BuzzFeed and Friskies are headed to the Super Bowl with their "Dear Kitten" branded Web series. The digital publisher and pet food brand have teamed up to create a 60-second TV spot, which will air in the cat-themed markets of Los Gatos, Calif.; Kitty Hawk, N.C.; and Pawnee City, Neb., during the NFL championship game. A longer version of the ad will be posted online for those craving more cat videos.
The regional commercial follows the same general plot as the "Dear Kitten" series, which has been viewed more than 30 million times. A crotchety cat—dryly voiced by BuzzFeed Motion Pictures president Ze Frank—imparts advice about watching the Big Game to a younger kitten. (Since BuzzFeed and Friskies are not official sponsors of the game, they can't use the taboo phrase "Super Bowl.")
This not only marks the first time Friskies will advertise during the Super Bowl, but it's the first time BuzzFeed has created a television commercial. While many digital publishers like The New York Times have been lauding their native content, and platforms like Facebook and Google have data-driven advertising, not many have been tapped to create linear commercials.
BuzzFeed Motion Pictures vp Jonathan Perelman said BuzzFeed and Friskies were brainstorming for the fifth installment of "Dear Kitten" when the idea of a Super Bowl ad came up. While it will appear on air in just three markets, both companies are betting the spot can build buzz and replay value online.
"We were thinking about doing the next installment in this franchise around tent poles, so we thought about doing 'Dear Kitten' during the Big Game.... What I love about the Big Game is that it's a place that people watch for the ads as much as they watch for the game itself," Perelman said.
Perelman said while he doesn't think BuzzFeed's first TV ad will send marketers running to digital publishers to create their spots, he does think it's a trend we'll see in the future. He said he believes digital publishers like BuzzFeed have unique insights into audience behavior, and the online medium allows them to test ideas before fleshing them out into full-fledged campaigns.
"I'm sure it will happen in the future. Ideas will be incubated, data-driven online, and then it will move into campaigns we'll see on air during the Big Game or other on-air events," Perelman explained. "[Publishing online] is a way to build an audience, and you can simply move that into a different format, say, television."
The full version of the ad appears below: