There are ads with firefighters. There are ads with kittens. But here's an ad with a firefighter and a kitten—a firefighter trying to save a kitten. And it was a real-life rescue attempt, all captured on a GoPro camera.
They say you can't manufacture viral videos, but of course you can. You take someone else's viral video, in which your product is the star—in this case, the first-person GoPro Hero3 footage of firefighter Cory Kalanick pulling an unconscious kitten from a fire in Fresno, Calif.—and you put your logo at the end of it.
The ad is pretty great on many levels. It shows the camera in action in a highly compelling situation; it implies that the camera is good enough for people with the most dangerous jobs; and it's got an incredibly uplifting ending. The spot has topped 5 million views on YouTube since Wednesday, compared to 1.5 million for the original, posted in June.
Well, about that uplifting ending. Sadly, the kitten died from smoke inhalation on the night it was rescued. A GoPro employee claimed in a Reddit thread that the company was unaware of this when cutting the spot. That seems a bit weird—it wouldn't have been hard to find this story online if you were really looking for it.
Yet it hardly matters. Yes, they should probably change the ad's title in some way. And yes, the sad news, for those who learn it, casts a shadow over the spot. But it still captures a genuine moment of a human being acting brave and humane—and, not incidentally, being helped in his work by the product being advertised. Lots of ads do plenty worse than that.