The Internet has spawned an epidemic of humorous videos starring cats, dubbed “cat memes,” doing decidedly un-feline activities. The originator of the trend, LOLCats, has become one of the more profitable Internet sensations. Advertisers have since found a marketing opportunity in these viral videos. While viewers usually ignore paid television advertisements in favor of a refrigerator run, ads with cats garner millions of organic and even more repeated views. While incorporating cats into advertisements hasn’t quiet found its place in masters degree programs in marketing, it’s definitely cemented itself as another means of creative advertising in today’s web-connected world.
The following are five of the most popular cat meme advertisements:
Cats with Thumbs
Cravendale’s cats capture the viewer with their superior and lifelike graphics. Unlike other ads in which stiff paws pound objects, these cats’ dexterous paws have opposable thumbs. The ad speculates that cats could perform many feats if they had thumbs, but their prime objective would be obtaining Cravendale milk from humans who also crave the product. In this ad, cats are product-related since they really do love milk.
Touch the Rainbow
This ad instructs viewers to press an on-screen candy that functions as a “play” button. With the viewer’s finger supposedly pressed to the screen, a cat licks the candy, followed by a man dressed as a cat. The video went viral on YouTube, translating to millions of free viewers, but critics contend that the commercial is too unappetizing for a candy product.
The creators of this ad use the snuggly quality of cats to show how comfortable IKEA’s furniture feels. Watching these silky-soft cats gracefully glide along and snuggle into IKEA’s furniture creates an effective lead-in to their slogan: “Home. It’s how it makes you feel.”
This 15-second spot features a piano-playing cat as a visual and auditory device to draw attention to the product. The only bright spots of color are the pistachio green of the cat’s shirt and the nut, focusing viewers’ attention to both. As the cat plays the piano, one of its paws cracks the nut open, the first sound that is different from the piano’s keys.
EDS grabs viewers’ attention with a tongue-in-cheek takeoff on the macho cowboy genre. Cats are notorious for being among the most difficult animals to command, much less herd. EDS attempts to link its expertise in Information Technology Management to the impossible task of herding cats.
Cat memes have their critics, who complain that the same joke isn’t funny when retold dozens of times. Other critics argue that the cats lose their homespun quirkiness, along with their effectiveness, as the images become more slickly produced. Many predict the demise of the cat meme genre, but when the popularity ends, advertisers will simply follow the next Internet craze.