As Facebook’s latest commercial spot, called “Found by the Hounds,” shows, few things bring people together quite like the love of pets.
In the new ad — which starts airing on television on Sept. 17 as part of Facebook’s More Together campaign and is premiering exclusively on PEOPLE — a man and his basset hound are disappointed by the lack of bassets in the dog park they are visiting. To solve their basset-less dilemma, the man turns to his Facebook group, Nothing Better Than a Basset, to fill the void.
The commercial stars real-life members of the Nothing Better Than a Basset Facebook group, including administrator Danielle Newman and member Cloie Owens, and their very own dogs.
“It was outstanding, amazing and surreal,” Newman tells PEOPLE of her experience on set in Malibu, California. “I had my dog with me — Facebook had flown her in. It was really neat because she had her own car and people were treating her like a star. It was just surreal.”
The Toronto native jokes that after receiving the full Hollywood treatment, her dog Frankie — who she got as a rescue — is “kind of hard to live with now.”
When she first got Frankie, Newman says she went looking for more information on the basset hound breed since she “didn’t know anything.” That’s when she came across the Nothing Better Than a Basset Facebook group, which only had about 8,000 members at the time.
“Bassets are very different from most dogs,” Newman says. “They’re kind of like toddlers. They don’t listen to you, they do what they want and they run the household. They’re very clownish. You can’t not laugh at a basset hound. That’s part of why the group is so easy, you’re constantly laughing at them.”
Though the original creator of the group had to give up her role as admin due to some personal issues, Newman and another woman took it over three years ago and grew it to its now nearly 45,000 group members from around the world.
“We’re kind of behind-the-scenes deleting comments and taking out any negativity,” Newman says. “But we let the group set the tone so they get very involved. If things are there that don’t belong, it gets reported to us usually within a minute. It’s a very, very positive community where no negativity or trolling is tolerated any time at all.”
Since adopting her dog Frankie and joining the Nothing Better Than a Basset Facebook group, Newman says her life has changed in “every way.”
“I had lost my mother about ten years ago and kind of kept to myself,” she says. “Then came this hound, and now I have 45,000 new friends. So it really kind of brings you out to an awesome world.”
Like Newman, Owens has a similar story about how her basset hounds and the group have both made a significant impact on her life.
“I was very withdrawn because I live very remotely and don’t have a lot of friends,” says Owens, who lives in northern Maine. “I didn’t do a lot of socializing and realized I needed to make some connections and friendships. This group has really given me the chance to meet people who share the same passion as me. It really has become a very close-knit family.”
Though Owens was on set of the commercial, she says she didn’t bring any of her own five basset hounds because “choosing which one to take would have been difficult!”
Owens says she wanted a basset hound from the time she was 17. After 25 years of waiting, she finally got her first basset hound, Wyatt, five years ago when she bought her own home.
“Then I got him a playmate about a year later, Abby,” she says. “Then between them, I had two litters of puppies. I have two litter mate brothers who are two-and-a-half, Henry and Watson. Maggie May is a year-and-a-half and she’s from the second litter.”
“I’m pretty regular on the site because last year, I also had a baby goat who was born prematurely in my barn at the same time that my youngest pup was about eight weeks old,” she adds. “So we refer to it as five bassets and a bah-set because the goat basically grew up with my basset hounds.”
Owens first came across the group looking for more information about the breed, too.
“I needed a forum to talk to other people who were as into basset hounds as I was because other people didn’t quite get it,” she says. “So I searched around for bassets and then became a part of the group. It took me a little bit, but then I started posting and it has kind of taken off from there. I really have made some wonderful friendships through the group.”
“You don’t have to be afraid to ask a question because everybody on the group has been there, and nobody is going to jump on you,” she continues. “It’s a very supportive environment where we all know that basset hounds are comical dogs, but they’ll make you crazy. We all enjoy their quirkiness and live to tell the tale.”
WATCH: Behind the Scenes of Facebook’s “Found by the Hounds” Commercial
The new commercial is a part of Facebook’s More Together campaign, which highlights how the social networking app has become a place to connect with neighbors, colleagues and people from around the world who share common interests through Facebook groups.
Currently, more than 400 million people already belong to a group that they find meaningful.
“The More Together campaign came about because we found people were using our platforms in a way that was very special,” Samantha Wu, the head of Facebook App Consumer Marketing, tells PEOPLE. “While Facebook has always been a place for friends and family, it has become so much more over the years.”
“This group around basset hounds is a really great example of how people are using groups to come together,” she adds. “We picked this story to tell because there’s something universal about pets.”
Next, Wu says Facebook is planning to launch their More Together campaign in Germany and Brazil by the end of the year and in the U.K. in 2020.
“We want to keep telling these amazing real stories of how people are coming together in Facebook groups across a variety of different verticals,” Wu says. “It’s really about how shared passions bring people together in a way that people don’t anticipate.”