In mid-2009, a 30-second advertising slot opened for an upcoming broadcast of "Dog Whisperer," a reality show on the Nat Geo Wild channel that was sponsored in part by Subaru.
Subaru's advertising agency, Minneapolis-based Carmichael Lynch, had complete creative freedom to figure out how to fill it. One option, recalls Randy Hughes, the agency's executive creative director, was a type of public-service ad where "Dog Whisperer" star Cesar Millan would use a Subaru to, say, demonstrate how to properly secure a dog in a car.
But Hughes wanted to make a car commercial instead.
"It was a no-lose situation," he said. "We didn't need to have a meeting. It was just, "Let's figure out something to fill this.' We wanted to celebrate dogs and what it means to be a dog owner."
The result of that brainstorm was a subtle ad featuring a dog struggling to parallel park a Subaru, and an oddball tag line -- "Dog tested. Dog approved." It was a marketing turning point for the brand, kicking off an enduring TV campaign that has helped cement Subaru's powerful connection with dog lovers.