This post is part of a regular series, “Powerful Advertising“, where we showcase some truly meaningful, effective, and powerful advertising.

London transit riders recently got a pleasant surprise on their morning commute.

The Clapham Common station (must be said with an English accent) was completely overrun with kitties. All of the ads in the station had been replaced with pictures of the internet’s favourite mascot.

CATS london underground ads

What was the occasion? A viral marketing stunt for some pet food? An awareness campaign from PETA?

Nope.

The plan was created and executed by a group called Citizens Advertising Takeover Service. Yes, CATS for short.

Here’s how the founder of Glimpse, the organization that oversees CATS, explained the purpose of the stunt.

Why? a) it would look amazing and b) it’s exhausting being asked to buy stuff all the time.
Wouldn’t it be great not to worry about the holiday we can’t afford, the car we don’t need, or the body we don’t have? Imagine a world where public spaces made you feel good.

CATS london underground ads

The project was entirely funded through a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter.

This is a great reminder of the power and responsibility advertisers wield. They shape our views, control our thoughts, influence culture and manipulate our emotions. All of this is done with one goal in mind: get us to buy more stuff.

But what if advertising could be more? As James Turner points out,

“Things like empathy and tolerance, community and togetherness deserve to be at the heart of our culture. Imagine a world where the creative industry used its enormous power to make these values feel aspirational and relevant to millions of people.”

CATS london underground ads

Is it a pipe dream? Maybe.

But why can’t we sell products while also inspiring people to cultivate these important qualities?

So much of our public space is consumed by private companies pushing us to buy things we don’t need with ugly ads. Shouldn’t they have a greater responsibility as to what they put on them? (Spiderman fans you know what I’m talking about)

We already have many examples of brands who succeed at providing an important message while also showing off their brand. It can be done.

And there’s growing evidence that suggests consumers react more positively to these types of campaigns anyway. We’re so desensitized to advertising that brands are constantly searching for ways to get our attention. Creating memorable experiences that elicit an emotional reaction is the new gold standard of marketing.

And really, would anyone have been upset if this actually did turn out to be a viral marketing stunt for a cat food brand?

Either way, we end up with more cats in our lives, and that’s something we can all agree we need more of.

CATS london underground ads

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