Ketchum Life has worked on the Whiskas Singles account since March
These single servings of wet cat food come in an innovative foil package
which keeps the contents fresh and cuts back on waste. The screening of
the first ever commercial for cats provided Ketchum Life with the PR
To create media hype around the advertisement and to drive the
subsequent product trial.
The advert was scheduled for the commercial break during Coronation
Street on 27 January. Rather than adopt a drip-feed approach, which
might have lost momentum over of the course of a week-long campaign,
Ketchum Life decided to concentrate the bulk of public relations
activity on the day the commercial first went on air.
Ketchum Life was kept up to speed on progress by advertising agency M&C
Saatchi while the commercial was being made.
It also worked closely with Michael Jenkins, head of external relations
at Pedigree Masterfoods.
Anticipating the type of questions journalists might ask, Ketchum
consulted Waltham, Pedigree’s pet nutrition research centre. The
advertising agency also used Waltham to find out the kind of colours,
movements and noises cats are known to respond best to. These were then
incorporated into the advertisement.
TV Consultancy produced a VNR which featured footage of cats watching
the ad and an interview with a cat behaviourist. It also included some
old Whiskas commercials in black and white which gave the BBC news
service a way into the story. As a rival of commercial television, the
BBC would have had difficulty covering the new commercial straight. As
it was, it was able to hang the story on a ’whatever next?’ angle.
Ketchum Life also spearheaded a teaser campaign. This involved sending
cat bowls, with ’the most exciting night of your nine lives’ engraved on
them, to cat-loving journalists on the national and regional press.
It also made a list of famous cat lovers in the media available to
journalists, and agency staff even offered their cats for
On the day of screening, a cat behaviourist was booked to carry out
radio interviews. Following the advertisement being screened over five
days, Ketchum Life arranged a nationwide tour for Whiskas Singles. The
two-month roadshow will visit 14 of the UK’s largest shopping centres
and will offer regional press sampling.
The story received widespread coverage, on BBC Breakfast News, Sky News,
and Channel 5 News, and was featured on the ’And finally’ slot on ITV’s
News at Ten.
The Times, Evening Standard and the Independent also picked up on the
story. The Sun even published a telephone number for readers to call to
monitor how well their cats were responding.
Coverage through Reuters and the Press Association also led to a large
amount of international interest. This included attention from Good
Morning America, Canada’s CBC, America’s NBC, France 2 and the Malaysian
Ketchum’s decision to create a media blitz on the day of the screening
paid off. Holding a roadshow after the week-long advertisement run kept
the coverage coming.
’I think they did a fantastic job in light of the fact that there was
really only a tiny idea there,’ said Stefano Hatfield, editor of
’The ad itself was nice, but it was nothing special, really. I’m
somewhat astounded that so many newspapers lapped it up,’ he added.
So what did the cats themselves make of the advertisement? My feline
friend Snodgrass gave the screen a cursory glance before promptly dozing
Client: Pedigree Masterfoods
PR Team: Ketchum Life
Campaign: The first commercial for cats
Timescale: January 1999