Ah, cat food. Where would we be without it? Knee-high in hungry cats, I’d wager. If that thought frightens you, then you’d better thank God for inventing cat food commercials! Without these gems, who knows where we’d be today?

Early cat food ads were all pretty similar. Here’s a fairly standard outing:

It may not look like much, but these ads laid the groundwork for all their followers. It contains all the essential elements of a good cat food commercial.

  • A catchy jingle
  • Shots of cats
  • At least one moment that makes you stop and say “What the hell was that!?”

Point number 3 came in the form of this wonderful flash frame at 17 seconds in:


And it works! Just follow these 3 simple steps and you can’t go wrong. Sadly, by the 1970’s cat food commercials had lost their way. This ad only follows ONE of the three rules!

What were they thinking!? No jingle? No WTF moment? A 1/3 ratio is not going to cut it, guys!

I’m assuming that the resulting drop in cat food sales is what led to all the economic problems and gas rationing of the 70’s.

Luckily, a wise man named Shelton “Shelly” Palmer was simultaneously working on a plan to combat this terrible problem. After many years in the lab, Palmer’s hard work yielded fruition!

Palmer, hard at work

He had provided America, nay the world, with a wonderful new gift! It was a song that would change human history forever.

The world would never be the same.

This ad had it all. You may be asking “Well it has a cat and a jingle, but where’s the ‘what the hell?’ moment?” Perhaps this is hard for you to understand, sitting safely here in the year 2010, but trust me, to a viewer in the 70’s that entire commercial was the ‘what the hell?’ moment. It was groundbreaking.

The importance of this song can not be overemphasized. When my daughter was born in 2007, I was given the chance to spend the first 30 minutes of her life with just the two of us. Realizing the importance of this moment, I used that time to teach her the Meow-Mix song.

Meow meow meow meow…

I think it’s safe to attribute all her future success to this one excellent plan.

[EDIT: Apparently my wife didn’t know this story yet. I could have sworn I’d told her…]

Anyway, back to the commercials.

The problem with the Meow-Mix song is that, being perfect, it killed humanity’s desire to write more cat food jingles. Challenging perfection is like spitting at God. Who would dare? This caused a major problem in the cat food ad world. Without a jingle the best anyone could hope for was a 66% success rate!

The 9 Lives brand tried to pump up the two-thirds they still had by creating the finicky, jerky cat named Morris.

Having lost the ability to use jingles, ad agencies figured that making the ‘WTF’ moments as strange as possible was the only way to go.

Hark! The sea winds bring a message.

Some of these are hard to understand outside of their time period. I’m guessing that the rampant cocaine use of the 1980’s is what made this seem like a good idea in 1988.

Although I do wonder how a Morris presidency would have handled Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. I’m guessing that it would have involved ‘savory stew’ in some way.

At this point, cat food commercials struggled to come up with anything new at all! Heck just look at the last 3 seconds of this Morris ad:



It ends with the exact same slurp as that 60’s commercial we started with! The sound is the same and everything! Cat food commercials had truly run out of things to say. Was this to be the end of quality cat food commercials?

Thankfully, Hollywood was ready to save the day with a new invention: computer animation.

OMG, we can use this technology to make TV ADs!

This opened up a whole new world for advertisers. Mainly, the magical world of ‘More!’ Take a look at this Friskies video.

I get the feeling that this ad was directed by a talking Build-a-Bear toy that simply said “More!’ when you squeezed its tummy.

More Turkeys!

More Cows!

More Cat Terror!

More…uh… Ok, I got nuthin’ here

I am pleased to see a return to music, although it isn’t exactly the catchiest jingle ever recorded. You won’t catch me singing this one anytime soon:

Exciting your cat

Day and night

With endless enchantment

I’m not exactly sure what that means, but it sure sounds like a good start towards getting a claw embedded in your leg. Have you ever “excited a cat” and had it end well?

I’m also unclear what they mean by the ending tag-line “Feed the Senses.” Honestly, I’m really only interested in feeding the mouth part of the cat, if that’s ok. But maybe I’m not the target market. After all, what do I know about cat food commercials anyway?

~ ~ ~

In conclusion, cat food commercials peaked with the Meow Mix song in the 1970’s and have been struggling ever since. Who will next reclaim that magic? It’s been almost 40 years, surely someone will be able to do it soon? Why, it may even be you! *

* Footnote: No, it will not be you. Sorry.