Top 3 reasons why DEAR KITTEN won the interwebs

This is three minutes of film, via the Series of Tubes, that doesn’t have a single special effect or Michael Bay explosion. Yet it’s blowing up the Series of Tubes like nobody’s business, and not simply because it has cats.

Watch it, then we’ll dissect this to see how — and why — it works so well.

Beautiful, right?

Here are the top 3 reasons why this snippet of film by BuzzFeed works so well:

1) This is actually a long ad for Friskies … with barely a glimpse of the cat food they’re trying to sell you.

So right there, it’s refreshing, since 99.999 percent of TV ads are in your face, hoping to grab your attention for three seconds before you (a) change the channel, (b) pull out your iPhone or (c) amble on over to pillage the pantry.

Even the insanely hyped Super Bowl ads, the ones that are so famous that we get backstory about the advertising folks who created them, despite the fact they look more like your neighbor Bill the Accountant than Don Draper — well, those supposedly amazing ads are typically disappointing. They try too hard. Too fast, too loud, too much. You can see all the money on the screen and yeah, a lot of it is wasted.

Instead of 30 seconds of cars zooming and Danica Patrick in a bikini selling web domains (don’t get that one, either), we get 3 minutes of slow, leisurely voiceover from a cat while B-roll runs wild.

And it is hilarious.

DEAR KITTEN is also different from some of the better Super Bowl ads, like the Darth Vader kid who starts the car using the force. Those are more like one-joke skits, except not so much that the repetition drives you nuts like a bad SNL bit that’s gone on too long. This kitten business isn’t Johnny One Note at all.

2) A different kind of funny

Most ads aim for broad humor, things that the lowest common demographic will get in a heartbeat. You know, people falling down, exasperated moms, Santa actually coming down the chimney and frowning because LIttle Billy ate all the cookies and drank all the milk.

DEAR KITTEN is a higher form of humor, with great writing. Here’s a section of the script I love, even after hearing it three times:

You should be aware that there are two kinds of food. The first is sort of a brown, dehydrated nibblet. I think they give us these because they are training us to be astronauts. Just a guess. The second kind is wet food. It is so special they keep it in little armored metal casings that no claw can penetrate. With no claws to speak of, the humans can somehow open them. It’s like some dark magic.

Now, that’s great writing, full of sweet little setups and payoffs.

3) Building up to a climax

The writing is good in the beginning, gets better in the middle and rocks at the end.

This is the opposite pattern from most movies, novels, TV shows and circulars in The Willapa Valley Shopper, and not simply because many writers got started at these things called “papers of news” where you’re brainwashed to write using the Inverted Pyramid, which is inherently boring and should be taken behind the barn and shot.

The best stuff goes first because when you pitch a movie, book or TV ad, that’s what you lead with. Otherwise, the thing won’t get off the ground. And that’s what they want to see in the script or the dailies: the awesome stuff you talked about, whether it was dinosaurs roaming the earth again or aliens invading Nebraska, you know, because their spaceships run on corn or whatever. But if you put the very best material up front, by definition the middle will get your junior varsity stuff and the ending will be complete rubbish, the bottom of the tank, the leftovers, the scrubs.

Check out the last part of DEAR KITTEN.

Dear Kitten: I should warn you of the monster known as “Vac-Koom”. It can eat and yell at the same time. And I’ve seen it eat everything. Seriously, like a paper clip and two cat toys. Didn’t even flinch. To hide from Vac-Koom, you may use the curtains of invisibility. Oh yeah, you’re good. Good hiding. Hoh, boy.

Dear Kitten: One final note. Once in a while, you might see a little red dot. I’m going to tell you this right now. It is real, and it can be caught. I did it once. I held it for a full minute. But when I lifted my paws, it was gone.

So Kitten, welcome to the household. You’ll do just fine.

Brilliant. I’m glad they saved the best for last. Vac-Koom and the Curtains of Invisibility will become part of internet lore now.

6 thoughts on “Top 3 reasons why DEAR KITTEN won the interwebs

  1. In Britain there some ads that are so subtle, that I have arguments with my family as to what they’re about; the Guinness ones, for example. The recent John Lewis ads are so obscure that I identified one recently simply because of the toaster. it wasn’t a John Lewis toaster, and it was for house insurance. So, dear kitten, I think I deserved my tin of Friskies.

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  2. Great comment on a great ad! I agree with you and would add, that it is not only a good story, but the interplay between the the distinct humor, the i’m-super-serious-about-this face of the older cat plus “its” voice and the footage of the playful kitten make it the perfect match. So it is not only a good story but also a well-chosen format to emphasize a good story.

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  3. I admit, I laughed myself a little bit silly over “Dear Kitten.” It’s reminiscent of the Henri short films, narrated by a droll, witty cat…but the fact it’s a commercial is what I truly find so great about it. It’s storytelling for a sales purpose, yes, but that doesn’t make it any less entertaining. In fact, it’s better than most sales pitches only subtly disguised as television shows or films, these days. Gives me hope that the phrase “Content is king” still has some truth to it.

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