Success Stories

How the Crowd Made the #CATmageddon Campaign a Success

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Why Was the #CATmageddon Campaign Successful?

The campaign against smoking pre-dates the 1964 Surgeon General’s warning against smoking by centuries. In 1604 when King James deemed the habit “a custom loathsome to the eye, hateful to the nose, harmful to the brain, dangerous to the lungs.”  Over the years, there have been thousands of articles, public service announcements, advertisements and commercials that seem to have had little effect in deterring young adults from smoking, or encouraging smokers to quit.


In February 2016 an unconventional campaign was launched to appeal to young adults to “be the generation to end smoking”.

The first commercial; #CATmageddon was launched online as a YouTube video in February 2016, and aired on television as a commercial. The YouTube video has been viewed 3.75 million times at the time of this post (July 2016).

A few weeks later, a complimentary video #FinishIt was launched, including dogs and cats with 2.6 million views on YouTube.

#CATmaggedon Campaign Metrics

The campaign has cut through the clutter. However, an accurate number of humans and pets inspired to not start, or stop smoking may not be know for some time, if ever.

  • 185 million people watched the #CATmaggedon videos.
  • Viewers were twice as likely to search “quit smoking” after viewing the ad.
  • When asked, 17 percent more Youth who had seen the video stated they would not smoke compared to those who hadn’t seen the video. When the viewer watched the video ad more than 3 times, the response increased to 34 percent that said they would not smoke.

View Catmageddon campaign results

3 Ways the ‘Crowd’ Made the #CATmageddon Campaign a Success

1. Influence

Influencer Marketing has become a popular approach to marketing. Even in its rawest form, outside of structured marketing, crowds are influenced to act every day – inspired by who and what they value.

In this campaign, cats are the influencers – exercising their power to inspire their humans to act.

The Truth, the creator of the #CATmageddon and #FinishIt campaigns calls cats “the great unifier of the internet”. Cats are celebrated offline, yet their contribution to the internet has been especially celebrated.

The Museum of the Moving Image in New York created an exhibit called “How Cats Took Over The Internet”, a book was written to show one How to Make Your Cat an Internet Celebrity: A Guide to Financial Freedom , an annual Internet Cat Video Festival, hashtags such as #caturday across social media platforms; and the 16 second 2009 video called “Surprised Kitty” which the Daily Telegraph named the best cat video on YouTube with over 77 million views to date.

It is not just the love of cats that makes the campaign successful. It is the response and action of the crowd that makes the campaign a success. Influence is a powerful tool that must first be earned…which is why audiences were open to a message like this campaign when introduced to it by someone they knew through social sharing.

2. Inherent Desire to Help

For decades, the plea for smokers to love themselves – and those around them – has not seemed to be successful in promoting the cessation of smoking. So, why does a cat video seem to suddenly break through? Millennials, the presumed age demographic of the campaign, are passionate about doing good. In fact, the 2016 Millennial Impact Report revealed that the majority of millennials had posted on social media about the issues they care about in the past week when surveyed.

In my book, Crowd Success™, I explain how humans are literally hard-wired to help one another. And, although a cat is not a human, many consider their cats and dogs a part of their family (BTW, it is totally OK to admit you do too ; ) .

Stanford University Professor Sianne Ngai explains the cat connection more directly in the book Our Aesthetic Categories by connecting the cuteness cats with capitalism. It is not that humans love their pets more than themselves. Ngai explains that when we humans encounter something cute, we have an inherent desire to possess and nurture it. Which also explains why millions of pets are adopted from pet stores and shelters every year in the U.S. alone.

People of all ages will respond when given the chance to support a cause they care about.


One of the most compelling reasons this campaign was so successful is its deliberate focus on teens and millennials. The campaign is appealing to other age groups. Yet, strategic ad placement, catchy hashtag, contemporary music, imagery, compelling facts, and of course the cats, with young people in mind made the ad feel less like a commercial and more like a cause they would want to support.

To promote views and all-important shares, the video honed in on the peril of pets with the hope that teens feel would feel compelled to protect them, by not smoking.

Demographics, behavior and data are extremely useful when crafting a campaign that will drive results.

Crowd Success Takeaway:

Your message must resonate with the crowd if you want them to respond and want to help you.

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Author and Founder of Crowd Success™ - Rebecca Murtagh is a passionate entrepreneur, author, professional speaker and fierce champion of others' goals and dreams. She has worked with, or for, Fortune 500, Silicon Valley Startup, multi-national consumer and technology brands, small business owners and solo-entrepreneurs from a diverse range of industries around the world. Rebecca is an internationally recognized thought-leader whose successful career includes writing, professional speaking, training, founder an award-winning digital consultancy, blogging and podcasting.

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