By on September 3, 2017

Subaru Dog Ad

Automotive advertising has always been an amalgamation of information and hype. Carmakers use commercials to inform the public of what makes their model different and new, while simultaneously promising an intangible goodness. Mid-century ads were less specific, reassuring prospective customers of a nondescript better way of life, but modern marketing has become much more focused. If ads are to be believed, buying a car today means purchasing more than just the hardware its comprised of — you’re buying an identity.

I’m reminded of a collection of car commercials from the 1960s that essentially vowed to nerds that, if they bought a specific car, they would be pursued endlessly by attractive women. It was a bold and extremely unsubtle way to kick off the new trend.

We’ve come a long way evolved slightly since then, but the concept of identity-focused advertising is more popular than ever. In fact, Subaru attributes a large portion of its own success to marketing that closely associates the brand with good values, family, lovable mutts, and the great outdoors

Subaru has also abandoned broad-based advertising extravaganzas like the sporting events because that’s not its core demographic. But other automakers have followed suit, with more brands leaving the Super Bowl behind every year to seek a less blanketed approach.

“We don’t buy commercial time in the NFL or any other professional sport,” Alan Bethke, senior VP- of marketing at Subaru of America told Advertising Age in a recent interview. “Subaru is very clear of who we are … We don’t use a shotgun approach to just try to say ‘If you are a football fan you are going to like Subaru.’ We think we can be more sophisticated than that.”

That’s true. Subaru has always done things a little differently and eschewed the Super Bowl for the Puppy Bowl — partially because it knows a large portion of its patronage are dog-owners. It also has a very public partnership with the Center for Pet Safety and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals — not to mention a nearly decade-long ad campaign that focus entirely on canines.

The television spots have ranged from hilarious antics of dogs hooning cars on a frozen lake to a tearjerking vignette where an owner uses his Impreza to facilitate his elderly dog’s final dream weekend. Obviously, pets don’t possess as much in the way of brand loyalty, but that’s not the point. The ads aren’t for the dogs, they’re for their owners.


It’s an extension of its long-running “Love” campaign, which makes a corporate promise to make a positive impact in the world while lovable running ads that focus on pets, people, and adventure. It’s incredibly effective at making you feel something, even though you still realize you’re watching an ad. There’s just something strangely earnest about it, which is a tall order when the brand identity you’re selling is literally love.

The strategy seems to have worked. Despite not having the most diverse lineup, Subaru of America has been on a hot-streak for years and sold 360,513 vehicles through July — an 8.7 percent increase from the same period a year earlier. Meanwhile, the overall U.S. market declined by 2.9 percent as the automotive market experiences a long-anticipated downturn.

Subaru is sticking to its targeted advertising formula as it begins marketing the redesigned 2018 Crosstrek, which entered the subcompact crossover market in August. Two new heart-manipulating ads by Carmichael Lynch continue the long running “Love” campaign and feature an emotionally possessive dog and a clandestine cross-generational summit between grandfather and grandson.


If you clicked through all the links, I know you’ve been bombarded with a lot of Subaru ads but you should be paying attention because their unbridled, seemingly genuine, positivity are abnormal within the industry and really working out well for the brand.

“Subaru has just gotten it right on a number of levels,” says Michelle Krebs, a senior analyst for AutoTrader. “Their product is right in the heart of what consumers are demanding right now, SUVs or cars that are SUV-like. They’ve also done a fabulous job of marketing those vehicles to resonate with an audience that doesn’t necessarily follow the traditional [path]. They are outdoorsy. They are dog lovers. So they are not necessarily into the NFL [and] sports and such.”

[Image: Subaru]


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63 Comments on “Subaru Believes Dog-focused Advertising Has Been a Large Part of its Success...”

  • avatar

    I agree. When you floor it, it’s a dog! Nice commercials, but the dogs are definitely 0% of the reason I’d consider a Subaru.

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Posky

      I’d say that’s probably true for most enthusiasts, which car ads infrequently cater to. However the Subaru spots might have a different affect upon the general public — especially those with soft spot for dogs and hiking.

      • 0 avatar

        I love dogs and hiking, yet find the Subaru ads with their happy, loving families with cute little children and puppies, transparent and absolutely repulsive. Maybe I’ve become too cynical at my advanced age, but I know corporations, and they are not about little children and puppies. And I will remain disappointed with Subaru’s knowing, while not acknowledging (correct?), their long-term problem with head gasket failure from the early ’00s until 2012, and current corporate policy that states 1-quart of oil consumed in as little as 1,200 miles is “normal.”

        • 0 avatar

          Subaru is riding a wave of undeserved reputation for reliability and for corporate trustworthiness right now. My experience with multiple Subarus since the 1980s was disappointing, to horrifically expensive and total regret. In a nutshell: over the years, Subarus got worse and other brands got much better. I’ve queried many Subaru owners as well, and my conclusion is it’s only a matter of time before a repeat Subaru customer will get totally burned in the wallet.

          (Wallet) Rape. It’s what makes a Subaru a Subaru. Denial helps too.

          And what about all those used Subarus that smell like dog stink?

        • 0 avatar

          But the average schlub car buyer digs happy loving families, cute children and puppies and a payment per month they can afford even if the loan is for 84 months…

  • avatar

    So the appeal there is a woman with a badly behaved dog which doesn’t know its place, who packs the car before you even wake up and have a shower.

    I’m not sure I understand this Subaru appeal. This marketing won’t work on me.

    Anyway, yesterday I bought one.

  • avatar

    Subaru has got you covered whatever you’re into…[redacted BS here]….Love…its what makes Subaru, a Subaru.

    • 0 avatar

      Your comment is inappropriate and offensive. I’m going to edit it, and you can consider this a warning.

      • 0 avatar

        Hey, speaking of offensive, what’s this ‘speciality’ crap?

      • 0 avatar

        Yet you put “BS” in place of said “inapproprate and offensive” comment. Talk about hypocrisy. Consider that a warning.

      • 0 avatar
        Dave M.

        Good job Corey. Some folks just can’t evolve from “It was stale 10 years ago” cliches…

        • 0 avatar

          and some folks just can’t evolve from being snowflakes (including powertripping mods, whom are usually the most psychotic people you’ll ever come across) that so easily melt at “offensive” comments. Oh dear!

          Make TTAC Great Again and give DeadWeight control over the comment section.

          • 0 avatar

            wake me when you get to whining about “free speech.”

          • 0 avatar
            el scotto

            Uh no, our mods were chosen (volunteered) for their levelheadedness (spell check word) and impartiality. Accusing them of “power-tripping” and being “psychotic” truly reflects on your frame of mind as a commenter. Railing against those who don’t get in lock step with Breitbart talking points makes you the “Snowflake”. Or; Empathy, so few have it with you.

  • avatar
    healthy skeptic

    Those 1960s-70’s commercials in the link were a hoot. My fave is the first one, where the guy gets girls with his creepy van. I’m sure that’s what all women are drawn to.

    Funny thing is, from what I can tell, impressing women with cars is a no-win proposition. Let’s say you’re a guy who’s just bought a fast/expensive/exotic car. Most women fall into one of three categories:

    1) The majority won’t care, or maybe even notice.

    2) A fairly large minority will judge you negatively for it. “Looks like someone’s compensating for something.”

    3) A few will be drawn…not to you, not even to the car…but to the perception that you’re wealthy. If you you’re fine with gold digging, have at it.

    When women are drawn to cars for reasons other than practicality, it’s usually ones they consider “cute.” But that means they want to own it, not date the guy who drives one.

    As I said, it’s pretty much a no-win proposition.

    • 0 avatar

      I believe that your categories apply to women generally, whether you’re talking about a Lamborghini or a Lada or a guy who rides a bicycle. Most don’t care about you or even notice you. Of those that notice you, a significant percentage will react negatively. A small minority will consider you a candidate for meeting their terms. All women have terms. With some it’s middle class behavior from him and a house in the suburbs for her, with others it’s an hourly rate. Still others may have different terms. Depending upon the guy and her state of mind, the terms may change. I’m not judging, just observing.

    • 0 avatar

      Of all the cars my dad owns–’65 Mustang, ’55 T-Bird, ’56 Austin-Healey–the one that’s the real ‘chick magnet’ is his original/restored ’46 Chevy 2-ton truck, complete with kerosene lantern ‘flares’ and mechanical semaphores. He says every time he takes it to Home Depot or Lowe’s to get something heavy/bulky there’s a lady or two in the parking lot admiring it. He took some stuff to the dump and the lady in the toll both actually came out and walked around it to check it out.

    • 0 avatar

      …my cars have drawn in random women fairly regularly throughout the years, and it’s probably because i tend to drive “cute” cars: i’m pretty sure the ones begging me to marry them were admiring the car, not the driver…

    • 0 avatar
      Stanley Steamer

      You are quite right with your 3 categories, which is why none of them describes the reason why the fast/expensive/exotic car attracting women dynamic actually works. The reason men spend money on cars, and other luxuries, is to elevate themselves over other men of lesser means. It is a display of dominance. This is what women are subconsciously attracted to.

      • 0 avatar

        I think former TTAC writer Doug Demuro did a Youtube video on this a while back and concluded exactly that: exotic cars attract men. As long as a car is “good enough” most women don’t care.

        • 0 avatar

          …and for more of his opinions on the quirks and features of the car, be sure to click the link below…

          As far as women being attracted to cars…my wife loved my E36 325is, but I think that was more a function of the enjoyment she got out of driving it, having come out of a 1st gen Lumina right before we got married.

          Closest I’ve gotten to a Subie for any length of time was a rental for a business trip years ago. I was pretty impressed back then (was an Outback, mid 2000s). My sister bought a used one when she lived in Vermont, but in that neck of the woods, Subies are a dime a dozen, so something is working for them.

    • 0 avatar

      You have to watch the whole thing, but you could just start at 1:35 for Mr. Regular to completely capture your sentiment.

  • avatar

    I’m not attracted to Subaru in the least, but I have to respect the way they’ve taken over the whole safety/family image. The ads don’t give me much more product info than anybody else’s, but they’re humorous and evocative of something more meaningful than elitist snobbery. [Like the bearded guy in the Volvo fondling his $8000 camera.]

  • avatar

    As a dog lover, I enjoy these commercials a lot. But as a Volkswagen/Mazda fan, I’m lukewarm on Subaru.

  • avatar

    Pure Attitude towards the Ad model for the low interest consumer:

    If you like the ad (because of the cuddly dog) = you like the car in the ad.

  • avatar

    This must be why Doritos now has an ad where dogs try to buy them at the grocery store. I said to my wife “do dogs eat Doritos?” She replied that dogs eat pretty much anything. So an animal that eats Doritos will eat anything. Hardly a rousing endorsement.

  • avatar

    As a practical matter, both the Outback and Forester have comparatively large rear-most side windows that allow a dog riding in the back of the car to see out. It’s not as much fun for them as sticking their head out the window (or through the sunroof), but it’s better than being trapped in the dark cave that most cargo areas in CUVs are.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Subaru is hitting home runs with its ads. Well ok, mostly slap singles. When your competition is Civic/Corolla you don’t have to differentiate that much. Subaru ads show people breaking out of their mundane lives; now just a little bit, mind you; going camping instead of going to a department store to buy cubicle wear. People develop deep bonds with their dogs, that’s part of the ads appeal. Subaru is getting VW counter-culture types and suburbanites who won’t pay premium prices for a Volvo. Their ads are still better than the suckfest of nothingness that are Chevy ads. “Dogs loves trucks”, Nissan did hit a home run with that one.

  • avatar

    As a cat lover I am insulted by Subaru ads. I will never buy another Subaru again (as if I ever did). I am not outdoorsy type and my idea of love is VW van from long gone era of free love. My son loves his Subaru though, but he spends most of time in mountains.

  • avatar

    Subie are just riding the cusp of the CUV/SUV NA market.

    They have no EV plan. They could be obsolete in a couple of decades. Subaru – remember them?

    • 0 avatar

      Good point about EV. But they do have Toyota in their back pocket as does Mazda.

      Like Mazda, they do not have a luxury brand to upscale. So they are sort of stuck in gussied up Outbacks.

      • 0 avatar
        Dave M.

        Looking at their demographics, the label doesn’t seem to matter. The new Ascent crossover should increase that game a bit. An Outback Touring 3.6R is a pretty nice place to be, although ventilated seats should be available by now. I’d like to see hybrid options as well.

        • 0 avatar

          Subaru has consistently been behind the times as far as in-car tech and luxury features go. Heck, my 2006 Legacy didn’t even have a AUX input for the stereo. Their eye-sight driver aid package is the one recent feature that has shown they can keep up sometimes. I think the problem is to keep AWD as standard and to remain price competitive they have had to cut back on amenities and engine development.

  • avatar

    Ah, Subaru. Horrible and leaky products that use agricultural-grade opposed-cylinder engines (in this day and age, who would consider the use of a flat engine?) that appeal to the wrong demographic and are assembled by a manufacturer that uses ridiculous advertising to apparently successfully sway the mindless masses. And yet, somehow, they have sold almost 9,000 (see more vehicles than Mazda and VW combined for year 2017 as of 31 August, 2017. This country has gone insane I tell ya!

    • 0 avatar

      Subaru exists purely based on perceptions. Mark this down…Subaru won’t exist in the US in 20 years, at least not as their own autonomous company. They’ll need to become swallowed up by a Toyota or some other company to exist in this market. People will say, oh, they’ve increased their sales every year for nearly a decade. Big deal. In the grand scheme of things, they don’t sell a lot of cars here anyway. They have way too much exposure to the American market as a percentage of their overall sales. Once gas prices fall in line like Europe (and they will, TPTB want it that way), Subaru’s inefficient platforms will be the bane of the company, and no one will tolerate paying 7 bucks a gallon for gas for an inefficient pig, with last decades styling and interiors.

    • 0 avatar

      Same contingent bought Volvos and SAABs in the past. And where are Volvos and especially SAABs now? Subarus make sense for 4WD applications and outdoor activities and not much otherwise. For me Subaru first and foremost associates with WRC. Same can be said about Jeep – how it can be more popular than Dodge or Chrysler?

  • avatar

    My wife and I have owned 7 Subarus since our 1980 DL. ( I do believe it was part mountain goat-,what with its ability to literally power thru anything) In that time we have had zero problems of any sort. Apparently 3 or 4 disgruntled posters here have hijacked the threads. Subscribers to ‘fake news’? I think so.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    I have owned one Subaru. It was ok, spent too much time in the shop for the 9k miles that I owned it (bought it new). However…IMHO

    Subaru has the best Ad campaign/agency in retail automotive today. Their commercials appeal to the broad market on a visceral level. As a ‘car nerd, gearhead’ whatever bucket you put me in the product itself has little appeal to me, but like many of us who spend a lot of time on TTAC (too much?) what appeals to me is rarely offered and when it is, I don’t buy it cause buying new is dumb. Insert lament on why an SS is not in my garage…

    Subaru commercials don’t paint themselves against other manufactures, they sell a lifestyle real or imagined that here in CO apparently appeals to just about everyone as Subaru is the top selling brand in the state (F150 is the top model followed by Wrangler). So, I say good on them for using high quality advertising that clearly overcomes the shortcomings of the product that instills a lot of good will with their core base, which is evidently growing as they keep selling more and more.

  • avatar

    As a driver who has at least one dog in my vehicle 50% of the time, I am considering a Subaru for my dog’s next ride. As a 74 year old, I look first at the comfort of the driver’s seat when considering a purchase. Second, I want rear seats that fold close to perfectly flat so my dog (or dogs) can roam around a bit.
    Last week I went to see the Outback and Forester at the local Subaru dealer. The Forester rear seat failed my dog test and the Outback’s driver seat was borderline in just sitting in it not going for a drive.
    Also, I question Subaru’s long term reliability. My research using Consumer Reports, JD Power, talking to owners and mechanics indicates Subarus are reliable early on (the first 100,000 miles) but have had troubles after that. As a person who usually buys vehicles around 5 years old, that long term reliability is important to me. And my dogs too.

  • avatar

    I like dogs, I don’t care for Subarus. But 35 comments later mean there is something that is sticking in the consumer’s mind. I’m sure the ad agency feels like “mission accomplished”, but that is a point that can certainly be debated in terms of converting it to sales.

    To me, it just seems like it is delivering a warm, cozy feeling to current Subaru owners…maybe they will think of trading up – who knows? The whole concept of scatter-shot ad buys for the Super Bowl, etc. has long run its course. The awful GM ads where a “consumer” is smoking the tires in a Camaro is ridiculous.

    Why do I remember the Flonase ad “6 is greater than 1”? I remember it because if your tag line is based on 2nd grade math, I’m not buying your product – but I can imagine Joe 6-pack thinking “damn, those guys are right – 6 is more than 1″…

    A sad commentary on so many levels.

  • avatar

    I like commercials (any) with a dog in it. No effect on buying habits.

  • avatar

    A thought: it’s incredible that I can say “there are only two Subaru customers: Initial D fans and Dog Owners” and you know the exact people I’m referring to.

    “We don’t use a shotgun approach to just try to say ‘If you are a football fan you are going to like Subaru.’ We think we can be more sophisticated than that.”” …. “So they [the customers] are not necessarily into the NFL [and] sports and such.”

    This is all just a longwinded way of saying “we understand our sales demographic and think that we’ve done a good job focusing on them.” Of course they understand their demographic; what sad marketers they would be if they didn’t! It is surprising to hear Subaru admit they’re focusing solely on one side of the culture war, rather than trying to play to everyone like a Ford or a GM, but at Subaru’s scale it may make sense.

  • avatar

    If I wanted some form of all wheel drive coupled with a manual gearbox; my only 2 choices would be a Jeep or a Subaru. My good friend, faced with this same decision, went for a 2016 STI because of its “road manners.”

    $38k spent & 4k miles later, his EJ is already consuming engine oil. It drinks fuel too, 15mpg in the city is what he averages. The other issue he has had is the headlights build up heavy condensation. He is on his second replacement now. This is of course is trivial to me if the damn engine consumes a quart every 1200 miles.

    So yea, I love dogs and I want to love Subaru… can anyone build a stout boxer? I would have to go for the Wrangler whose reliability ratings are not all that great either.

    • 0 avatar

      “Can anyone build a stout boxer?”

      Apparently subaru themselves knew how and then forgot! The older EJ20T (turbo 2 liter) are pretty darn long lived and stout, at least when not boosted to within an inch of their life. Likewise the old EJ22 (SOHC, 2.2L, NA) are known to make it to 300k and then some without headgasket issues or excessive oil burning.

      • 0 avatar

        Almost forgot: the H6 3.0L is also regarded as being fairly trouble free, and as a bonus uses a lifetime timing chain (although belt changes in Subies are actually pretty easy).

        • 0 avatar

          True, belt changes are not terrible, I’ve had issues replacing camshaft seals on some engines because some have allen bolts made of play-doh.

          The biggest issue with the H6 is the CVT mated to it – there is no manual option here unfortunately.

          The 2.2 was reliable, WTF HAPPENED!?!?!?

  • avatar

    I love dogs, but I’m not buying a thirsty, under-powered Subaru with questionable short and long-term reliability. The ads seem to be working for them in terms of sales though, so good for them I guess.

    I’m thinking eventually it’ll turn into an early 2000s VW situation where enough owners get burned to swear the brand off and move on to other makes.

  • avatar

    My 2003 Forester lasted for 347,000, with the obligatory quart of oil between oil changes toward the end. My sister-in-law bought a 2014. Recently my brother said she would step on the gas and only get a noise and I had to explain what a CVT was. I considered getting another Forester before turning in my TDI Golf. But when I found out you can only get a manual in the base model, I passed. They really are getting by on their old rep.

  • avatar

    I honestly don’t understand all the negative posts against Subaru on this site as it seems contrary to so much else that I’ve read on other sites. Are Subarus really as unreliable as people here attest? Are the cases being reported here typical or anomalous (though very animated)? Are the problems merely anecdotal or is there statistical evidence supporting these claims of unreliability?

    I ask because an Outback is on my current short list of potential cars to buy. I like the car-like ride, the ease of ingress and egress, and thought the 3.6 was a very nice ride overall.

    • 0 avatar

      Philosophil – There are several commenting on TTAC against Subaru on a routine basis. These naysayers mostly fall into groups: 1) were owners of a Subaru 10 years or more ago when head gasket failures as well as other issues were occurring and are still sore about it long after they owned it. 2) Mazda and VW owners that can’t abide the fact that folks would consider a Subaru (a brand which currently outsells Mazda and VW combined in the US) over brands they fawn over but may or may not own. 3) me-too’ers that jump on the bandwagon to become part of the cool-kids crowd to get noticed. 4) pretty much everyone who hates CVT’s – most of ’em are too young to remember the smooth and shift-less Buick Dynaflow and Chevrolet Turboglide transmissions which felt pretty much the same as a CVT but way slower off the line – hating CVT’s gets you in with the cool-kids of 3) above. I get a kick out of seeing the same comments by the same posters over and over rending garments and venting spleens – I occasionally toss some red meat over the fence to stir ’em up. Make your own choice – I own two Outbacks, one a 115k-mile ’11 with a CVT and the other a 29k mile-’14 with a 6-mt and, as I have owned more than 20 vehicles over 40-odd years, consider them good, reliable quality vehicles.

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