Advertisers are learning to adapt in a world in which commercials are being skipped over.  More and more people are watching time advance television through services such as On Demand and TiVo.  A YouGov study showed that 90% of people watching time advance TV are skipping all the commercials.  YouTube presented an alternative to traditional television advertising by allowing commercials to pre-roll before a video.  YouTube recently revealed, however, that over 50% of viewers were clicking the Skip Now button, cutting off commercials sometimes after as few as five seconds. 

                So how does one create a commercial in this environment?  Internet powerhouse Buzzfeed provided Friskies with the answer.  The duo has teamed up to create a campaign called Dear Kitten.  The videos are simple; it is a cat’s voice-over providing feline advice to the new kitten in the house, and the videos range from two and a half to four minutes.  But any person who has owned or dealt with a cat will find the commercials hilarious.  The deadpan voice-over tells the kitten the dangers of babies, and all about “The Monster known as Vacuum.”   The first time I watched Dear Kitten, I had no clue it was an ad until the very end.  There are no mentions of ingredients, flavors, or age specific foods.  You barely see the Friskies can.  And the most ingenious part is that I clicked on the video.  I had, albeit unknowingly at first, chosen to watch this commercial.  In fact, I have watched all four of the commercials in the series, multiple times, and I have shared them with friends. 

                Buzzfeed and Friskies have taken the concept behind Inbound marketing and applied it to advertising.  Inbound marketing is essentially the concept of having people seek out your company or client by providing pertinent information, and being helpful, or in this case by being entertaining.  It is the opposite of intrusive outbound marketing, like telemarketers, traditional commercials, and things that interrupt your day.  Inbound is about putting the information out there and allowing customers to come to you.   I wasn’t annoyed by having to watch the Dear Kitten commercial, it didn’t interrupt my internet searching (as many side bar ads do).  I very literally elected to watch it.  It was entertaining more than anything else, and I wasn’t inundated by facts or statistics about competitors, or scientific details that ultimately mean nothing to me. 

Truthfully, I don’t even own a cat, I’m allergic, and I would describe myself as a dog person.  So this commercial isn’t even targeting me as a buyer.  How can Buzzfeed guarantee that this commercial is seen by Friskies’ market?  This is not a traditional media buying situation, where an advertiser has an agreement that their spot will air on a certain channel or station, during a predetermined time, and will reach a reasonably estimated number of people. 

Friskies knew it was teaming up with a juggernaut when it agreed to work with Buzzfeed, and their trust in both Buzzfeed and this groundbreaking form of advertising has paid off.  The first Dear Kitten video has been viewed over 17 million times in four months.  The ad with the fewest views is Impersona-Cat, which garnered over 771,000 views in two weeks.  The four Dear Kitten ads have been watched over 24 million times in total.  These views are from people who wanted to watch the ad, they sought it out online and chose to watch Dear Kitten.  The SPCA estimates that 41 million American homes have a cat.  It is safe to say that some of the 24 million views on Dear Kitten videos were by cat owners.  While it is a little early to hear anything from Friskies about sales increases, the videos have gone viral online, being shared over various forms of social media and written about by traditional media.  The two most recent videos show a slight shift, in marketing.  They are being posted on the Friskies YouTube channel as opposed to Buzzfeed, where the first two videos were located.  This is likely not by accident, but designed to steer the already hooked audience towards more Friskies videos and products. 

While any plans for producing more Dear Kitten videos are not public knowledge, Buzzfeed has created a new genre of advertising, one in which the product being sold isn’t even discussed.  It will be interesting to see if others attempt to pursue this new concept and what their varying degrees of success will be.  For now, we’re all waiting for another Dear Kitten.


Watch the original Dear Kitten: