu growing in the shape of dogs while I was traveling through the south. I kept seeing kudzu dogs as I progressed north — kudzu not being strictly a southern phenomenon anymore.

I saw several along the New York State Thruway, but none as good as the green ones I saw down south. The thruway doesn’t lend itself to pulling over — prohibits it, actually, except in the case of emergencies. So I refrained from stopping and taking pictures, figuring “but officer, I saw a kudzu dog,” wouldn’t quite qualify.

Those I did see — kudzu not changing colors as crisply and vibrantly as some other leaves — looked a little dappled and mangy. When the fast growing vines finally call it a season and stop their climbing, the leaves turn brown, making only a quick stop at yellow.

Soon, the vines will be bare, and I’ll have to resort to other ways of passing the drive time — like dictating brilliant thoughts into my voice recorder that, when I listen to them the next day, aren’t that brilliant at all; singing, babbling, talking to the dog, or guessing which part of my back is going to start hurting next.

Soon, all the trees will revert to skeletons, and only the evergreens will be there to enjoy — and you can’t find dogs in evergreens. Can you?

My awesome, and intimidating, one-sided tan

One side benefit of my new gypsy lifestyle — in which the dog and I have given up our housing to spend some time exploring America — is that I am now a bronzed God.

Not all of me, mind you, just my left arm, which has been resting out the open car window as we make our way west.

I like driving with the window down. Ace, being wiser, prefers the air conditioning. So we compromise: window down, AC on, and the vents aimed in his direction — until, at least, it gets so hot that I come around to his point of view.

As a result of all that arm resting out the window, though, my left arm has a tan to die for — not a farmer tan, more of a truck driver tan.

With my pasty stay at home days behind me, the open road ahead, I’m digging my left arm, which may be making the rest of my body jealous. I think my left arm is almost ready to go out in public, perhaps check out the dating scene, maybe start hitting the gym, so it can be as toned as it is tanned.

The rest of me will probably stay home — oh yeah, we don’t have one, make that inside — but my left arm, I think, wants to go out and hoist a few.

Of course, all this leaves me uneven, a split personality, dermatologically speaking — and it will continue to get more pronounced unless I spend some time on the passenger side, which, as I’m traveling only with my dog, is probably not advisable.

I’ll just have to cope with being a two-toned human being, and let the two sides fight it out.

John’s left arm: Dude, c’mon, let’s go out.

Pasty John: No, I want to watch this Law & Order I’ve previously viewed five times.

John’s left arm: C’mon, let’s go climb a mountain or do some river rafting. How about we at least check out the motel pool?

Pasty John: No! Might I remind you that, despite your extremely awesome tan, you are the weaker of the two arms. You’re not in charge here. Now quit flexing.

John’s left arm: Can I at least work the remote?

Pasty John: No, I don’t trust you.

The contrast between my arms is only likely to get worse in the days ahead. We still have to cross the rest of New Mexico and half of Arizona, where I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if my left arm is required to show proof of citizenship.

“Are you two together?” the Border Patrol agent will ask.

“Never seen him before in my life,” my pasty side will answer.

(To read all of “Dog’s Country,” click here.)

Guilty verdict in the case of the lazy Brit

Paul Railton was fined and barred from driving for six months after taking his dog for a walk while sitting behind the wheel of his car.

Prosecutors said he was spotted by a cyclist driving slowly along a country lane in December, holding his dog’s leash through the car window as the animal trotted alongside.

Railton pleaded guilty Monday to not being in proper control of a vehicle, but told the court that “a lot of people exercise their dogs in that manner,” MSNBC reports.

His lawyer said Railton, 23, acknowledged “it was a silly thing to do and there was an element of laziness.”

Railton was ordered by magistrates in Consett, northeast England, to pay a fine of about $100. He also received three penalty points on his driver’s license, leading to him being barred from driving for six months.

Several British newspapers reported that Railton was involved in an attempted murder case last year (drive-by shooting?), but that the case was dismissed because of police misconduct.

Dogs driving cars, and sales, at Subaru

Subaru this month rolled out a series of ads featuring dogs behind the wheel of cars.

In the ads for the Subaru Forester, the canine driver confronts the kind of situations with which we human drivers are familiar - the indecipherable voice at the drive-up window, the travails of parallel parking, and, of course, a pushy cat stealing our parking space.

The ads all end with the tagline “Dog tested. Dog approved.”

The spots premiered during a marathon of  Animal Planet’s “Dogs 101,” and were shown during the Puppy Bowl and Westminster Dog Show.

About half of Subaru’s customers own a pet, and the company has recognized the importance of being dog friendly — in making its cars and its ads.

In 2008, Subaru, which is an ASPCA sponsor, ran print ads that asked ”Without dogs, how would you get rid of that new-car smell?”

The new ads, though clearly in the “don’t try this at home” department, are pretty witty. Here are two more:

California drivin’: Lap dogs still OK

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed legislation Saturday that would have banned motorists from holding a live animal in their laps or arms while driving.

The lap-dog measure — dubbed the “Paris Hilton Bill” in honor of the celebrity dog lover — had been ridiculed by Rush Limbaugh and other conservatives as excessive government.

Schwarzenegger voiced no opinion on the bill, saying only that he didn’t consider it a priority, according to an article in the Sacramento Bee.

Had it been approved, violators would have faced a base fine of $35, which could have risen to $150 with state and county fees.

Assemblyman Bill Maze, the bill’s author, said he proposed the bill after seeing a Tulare County woman driving with three dogs on her lap.

“You’ve got a live animal that has a mind of its own,” Maze said. “It can get tangled in the steering wheel or pinned between your knees. It can create a real hazard for yourself and everyone else.”

The governor has approved other restrictions on drivers — banning text messaging and using phones without a hands-free device.

California Highway Patrol statistics show that four people were killed and 346 others injured in collisions from 2001 to 2007 due to driver inattention caused by an animal — but no breakdown exists of how many were in their owner’s lap.

Nationwide Mutual Insurance found in a 2006 survey that 8 percent of drivers had held a pet while behind the wheel.