Heartwarming commercial for The Farmer’s Dog wins USA TODAY Ad Meter

Boutique dog food burrowed its way into the hearts of the most discerning Super Bowl commercial viewers. 

The Farmer’s Dog, founded less than a decade ago as a fresh-food alternative to mass produced pet fare, prevailed in USA TODAY’s 35th Ad Meter competition, as a chocolate lab and a girl who loved him traveled a 60-second journey through life that seems to set the viewer up for a jarring conclusion. 

But the puppy – they call him Bear – lives on as the young protagonist, Ava, passes through childhood, college and on to having a child of her own. 

Bear – portrayed in the spot by five dogs – is around through it all, ostensibly, because Ava’s family had the foresight to feed him fare superior to the ultra-processed kibble its competitors crank out. 

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The emotional spot, titled ‘Forever’ and buoyed by soul singer Lee Field’s 2022 single of the same name, scored 6.56 out of 10 in voting by Ad Meter viewers tasked with rating all 51 commercials, making The Farmer’s Dog a winner in its Super Bowl ad debut.

It outpointed the NFL’s ‘Run With It’ spot celebrating women and flag football, which scored 6.38. Amazon’s ‘Saving Sawyer,’ a tale of an unruly dog and a mail-order mate that might calm him, scored 6.35 to nab Amazon’s third top-three finish in as many years.

Celebrity endorsers in familiar climes rounded out the top five, with consummate New Englander Ben Affleck’s Dunkin’ spot (6.34) and Breaking Bad’s reunion of Aaron Paul, Bryan Cranston and Raymond Cruz producing PopCorners in the New Mexico desert (6.26) finishing fourth and fifth, respectively.

Fine products all, but who knew feeding man’s best friend premium chow was the magic formula?

The Farmer’s Dog, founded in 2014, points out that even so-called premium kibble is made to ‘feed’ standards, or food unfit for humans and some of it processed from diseased, disabled, dying, and dead animals. 

That won’t cut it for Bear and friends. The Farmer’s Dog says its recipes consist of human-grade meat and whole vegetables, lightly cooked. They are delivered to the consumer in portioned packs, to avoid overfeeding and the potential health risks that come with it. 

Healthy eating doesn’t come cheaply; a January analysis by PetKeen estimated monthly food bills can range from $42 for tiny dogs up to more than $500 for the largest. The larger aim, according to co-founder and CEO Jonathan Regev, is that ‘real food becomes the dog food standard.’ 

On this Super Bowl night, when ads within Fox’s game broadcast fetched a record $7 million for 30 seconds, the nascent dog food company found itself atop a different industry standard.

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