Alpo will get dogs to the poker table if it's the last thing it does

Posted on Thu Feb 5 2009

Dogs-playing-poker copy

Creative briefs can contain just about anything, but Fallon Minneapolis deserves credit for citing a true first. Having just landed the Nestlé Purina pet-food portfolio, which includes the top-shelf Alpo brand, Fallon director of brand innovation John King said in a statement yesterday, "We've all seen the picture of the dogs playing poker. That was our brief." King went on to say: "That photo represents the Alpo brand and the Alpo dog. ... Alpo is going to call a timeout and give permission for dogs to be dogs again."
  Kudos to King for at least freshening up the business wire with forthright talk and colorful imagery. The only thorn in the paw is that "Dogs Playing Poker"—a series of paintings, not photos, created in 1903 by artist Cassius Coolidge for Brown & Bigelow cigars—doesn't depict dogs being dogs. Not, at any rate, unless dogs bet with chips, drink liquor and hide aces in their hind paws. But insofar as the paintings represent the playful irreverence that's common to dogs, King's got lots of potential stuff to work with.
  And just for the record, he's not the first to recognize it. According to, card-playing canines having been expropriated for everything from clothing to video games to, in the 1990s, a series of commercials for ESPN. As for the original 1903 dogs, in 2005 two of Coolidge's paintings sold at auction in New York City for $590,400. By our math, that would buy about 545,000 13.2-ounce cans of Alpo.

—Posted by Robert Klara



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