In 1942, the Blitzkrieg was in full force, Russia was flooded with German armour.

They needed to find a way to stop the tanks, fast.

But the Russian air force had been destroyed and they didn’t have enough anti-tank guns.

If only they could think of another way to destroy the tanks.

Then someone had a great idea.

Man’s best friend would do anything to please his master.


If they could train dogs to carry explosives, the dogs would take it exactly wherever they were trained to go.

Right onto the German tanks.

A dog would do whatever it had been trained to do without thinking.

It made perfect sense.

Of course the dog would die, but they had plenty more.

So they began training dogs to carry packages strapped to their backs.

They trained the dogs to carry the explosives right onto the tanks.

Eventually the dogs did it perfectly every time.

Recognising the tank and carrying the package right onto it.

Then they took the dogs into battle.

They let the dogs loose on the German tanks.

The dogs ran towards the German tanks, but then they stopped.

They put their noses in the air and sniffed.

Then they turned around and ran towards the Russian tanks.

Carrying their explosives exactly into their most vulnerable place.

Dozens of Russian tanks exploded along with the dogs.

The German tanks carried on advancing, unharmed.

The Russians were forced to retreat, the plan was a failure.

What happened?

The dogs had been trained on Russian tanks.

Russian tanks ran on diesel, German tanks ran on petrol.

Diesel has a different smell to petrol.

The dogs did exactly what they thought their masters wanted.

They’d been trained to carry explosives onto tanks smelling of diesel.

But that was Russian tanks not German tanks.

The Russians hadn’t bothered thinking what was important to dogs.

The smell of petrol versus diesel wasn’t important to the trainers.

So it never occurred to them it would be important to dogs.

But to a dog, the sense of smell is far more important than sight.

It went wrong because the handlers only thought of themselves.

So they didn’t communicate what they wanted.

They thought they were communicating the sight of a tank.

But the dogs thought they were being trained to attack a smell.

The Russians weren’t talking to their audience, they were just talking to themselves.

We do that.

We do that when we write advertising that amuses us rather than thinking what works for our audience.

When we concentrate solely on using the latest cutting-edge video technique, or the latest music track, because it appeals to us.

When we execute a strategy just because it mirrors something we read in an IPA case history.

Rather than using our brain.

Finding out who our audience is, and what appeals to them.

When we don’t think what they want, we only think what we want.


And just like the Russian dogs, it blows up in our faces.