With the help of agency DraftFCB New Zealand and its client, Mini, the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) in New Zealand is teaching a trio of talented canines how to drive a Mini Cooper. Trainers are working with the dogs on accelerating, braking, steering, and even shifting gears, all in an effort to show what should perhaps already be obvious: that the abandoned or abused dogs that wind up at the SPCA are just as capable as any other dogs, if not more so.
"We worked to the truth that SPCA dogs are smart, despite what we might think," says Regan Grafton, executive creative director at DraftFCB. He and the rest of the team at DraftFCB were asked by another client, Mini, to come up with a way to make adopting SPCA dogs seem more attractive. "The challenge was how to find a relevant way of bringing the dogs and Mini together. So, half-jokingly at the time, we said to ourselves, 'Lets teach a dog drive.' We penned the idea, thinking it was a long shot in every respect, and now here we are, with three driving dogs."
In the video above, the dogs are seen in a specially modified version of the car (adorably) learning the ropes of the task at paw. It’s a completely safe environment surrounded by trainers. All involved are confident, however, that by Monday, December 10th, at least one of the dogs will be able to drive an actual Mini. Not only will the dogs be able to drive it, in fact, but Porter, Ginny, and Monty are expected to drive the car unchaperoned. (A trainer will be monitoring standing by closely with an external fail-safe button.) To put things into perspective, I can’t drive a stick shift without a chaperone.
If most parents have a rough time teaching their kids to drive in a Target parking lot, imagine the task of teaching a dog to do it. However, it seems the actual training wasn’t even the most difficult aspect of the project. "Getting the Mini dog-friendly turned out to be a small task of its own," says Matt Williams, creative at DraftFCB. "The engineering team did an amazing job working closely with the trainers to figure out (and re-figure out numerous times) what the dogs actually needed physically to be able to operate the car."
Apparently, the dogs themselves were ideal pupils and took to driving naturally. Or as naturally as can be expected. Some doggy difficulties were perhaps inevitable. Says Grafton, "There was also helping Monty overcome his fixation with flies—we’re still working on that."
Tune in December 10th to see how the dogs do on their own.