WeatherTechA founder David MacNeil orders a Super Bowl ad every year. This year, he devoted that ad to the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine, which saved his dog Scout from terminal cancer. It's gotten more attention than an ad about his company ever could.
Super Bowl ads are famously pricey -- $5.6 million for a 30-second spot this year. If you're going to spend that kind of money, you want an ad that will make an impact, something that will get talked about afterward, like Apple's unforgettable "1984" commercial from 1984, or last year's "Dilly Dilly" Budweiser ad that was going along just fine until a fire-breathing dragon suddenly blasted the entire cast because it was also an ad for the final season of Game of Thrones.
The Super Bowl hasn't happened yet, but we may already have a winner for most-talked-about ad, which is called "Lucky Dog" and features a golden retriever named Scout. A cute dog in a Super Bowl commercial might seem like a well-worn idea, but this ad is different. To begin with, it isn't selling anything and barely even mentions WeatherTech, the Bolingbrook, Illinois-based company paying $5.6 million for the slot. Instead, the ad centers on Scout, the actual dog, played by himself. Scout, who is seven, belongs to WeatherTech founder David MacNeil, and this past summer, he collapsed unexpectedly and was diagnosed with a tumor on his heart and given one month to live.
This is where a lot of dog owners would have bid their pet a tearful goodbye, but MacNeil wasn't having it. "There he was in this little room, standing in the corner...and he's wagging his tail at me. I'm like, 'I'm not putting that dog down. There's just absolutely no way," MacNeil told a local NBC station. Instead, he took Scout to the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine, where vets gave the dog an aggressive course of radiation and chemotherapy that shrank the tumor by 90 percent. A grateful MacNeil decided to devote WeatherTech's Super Bowl ad this year to Scout -- and to a request for donations to the University of Wisconsin veterinary school that had saved his life.
"It's very common for clients to bring their animals to our hospital and ultimately want to figure out a way to give back," Veterinary School Dean Mark Markel told Patch. "What's very uncommon is someone that has David's capacity to do that."
As for MacNeil, he has no fear of doing the unexpected. Although his company is primarily a manufacturer of floor mats and other accessories for cars, last year he used the company's Super Bowl ad to promote his new human-grade feeding bowls for dogs -- created because he'd watched too many canine companions succumb to cancer over the years. That ad featured Scout along with a lot of other dogs.
The company's 2018 Super Bowl ad was most memorable for what it didn't include: actors, WeatherTech products, or any kind of narration. Instead, it showed construction workers building the company's newest factory, and concluded with the text, "At WeatherTech, we built our new factory right here in America. Isn't that the way it's supposed to be?"
The University posted "Lucky Dog" to YouTube and at this writing it's been viewed 626,565 times. It just may be the one that everybody talks about this year.