Rethink wants to save lives with new pet product, PSA

Dog Caller part of new effort to get dogs out of summer cars

Dog Caller part of new effort to get dogs out of summer cars

It was after hearing yet another heartbreaking story of a dog dying while trapped in a sweltering car that Aaron Starkman, partner and creative director at Rethink (and a professed dog person), put his renowned problem-solving skills to the test.

He partnered with Rethink art director Joel Arbez and freelancer Brent Marshall to develop not just a public awareness campaign but also a device called “The Dog Caller” that might one day save a dog’s life.

“We were pretty horrified and wanted to do something about it,” said Starkman. “But we wanted to fix the problem, not just draw attention to it. We started doing ads and kind of stopped and said ‘Let’s do something beyond ads; how about we invent something than can really help with the problem.’”

The result, “The Dog Caller,” is designed to send an alert to a user’s mobile device whenever the temperature on the collar reaches 26.5 degrees. Rethink has partnered with the Toronto Humane Society (THS) and is talking with manufacturers and designers to make its wearable doggy tech widely available by next year.

The partners are attempting to crowd-fund the final product, which is also designed to issue cold-weather alerts.

The device is another example of agencies branching out from their core competencies into product development. “For the longest time, agencies have just been doing campaigns, but the truth is there’s a lot of creativity flowing through the halls at agencies,” said Starkman. “We believe it’s important to use that creativity on everything – on innovation ideas, on inventions.”

Starkman said Rethink is currently working on two other inventions, including an unspecified device for the alcoholic beverage sector.

“With more messages and mediums than ever before, there’s got to be other ways to cut through,” said Starkman. “Sure it could be a TV spot or a website, but it could also be something that no one’s ever seen before.”

Rethink and the THS have also developed a website that lists dog-friendly businesses within Toronto and contains educational tips about what people should do when they see a dog in distress. They are also working with malls and retailers to create so-called “Doggy Havens,” areas where THS volunteers will watch dogs while their owners shop. The first Doggy Haven, located at a Scarborough, Ont. FreshCo, launched last week.

A TV spot that began airing last week is intended to create mass-awareness of the problem. Shots alternate between images of a dog on a leash and a distracted driver who eventually driving through an amber light as the dog gets loose and bolts into the street.

The screen goes black and viewers hear the sound of screeching brakes accompanied by a super reading “Cars kill hundreds of dogs every year.”

The spot then resumes with the dog scampering safely to the other side of the street before another super reading “Even when they’re parked” appears. The camera then shifts to show a dog panting in a car with the windows rolled up. The spot directs viewers to the Toronto Humane Society’s website.

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