In a series of commercials that look like scenes from the U.S. Open if it were broadcast on Animal Planet, tennis star Todd Martin tackles a problem even greater than Pete Sampras: Nipper and Chipper, the RCA ball-dogs. In the course of six spots, Martin's match is interrupted by saliva-slimy balls, a lazy ball-puppy, an involuntary game of fetch and dogs who wander onto the court.
The campaign was an opportunity for the Lowe Lintas creative team of Niko Courtelis, Doug James and Kevin Watkins to seamlessly integrate His Master's mascots with RCA's sponsorship of a tennis tournament. "We've been working with RCA for a couple of years, and every few meetings we pressed them to do tennis spots," says Courtelis. "The tournament is a great way to use something that's usually hard to work into the spot - the dogs. It used to be that the client would end every session by saying, `Where are the dogs?' We'd have to stick them in at the end or something." These spots, on the other paw, are a veritable kennel club.
Human co-star Martin mysteriously refused the agency's requests to fly to the location the night before the shoot. "We needed to start shooting early in the day, because the tennis court gets too hot for the dogs," explains James. The next morning Martin revealed that he'd been tied up proposing to his now-fiancee.
Nevertheless, with the help of Hungry Man director Hank Perlman, the production team managed to get all the filming done, without damage to the dogs' delicate celebrity feet. "The dogs had it better than we did," laughs Watkins. "They went to an air-conditioned tent between shoots."
Client: RCA Agency: Lowe Lintas & Partners CD: Niko Courtelis CW: Doug James AD: Kevin Watkins Director: Hank Perlman Producer: Cathy Cooper Production Company: Hungry Man Editor: Peter Odiorne, Mad River Post