2011 was the year that advertisers woke up, and realized that cats = commercial success. While a few of the commercials on the list are for actual kitty related items (food, litter, rescue organizations), many are for products that have nothing to do with cats at all. From cell phones to ice cream cake, to car insurance and more, cats worked their little paws off this year to prove that you don't have to be a real dog to turn a buck.
Two years after the ingenious "Certified Pre-Owned Cats" campaign by the Michigan Humane Society, the idea of likening shelter animals to used goods has continued as an upward trend. Earlier this year, the San Francisco SPCA had a similar campaign, encouraging "test cuddles" with their pre-owned pets, but the Winnipeg Humane Society really took it to the next level with this commercial for their own "Kitty Midnight Madness" event. Starring real-life pitchman Andy Hill of Kern Hill Furniture Co-op, the late night parody was an attention grabbing hit, garnering over 460,000 views, and hopefully lots of kitty adoptions, to date.
Amid a sea of dog commercials for brands like Doritos and Bud Light, the lone cat commercial to emerge out of this year's Super Bowl was an E*TRADE spot, starring that precocious baby, and a sneezy American Shorthair named Peppers. What a flu-stricken cat has to do with personal investing is still anyone's guess, but the spot still managed to generate over 839,000 views to date.
Fancy Feast's "The Engagement" debuted during the Academy Awards in February, proving from the start that the cinematic spot was anything but your typical cat food commercial. Complete with impossibly furry Persian cats, home makeover montages, surprise proposals, and Chinese take-out, the heartwarming clip delighted cat lovers everywhere, leading to over 1.2 million views on YouTube, and a "Storybook Wedding" sequel, which I was fortunate enough to be part of.
This action-packed, gecko-free car insurance commercial illustrates dogs tailing cats via a vintage car chase scene lifted from the 1976 film, "Blazing Magnum." Also perhaps bringing to mind everyone's favorite traffic violating feline, Toonces the driving cat, the vehicular video has managed to grab over 550,000 views.
Some of the best cat commercials of 2011 came from overseas, starting with this delightfully twisted clip from the UK for Cravendale Milk. 4.5 million people tuned in to see what would happen if cats were to spontaneously sprout thumbs (Spoiler alert: We'd all be doomed).
One of the best examples on the list of properly using cats for interactive, viral marketing purposes was executed by Skittles for the "Skittles Touch" campaign. The candy makers employed a fluffy kitty and creepy cat man for this online-only clip, that left some feeling that their finger had been violated. Gross or not, viewers still sent it to their friends so they could "touch the rainbow" for themselves, resulting in over 5 million views overall.
This touching spot for the Russian Lottery starring a charismatic kitty with dreams of joining the space program left 300,000 viewers feeling like their dreams could also come true.
Whiskas cat food came out with a series of commercials in 2011 aimed towards the crazy cat lover. What made the clips unique were that they were actually funny, and showed that guys could be crazy about their kitties, too.
Another example of a company really "getting" it when it comes to integrating cats into the message of the commercial was Sprint and their "fill the internet with even more cats" campaign. Stressing that a faster phone meant spreading your cat love around the internet even more efficiently (and including clips of popular YouTube videos such as Nyan Cat and Surprised Kitten) worked, resulting in over 260,000 views.
While I'm still hazy on the logic of equating kittens in bubbles with awesome birthday cake, this Dairy Queen commercial was still "good enough" to claim 220,000 views, and create a surge in Google searches for "how do you get kittens in bubbles?"
Commercial Kings Rhett and Link teamed up with IFC for a new show in 2011 that paired them with some of the nation's most deserving local businesses with the purpose of making "epic" local commercials. While this commercial for the Holiday Hotel for Cats in Los Angeles didn't achieve the virality of fellow Rhett and Link alum Chuck Testa, it still generated buzz to the tune of 520,000 views. I also enlisted my own cat Charlie to watch the clip, which inspired him to book a plane ticket out West, just to hang out with "Betty, mother of four."
Paws down, 2 million viewers probably agree that one of the best cat commercials of the year was for Bouygues Telecom, a French mobile internet service provider looking to promote a utopian cat society. Who wouldn't want to live in a world where kittens staff call centers, attend business meetings, and fish and milk are dispensed out of every vending machine?
Hefty bags of kitty litter can save time and money, but sometimes all you're left with is a stiff neck after trying to haul the bags from the car to your house. Cat's Pride effectively used CGI to illustrate how their new "Fresh & Light" litter would alleviate that problem, and leave plenty of time to enjoy a day at the spa with your favorite cat. Their creativity paid off, earning them the honor of being awarded with nearly 100,000 views, no easy feat for a cat litter commercial.
Ahead of the late October release of DreamWorks Animation's Puss In Boots, the studio released several promotional clips, but the most popular of all was a parody of the Old Spice guy in "The Man Your Man Could Smell Like" commercial, culminating in 3.4 million views, and a #1 spot at the box office for the passionate pussycat.
Many animal welfare organizations are finding that humor is an extremely effective way to spread their message, without bringing their audience to tears (Sarah McLachlan for the ASPCA, anyone?). The Shelter Pet Project, a public service ad campaign focused on spreading the word that pets in shelters are wonderful, and encouraging potential adopters to consider the shelter as the first place to find a new pet, recently released a new series of spots, showing what adopted animals think of their new owners. In one of the more hilarious clips, over 600,000 viewers got an earful of what one ginger tabby really thinks about a little boy's sand box.
Cat advertising was so hot in 2011, two different cat creative agencies emerged, promising unlimited resources dedicated to crafting the purrfect viral cat videos. "Kitty Wood Studios," the brainchild of director Joe Nicolosi, hit YouTube in August, followed by real-life advertising agency John St. with "Catvertising" in November. Noting the similarity and timing of both parodies, "Kitty Wood" creator Nicolosi publicly lashed out at John St. for stealing his idea, but ultimately decided against taking legal action. To date, "Kittywood Studios" has seen over 630,000 views, while "Catvertising" is holding steady at just over 1.2 million.