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Pussy galore. What's going on with the Sheba campaign?

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Owning a domestic animal is a trade-off. They bring you companionship, fun and a messy carpet - in return, you give them food. Lots of food. Indeed, it can feel as though the only reason they give you all the affection and comfort is because of the food (which of course is ridiculous).

I'm more of a dog man myself. They're reliably dopey, funny and dependent. But an ex-partner was obsessed with acquiring cats, so I've spent plenty of time with them too. As I recall, cats tend to tip the balance of the relationship in their favour. They don't do tricks, chase balls (they may pursue a piece of string once in a while) or see off intruders. That doesn't get you off the food hook, though. They're just as keen on their grub as their canine counterparts, they just do less in return. In fact, they're more keen on sleeping than anything else.

This slightly exploitative partnership is, of course, a gift to advertisers. We all know that manufacturers of sweets depend on 'pester power' to shift products, placing all manner of confections by the checkout to encourage children to badger their parents for Pokemon candy bars. Strong adults can resist this nonsense from kids, but almost never from pets (I know, the animals aren't in the supermarket - but their pleading eyes are ever-present in the minds of the owner). Consequently, pet food manufacturers are always keen to cook up new campaigns, the better to draw the hapless shopper to their brand. I think Pedigree currently sell Fido chews using a claim of improved doggy dentistry. Although, I can't help noticing that wolves have almost perfect gnashers and nobody buys them anything.

Which brings me to the recent TV spot for Sheba. Celebrity endorsements are uncommon in the pet food business, usually extending no further than a 'top breeder' extolling the virtues of a certain tinned meat. Sheba, it must be said, have broken with tradition and raced off to Hollywood to secure the services of Eva Longoria - the Desperate Housewife.

You can see the advertisement here >

Now, this wouldn't be particularly extraordinary if the clip simply showed Eva telling us she was a big fan of cats (even though they just sleep all the time) and as such, doesn't mind parting with a couple of dollars extra to buy a premium brand. However, the ad is nothing like that. Nothing like that at all.

The film opens with Ms. Longoria preparing her swanky LA apartment for an evening of sultry pleasure. The cat watches, intrigued. Then Eva goes a bit nuts, casting off some of her clothing, writhing on the kitchen counter and slinking down her massive dining table in bare feet. Then she feeds the cat - who, I am told, is called 'Goose'. Crikey!

It's all very tastefully and expensively shot and Longoria looks as perfectly groomed as kitty (who is one of those strange blue coloured things). Yep, this is a big production alright. I'm just not sure what it's telling us. Are we being invited to put on semi-erotic performances for our pet at feeding time? In which case, I can assert with some confidence, that the animal doesn't give a hoot and is merely thinking 'GIVE ME MY DINNER!'. Or perhaps the commercial is telling us that Eva loves her cat more than any man who might be calling. So, why all the posh clobber and mood music? Again, the beast just wants the Sheba. Clothes and hi-fis mean nothing to Goose. It's really very confusing.

Of course, there is one further possibility - and the 'Come On To My House' soundtrack lends some credence to this - Eva Longoria is trying to seduce her cat. Sorry, I know this sort of thing is taboo, but it cannot be ignored. Actually, I can't believe anyone has seen this ad without at least considering this notion.

Whatever is going on here, we should acknowledge the Sheba people and their agency have taken pet food advertising to a whole new dimension. They've made cubes of random meat in a slimy jelly a bit sexy. Albeit in a rather troubling way.

For his sake, I hope Goose is a neutered tom.
 

Magnus Shaw is a blogger, copywriter and consultant

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