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Freak Out Your Pets With AT&T's Digital Life

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Who is most affected when you install AT&T Digital Life, a service that lets you control your household from your mobile devices? Your pets, of course.

BBDO New York has unveiled a new campaign featuring talking dogs, cats, guinea pigs and other four-legged friends who totally freak out when a house empty of their owners does things on its own.

The campaign features spots directed by Randy Krallman of Smuggler, who was a director on spots featuring another unusual talker, the E-Trade Baby, created out of Grey New York. The commercials direct you to PetsTalking.com, a Facebook app that lets you upload pictures of your pets, and generate customized confessional interview videos to find out more about their secret lives when they are at home. 

It all started with focus group research, according Kevin Petersen, senior vice president at AT&T Digital Life. The research showed "incredible excitement" for the product from pet owners. "The ability to monitor a pet from a video camera was very appealing," he said. "From there, it was a logical path to create a compelling social media campaign about the secret life pets lead when they are home alone."

BBDO ACD/copywriter Rick Williams said that the research made them wonder, "what in the hell must the pets think is happening when the humans are gone?" He added that the concept turned out to be a good way to educate viewers about product features. 

In choosing the spots’ director, ACD/Art Director Marcel Yunes said that Mr. Krallman's track record, including the "Talking Babies" work clinched the deal. "His biggest contribution was directing our voice talent," said Mr. Yunes. "He's a great conversationalist."

The team worked on developing the pet characters personality for a while. Kim and Carl, the guinea pigs, were convinced that the house was being visited by a spirit. The only question was whether it was from heaven or hell. "All the personalities were the result of a few hours of talking with the microphone rolling," said Mr. Yunes. "Once everybody was comfortable, the real, genuine, funny lines just came out naturally."

The most difficult part of the campaign was controlling the head movement of the animals, said Mr. Williams. "They don't care about looking at a camera, and you can't reason with a guinea pig." The solution? To film a lot. While the guinea pigs' focus was just "dumb luck," the key for the others was food, said Mr. Williams. They used chicken bites to keep the cat's attention, and there were so many bits, they had to incorporate the smacking into the dialog.

The dog was naturally fidgety, and while that worked with his cat-litter-addict personality, his flapping jowls meant a real VFX challenge. "We tried fish and even hamsters, just to see what worked, and who behaved," said Mr. Yunes. "The hamsters were terrible. Or maybe terrified. Probably both."

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