Catvertising: why more ad agencies need to learn to laugh at themselves


Catvertising is the latest YouTube sensation to ‘go viral’, with creators, Canadian advertising agency John St., undoubtedly now reaping the rewards of global awareness.

How did this little 150 second clip gain nearly 1 million views? And what other agency can claim that from what is essentially a promotional video?

Quite simply because there is something for everyone: People love the cats, brand-side marketers enjoy the mockery of typical agency showreel videos and every other marketing consultancy around the world is wishing they thought of the idea themselves.

In terms of a strategy for new business, this ticks every box:

  1. At the centre of their pipeline ‘bulls eye’ will be the brands – potential clients – to whom they need to prove their creativity and ability to deliver against a brief.
  2. In order to attract the best people to work in their team, they need to make sure everyone in the industry knows who they are so that if you don’t currently work there you kind of wish you did – or at least that your team was more like them.
  3. And finally non-industry folk – who, directly, are of little benefit to John St. in terms of revenue, but they will be the ones their clients look to reach, so proving they can market themselves to this audience is a pretty convincing way to show they can market their clients with the same creative success. Not everyone will get the knowing references to AdLand’s bullsh*t bingo, but that doesn’t matter, because what everyone does know is that cat videos rock.


Having worked in a marketing consultancy for five years (and loved it), creative and innovative though it was, the trappings of the agency showreel are fairly universal. Catvertising is full of these and I love John St. for being so openly willing to poke fun, laughing at themselves and their industry nuances in the process.  As cutting-edge as they may be, too many agencies can take themselves so seriously, that by blinding prospective clients with zingy quotes, mind-boggling stats and mind map flowcharts, they alienate more than they do attract.

What John St. seem to be saying is ‘we know our stuff, but we’re not afraid to have fun. We don’t need whizz-bang strategy documents, Venn diagrams uncovering the ‘sweet spot’ or graphical displays of consumer behaviour to get our message across. We create content that sticks, and by doing so attract the very audience we set out to reach. We entertain, and we deliver. And we love cats.’

Who wouldn’t hire them?


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