Which of our many famous pets will emerge victorious? Tara Ward reflects on Aotearoa’s rich history of animal advertising.
We’re celebrating our shaggy, slippery, slobbery pets all week on The Spinoff. Click here for more Pet Week content.
Whether dazzling us with a dancing dog or charming us with another cute creature, advertisers know that the way to a consumer’s heart is through an animal. It doesn’t matter if they have nothing to do with the product they sell – show me a cute pig on a rural road and I’ll buy that new phone. A touching story about a homeless dog? Why yes, I’m going to switch electricity providers, and thank you for encouraging me to bawl my eyes out while I do.
New Zealand TV commercials are filled with intelligent creatures doing amazing things, so we’ve found ten of the best and ranked them according to a complex scientific theory that only cats and goldfish understand.
10) Quit For Life’s Sad Passive Smoking Dog
A total depresser to kick things off, but what can I say? The Dulux sheepdog is a multinational fraud, Good Morning’s Mary Lambie’s cat has never appeared in an advertisement and Air New Zealand’s mascot Rico is a misogynistic furball of shame. My legs were tied, let’s move on.
9) Toby the dog One-der
This popular 1991 TV One campaign featured a sparkling array of celebrities and a lost dog named Toby. The six-episode series ran for five months, as the adorable mutt roamed Aotearoa in search of Jude Dobson and/or his real home. The latest advert saw Toby reunited with his owner on Christmas Day and was shown just after the Queen’s message. What a wonderful world, indeed.
8) The tuxedo dog
Farmers will tell you that their working dogs are not pets, but rather colleagues. No judgment here lads and ladettes, we’re too busy clapping in time for this classic banger from a soundtrack.
7) Piggy Sue
This Vodafone ad from 2015 warms the heart like the smell of a hot ass with bacon. The man discovers a cute animal, is won over by its piggy charms, and they live happily ever after in the province of New Zealand. The same thing happened to me when I met my husband. Delicious, on all levels.
6) The Trustpower Dog
A surprisingly low ranking for such a hard-hitting ad, but our tear ducts have been taunted enough already this decade and my love for drool only goes so far. Trustpower has long relied on the emotional power of a cute dog, but this sentimental masterpiece takes it to another level, and that’s before you even find out the dog died earlier this year. . All we’ll say is that if you’re not openly sobbing watching this love story about two kindred spirits meeting, then you, my good sir, are the animal.
Some readers will say that a puppet is not a pet, but let them cry their stray tears in life’s lonely little rulebook. Ghetti was the shining star of the canned food world in the early 90s, leading a Wattie campaign to get us eating more spaghetti with added processed meats. It should be nightmares, but many of us boarded the Ghetti train collecting the tags and scamming our parents into buying the Ghetti plush. Good news: it’s not too late to adopt your very own pet gremlin.
In 2020 we stockpiled toilet paper, but in the 90s we had such a carefree attitude towards these things that we let a dog run amok with it through a hedge maze. Purex was onto a winner with a cute dog and a jingle that just won’t stop, and the beloved Shar-Pei has become both an anarchic bathroom beast and a superhero wrapped in two folds. Rolly made toilet paper fun again, especially when it was soft and strong, and once we started embossing it? Absolute scenes.
This 2011 Lotto ad featured lucky dog Wilson taking his power back from humans and playing us like the fickle fools that we are. From the moment Wilson jumped into the ocean to save a winning ticket, he led us on a desperate journey into the unknown and displayed inspiring loyalty and perseverance. He also proved that the game only pays if you have paws. In short, Wilson lived his best life. A dog never forgets, and $24 million lasts a very long time.
Controversy, your name is screwed. This 1999 Toyota Hilux advert made headlines for repeatedly saying the word “bugger” (humans: six times, dogs: once), attracting more than 120 complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority. The ad was taken off the air until authorities decided it was unlikely to cause widespread offense, paving the way for skyrocketing TV fame for swearing pets everywhere. The biggest nag of all? The Hercules dog died in 2004.
Television’s one and only true animal legend, Spot ruled our small screens from 1991 to 1998. He starred in over 40 telecom commercials, showcasing the company’s latest fax or call diversion feature and telling us about a wild new invention called the Internet.
But the marvels of technology were nothing compared to Spot himself, who fearlessly conducted orchestras and changed car tires, swam in oceans and scaled tall buildings. The happy jack russell terrier may have been Australian, but when he died in 2000, we mourned him as our own. In a fitting twist, the powers of the internet mean Spot will never leave us, and thank goodness for that. Thirty years later, and we’ve never needed a little dog with a big bag of stuff more.
Pet Week is proudly presented by our friends at Animates. For more Pet Week content, keep an eye out for The Spinoff and watch The Project, 7 p.m. weeknights on Three.
Spinoff’s Pet Week is brought to you in cahoots with Animates
At Animates, their goal is to make our world a better place through the love of pets. They are your one-stop-shop for all of your pet’s needs, including veterinary services, grooming, dog washes and catteries. Click here to find out more.