Harold Einstein's penchant for absurdist humor served him well in campaigns for Liberty Mutual and Jolly Rancher. The Dummy Films director has proven particularly deft at placing strange yet relatable characters in weird yet familiar situations to entrance viewers and memorably drive home brand propositions.
Such dynamics emerge once again in a series of oddly appealing ads for Petco. Themed "It's What We'd Want If We Were Pets," the work from Droga5 represents the retailer's first big push since its pivot to a health-and-wellness positioning late last year.
Commercials present human beings who seem decidedly ... off. For instance, see the snooty cocktail-party crowd in the 45-second anthem film below. Their banter about Petco services—grooming, vets, food delivery—borders on obsession. They casually discuss sniffing and pouncing, and one guy apologizes for arriving late after digging outside in the dirt.
They are, quite literally, dog people and cat people...
...with the final shot revealing a room full of pups and tabbies where homo sapiens had been.
So, those folks putting on the dog—and cat!—were really pets all along. These :15s give that conceit added bite:
Wow, those wrestling mutt-brothers play kind of ... ruff.
"At first glance, pet health and wellness is something that can easily be dismissed as intimidating, overwhelming or some new age-y silliness. Largely because it's hard, as humans, to know what our pets really need," Droga5 senior copywriter Chase Kimball tells Muse. "But human wellness is serious business. And that got us thinking, how do we help people not dismiss the idea? How do we get humans to take pet health and wellness seriously? The answer was brutally simple. Just think about their wellbeing as you would your own. We just needed to help people put themselves in their pet’s shoes."
The mood's more disorienting than in-your-face bizarre. While it's sure to catch viewers off guard, this approach might not suit everyone's taste, as the humor doesn't hit home until the kicker at the end.
Actually, the spots get more enjoyable on repeat viewings—and that's especially true of the :45. Like an old dog revealing new tricks, the gags and wordplay improve, bringing the brand's pitch into sharper focus, once we know we're watching pets personified.
The Droga team praised Einstein for his genius touches at brining the concept to life.
"From the outset, his approach wasn’t about finding people that looked like pets, but people that could convey the emotions, wishes and desires of a pet, essentially matching the pet’s personality," explains senior art director Jesse Brown. "It’s a misdirect that lets you communicate so many things, and Harold just got how stand-alone the idea could be."
During the shoots, "there were so many unexpected moments of joy in the pets performances—a dog actually licking his lips at a bag of dog food, or a kitten excitedly wrestling with a curtain," says creative director George McQueen "The absurdity of it all, when you suddenly see the pet in place of the person, makes everything that came before it instantly funny."
Agency Droga5 NY
Co-Chief Creative Officer Tim Gordon
Co-Chief Creative Officer Felix Richter
Executive Creative Director Scott Bell
Creative Director George McQueen
Creative Director Tom McQueen
Associate Creative Director Bernardo Gonzalez
Sr. Copywriter Chase Kimball
Sr. Art Director Jesse Brown
Director of Interactive Production Tasha Cronin
Group Experience Design Director Craig Wong
Executive Design Director Rich Greco
Senior Design Content Writer Jeremy Zerbe
Designer Daniel Seong
Designer Adrian Koenigsberg
Executive Producer, Film Dave Stephenson
Sr. Producer, Film Volney Guzman
Associate Producer Lindsay Squires
Senior Music Supervisor Michael Ladman
Business Affairs Director Dan Simonetti
Senior Business Affairs Manager Ramona Seunath
Business Affairs Manager Jeannie Curcio
Producer, Print Alyssa Dolman
Head of Experience Strategy George Bennett
Group Strategy Director Sarah Garman
Group Strategy Director Tom Haslow
Strategy Director Kaveri Gautam
Group Communications Strategy Director Justin Schneider
Communications Strategist Molly Klein
Data Strategy Director Tradd Salvo
Co-head of Account Management Lauren LaValle
Account Director Amanda Burnett Bard
Account Supervisor Tori Tessalone
Associate Account Manager Mallie Feldman
Senior Project Manager Simon Jolly
Chief Executive Officer Ron Coughlin
Chief Marketing Officer Tariq Hassan
Vice President of Marketing Katie Nauman
Head of Brand Marketing & Creative Olivia Doyne
Director of Marketing Alysa Frost
Marketing Manager Kelsey Kotzebue
Program Manager Lisa Budnik
Director of Marketing, Membership Sub-Campaign Jillian Ramos
Marketing Manager, Vendor Partnerships Joela Grenard
Head of Internal Studio Bessie Wink
Studio Producer Stephanie Wilson
Creative Studio Operations Manager Doris Peterson
Production Company Dummy
Director Harold Einstein
Executive Producer Michael Kanter
Editor Dave Anderson
Partner / Executive Producer Sila Soyer
Producer Ellen Lavery
Post Production The Mill
VFX Supervisor John Leonti
Executive Producer Anastasia Von Rahl
Color Grade Company3
Colorist Tim Masick
Animal Safety American Humane Society
Animal Safety Representative Aiesha Colvin
Senior Advisor Susan H Jackson
Music Found Objects
Track Title "Classy Affair"
Executive Creative Director Trevor Gureckis
Executive Creative Director Jay Wadley
Creative Director Ben Marshall
Creative Adam Weiss
Executive Producer Jennie Armon
Head of Production Matt Nelson
Producer Katt Matt
Producer Nick Chomowicz
Associate Music Producer Agatha Lee
Sound Heard City
Mixer Evan Mangiamele