An ad will air in the middle of Super Bowl 54 — surrounded by awful Bud Knight appearances and Pepsi continuing to fight against the fact that it’s not Coke — that is both incredibly simple and extremely excellent. It’s about a dog who beat cancer, and it’s a big thank you to the veterinarians who made survival possible.
WeatherTech CEO David MacNeil loves dogs. He featured his 7-year-old golden retriever Scout in his company’s Super Bowl ad in 2019. But this summer, his very good boy faced a serious problem. After collapsing at home, Scout was diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma, an aggressive cancer of the blood vessel walls. A tumor had grown on his heart, and veterinarians gave him meager odds to live. It looked like Scout’s days walking the factory floor had come to an end.
But MacNeil, who had lost three other dogs to cancer before adopting Scout, refused to accept that diagnosis. On the advice of his local vet, he rushed his dog up from WeatherTech’s Bolingbrook, Illinois, headquarters to the University of Wisconsin’s flagship campus in Madison the very next morning. There, doctors at the School of Veterinary Medicine began an aggressive attack on the tumor that had invaded Scout’s body.
The university used a one-two punch of chemotherapy and radiation. Immunotherapy also helped nurse the weakened pooch back to full strength. In two months, his tumor shrank by 90 percent. Scout remained a very good boy throughout the weeks of brutal treatment, and came out the other side with a mostly clean bill of health.
MacNeil had his best friend back. That gave him an idea.
Rather than another 30-second ad highlighting WeatherTech’s products, the CEO decided to use the year’s most lucrative advertising slot to show his dog’s story and acknowledge the vets who treated him. It is also plea for fundraising to help other pets who may face the same ordeal.
“Scout’s illness devastated us,” MacNeil said through a University of Wisconsin press release. “We wanted this year’s Super Bowl effort to not only raise awareness, but also financial support for the incredible research and innovative treatments happening at the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine, where Scout is still a patient.
“We wanted to use the biggest stage possible to highlight Scout’s story and these incredible breakthroughs, which are not just limited to helping dogs and pets. This research will help advance cancer treatments for humans as well, so there’s the potential to save millions of lives of all species.”
It’d be naive not to see this as a win for WeatherTech as a brand; what’s more likable than showing you care about dogs? At the same time, Scout’s recovery and MacNeil’s gratitude is a great enough story to overcome that cynicism. Dogs are a reflection of every good thing about the human condition. Saving one — especially a very good boy like Scout — forges an instant connection with anyone who has ever had their plans shattered because a beloved pet took a sudden turn for the worse.
One hundred percent of the donations raised by WeatherTech will go to the University of Wisconsin’s School of Veterinary Medicine. That money will back more groundbreaking cancer research that scientists hope will transcend species.
“Having the opportunity to use and apply this ‘one medicine’ approach more globally will allow us to aid veterinary patients while also helping humans with cancer,” said David Vail, professor of comparative oncology at Wisconsin. “It’s a huge need that we are working to move forward and we are extremely grateful for the support.’
It’s a fair question whether a $5.2 million ad buy will do more good than a straight-up donation to the the veterinary school might have. But even if fundraising fails to hit that number, Sunday’s Super Bowl ad will be a tremendous boon for the University of Wisconsin’s image, as well as a glowing tribute to good dogs everywhere. There’s no doubt this has been a positive experience for both MacNeil and the veterinarians.
And as for the recuperating pup? Doctors say his quality of life is right back where it was before they discovered his cancer.