Cats have been used extensively in advertising. A specific poster got me onto the subject. It is not strictly advertising in the sense that we know it but using a fierce black cat to promote the United States Tank Corps in 1917. The military was recruiting to fight in the First World War. The poster is a lithograph and a rare example of the cat as an emblem of virility according to Katharine M Rogers in her book Cat. It is interesting in that regard because it is using cats to attract men (primarily) to join the tank corps. As we all know the male of the species is normally associated with dogs although many sports teams particularly in America name their teams after cats because of their association with aggression (note: domestic cats are very pleasant creatures!).
Having seen that interesting poster I then bumped into the Pinterest page of JE Hart which has 517 followers and which is exclusively about Cats in Advertising. Below I reproduce some of the posters. I am unsure about the situation regarding copyright but as they are all over Pinterest I will presume that the owners of the copyright have waived it in this instance.
The incredible range of advertising featuring the domestic cat is astonishing. As mentioned, we have the United States Tank Corps in 1917 and below we have a ginger tabby helping to advertise Helena Rubinstein make up in the magazine Mademoiselle of November 1958. Gregg on Flickr said that the model is Isabella Abonico.
The choice is almost endless. There are also interesting adverts featuring black cats. The first advertisement concerns a product which also features the cat: Catz Bitters. Using the cat to advertise various drinks seems to be quite commonplace.
The black cat may be difficult to rehome in a cat shelter but they are useful when it comes to advertising. Perhaps it is their mysterious appearance which helps to sell such as cleaning materials and motor oils.
The “The Battery with Nine Lives” is a clever one advertising the durability of this car battery from 1939.
And below the black cat is used to advertise cigarettes:
And baking powder. The powder makes dough rise so strongly that it elevates an agitated cat. The drawing of the cat has faint hints of anthropomorphism. I believe this is because the poster comes from about 1885 when artists struggles to tear themselves away from drawing and painting cats with human faces. It’s a reflection of the human belief of the superiority of the human animal over the nonhuman animal.
Dr Desmond Morris in his book Cat World tells us that cats have “figured prominently in advertising campaigns for over a century”. My impression is that cats were used more often in advertising campaigns in the middle of the 19th century. This is only an impression judging by the number of adverts with cats at that time and the relative dearth of adverts featuring cats in the new millennium.
They vary from the brilliant posters of Toulouse-Lautrec in the late 19th century up to cats being used extensively in pet food manufacturers’ campaigns such as Morris I & II, in America, and Arthur I & II, in Britain, in the late 20th century.
Dr. Morris tells us that two Chicago-based Americans collected, in three volumes, a fantastic range of examples of eye-catching advertising. He refers to Alice Muncaster, an advertising and promotion manager for one of America’s largest financial institutions and her co-author, Ellen Yanow who is or was the executive director of a national humane organisation. The collection of “cats in advertising art” is the most extensive ever collated. You can buy their trilogy of books from 1984-88 on eBay.