Saturday 12 September 2020

Cats in Advertising Art

When cats are featured in advertising it is a form of art; there is no doubt about it. My impression from a rather cursory amount of research is that the domestic cat was employed in advertising campaigns more often in the late 19th century and throughout the 20th century than today, in the new millennium i.e. post 2000. I'm not sure why this is. Perhaps I have mis-read the situation. Clearly, cats are used to advertise cat food and other cat products but, for example, the black cat - which is somewhat derided in cat rescue facilities as being almost un-adoptable - is a very useful animal when it comes to selling motor oil and shoe polish!

Advertising motor oil with a black cat.

The domestic cat is in fact a very useful advertising tool because of their connotations with fierceness, athleticism, mysteriousness and of course the fact that women tend to like cats over dogs and therefore they can be used to promote cosmetics and other products made for the female market.

Promoting Helena Rubinstein cosmetics in Mademoiselle Magazine.

The cat is very versatile in advertising. Advertisers can use the big cats - and I'm referring to the wild cat species such as the tiger and jaguar - to promote sports teams even naming the teams after these impressive animals based upon their inherent aggression and ability to survive. A black cat was used to envourage Americans to join the USA Tank Corp during WW1:

At the other end of the spectrum we have the placid, sweet-faced domestic cat adorning a luxurious home, cuddled by a beautiful woman in which the animal is employed to promote products designed to be attractive to women such as baking powder. This seems to be a reflection of the old fashioned and now outdated view that a wife should be at home, in the kitchen.

A couple of Chicago residents, back in the mid-1980s, Alice Muncaster and Ellen Yanow, wrote a trilogy of books about cats in advertising art. It is the most extensive collection in the world. You can buy the books, I believe, on eBay or at least you can buy one of them as my search indicated.

The Cat Made Me Buy It. A collection of cats in advertising art.

The most famous cats in advertising are probably Morris in the USA (the "advertising mascot" of 9lives® cat food) and Arthur in Britain (a pet-food company, Spillers, employed Arthur to promote their products in the 1960s), who were used to sell cat food.

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