Although advertising is, by its nature, a transient medium, agencies occasionally come up with a concept that transcends the format and becomes part of the public consciousness. Think of the PG Tips chimps or the Hamlet cigar ads - thirty seconds of product pushing that live on in the nation's memories, long after the campaign has ended.
That's how a lot of people will be feeling today, with the news that the Andrex puppy has been sent off to the big farm in the sky, so that it could be replaced with a creepy, anthropomorphised CGI alternative. Defending this decision, Jon White, Marketing Director for Kimberly Clark Europe told the press: "We really believe we’ve given him a new lease of life and have evolved his character. We’re confident you’ll love him and his new Puppy World and will be reminded about why you fell in love with him in the first place."
It's a noble thought, but I think White is missing the point. People 'fell in love' with the Andrex puppy because he behaved like a real dog - mischievous, annoying and adorable. I'm not sure the same can be said for a pup-atar that surfs the internet and bakes birthday cakes. My dogs are pretty intelligent, but neither of them can figure out how to set up an iTunes account.
As a precursor to the reveal of the new campaign, Andrex staged a casting call to find their new puppy at Pineapple Dance Studios, which the lazy tabloids were quick to cover in their pages. Of course, now that the CGI pooch has been revealed, the Daily Mail is feeling the cold drip of egg on its face.
Covering this fast-breaking story, Gavin Allen writes "Forgive us for being a little cynical about it all but given that the company has revealed it spend six months working on the animated dog, the doggy audition was clearly just a marketing ploy." No dog-shit Sherlock.
And yet, the paper's indignant tone at the cynical manipulations of the PR machine doesn't sit right with me. Especially since, sitting right alongside the reveal of Puppygate, is a story about dinner party cheats that came as a ready-made article by the marketing team for luxury pudding company Devilishh.
It's standard practice in PR circles to whip up a survey based on a topic in the zeitgeist (in this case the 'Come Dine With Me' phenomenon), then present the finished article to any editorial team too lazy to generate actual news. But as fantastic news blog Tabloid Watch pointed out back in February, the Mail's editor Paul Dacre has renounced claims that his esteemed paper relies on churnalism.
So what do you think - is Dacre telling the truth or lying through his teeth? There's only one way to find out: Survey!!!