Advertising. Like the weather and syphilis, everyone talks about it yet no-one does anything. Was it Shakespeare who once said “Our gain is your loss/that’s the price you pay/I heard it in the House of Commons/everything’s for sale”? No. It was the Pet Shop Boys. But if you consider that they’ve had more top ten hits than Shakespeare, Jane Austen and Cervantes combined, they must be on to something.
According to Charlie Brooker’s excellent television series Screenwipe, modern advertising and marketing campaigns are analysed down to the most intricate detail. Ads have to work internationally, so no item is below scrutiny – the models can’t wear sneakers, as that connotes “gangster” in Russia, they can’t wear denim as that means they’re gay in Indonesia. Confectionery advertising involves the frighteningly obsessive idea of “the load” – that is, the specific way the model places the product in their mouth.
As an advertising insider on Screenwipe explains: “Different gum companies have different ways they like their gum “loaded”. They publish booklets for directors to study so the load is uniform across their ads. On any shoot there’ll be one poor sod from the client whose sole job is to ensure the load goes off according to company guidelines.”
So if people are putting so much thought into marketing, advertising and product design, why would Whiskas choose to sell their product with a kitten that wants to punch you in the face?
Oh yes, this kitten could’ve been a contender. He’s like Jake LaMotta – if Jake LaMotta had spent less time throwing fights against Billy Fox in order to curry favour with the Mafia, and more time chasing string and napping. An imperfect analogy, yes, but an analogy all the same.
It’s not just the Whiskas Punching Kitten – across the board, cat-related products are sending very odd messages. Ghetto Mugger Kitten at least has some energy – not like the Purina One cat, who seems depressed that his latest novel isn’t coming along as he’d hoped:
Homebrand Dry Adult Cat Food is fronted by a cat who thinks he’s a newsreader. Or possibly a newsreader who thinks he’s a cat:
Although that would make harrowing news slightly easier to cope with. Imagine the cat above telling you about September 11th. It’s better, isn’t it? Just a little? Mind you, then the weather presenter would have to be a guinea pig or something, and that’s just crazy.
At Vitapet, death stalks around every corner – it’s the Crystal Litter Ninja Cat:
Although the graphic design on the back of the packet suggests this product is really aimed at cats who liked to go to rave parties back in the mid-’90s:
A niche market, surely. Speaking of niche, Woolworths Select go for the oft-neglected “James Bond villain” demographic:
While Fancy Feast Royale is after people who keep animatronic cats instead of real ones:
Yes, robot cats may seem low-maintenance now, but what happens when they go haywire and try to enslave the human race? What then, hmmmm? Have we learned nothing from history?
Probably the purest advertising campaign for cats is the jingle for Meow Mix. Written in 1970 by Shelly Palmer (who, like Ira Gershwin, surprisingly turns out to be a man) the jingle has been in use ever since, and has been referenced in everything from Christian rock to The Simpsons. Here’s how it was used in the early 1980s.
The Meow Mix people have always been on the cutting edge of cat marketing, featuring increasingly meta interpretations on the singing-cat theme, as well as cat versions of Big Brother (Meow Mix House) and a co-production with The Game Show Network called Think Like A Cat (“not only one of the most embarrassing half-hours in the history of television, it is also a significant step toward the collapse of civilized society” – The New York Times).
According to wikipedia, “a clock was manufactured in early 2000, featuring the jingle playing every hour. This rare clock is no longer sold in stores and is worth thousands.” Presumably because so many were smashed to pieces by crazed owners who wanted to stop the noises in their heads… meow meow meow meow, meow meow meow meow….
See also: Friday Cats