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Dogs This Smart Deserve A Home. And An Award.

By Peter Vegas, senior creative at Draftfcb New Zealand
Want to know the secret to teaching a dog to drive? You teach them a series of simple commands. Each one in itself not particularly earth- shattering. The push of a pad, paws on the steering wheel. The magic happens when you see those behaviors strung together.
Ok, I’m making it sound a little too easy, but that’s how the trainers from Animals on Q explained it to us the first time we met. In fairness to them they spent most of that first meeting thinking that we were talking about the standard “dog pretends to drive” scenario. Making use of clever camera angles. When the penny finally dropped and head trainer, Mark Vette, realised we were asking them to train a dog to drive for real, he stared at us. “That’s never been done before,” he said. We nodded eagerly. He scratched his head, glanced at his colleagues and then said, “We can do that.”
The training process happened pretty much the way Mark had described it. It just took a lot longer, and involved far more head scratching than any of us could have imagined. And while Mark and his team got to work with the dogs on their farm, a similar process took place at the agency as we worked on the core idea.
Mark introduced the dogs to a series of simple commands. We shared the idea with people from different departments in the agency: TV Production, PR, Digital, Media. We knew that if we could string together all the best ideas from these departments we would end up with something amazing.
The key to this teamwork wasn’t simply that everyone was happy to be working for a good cause. Instead of just explaining what was required we asked everyone to contribute their ideas. We wanted to know what they thought they could do within their specialties to help make the idea bigger.
This approach paid off over and over again. The entire team took ownership of the job and got on with making it happen. Almost everyday a new problem would pop up. More than once it looked like the project was going to fail. But every time the team would come together to be consulted. Heads would be scratched, ideas shared and then someone would say, “We can do that.”
The support of outside suppliers was also crucial. From the guys at Icon Engineering, who modified the Mini, to the owners of the track where we were going to attempt to make history. Our enthusiasm was unlimited, the funds not so. Again, part of the secret to securing help from outside parties was to make them understand just how crucial their role was to the project. Once they could see they were a key part of process they were hooked.
On Monday night, Dec. 10th, on live TV we shared our work with the world. It was made possible because a series of simple commands and a whole lot of great ideas were strung together. The result was the world’s first driving dogs and everyone on the team takes great pride in being able to say, “We did that.”