WHISKAS® and MediaCom gave cats custom Amazon boxes to play in. It was an award-winning idea.

The Cat Castle, the Cat Office, and the Cat Car

July 12, 2022 | By: Matt Miller, Sr. Copywriter

Welcome to Neo’s cat office. “For all enquiries go to my human,” reads the caption on Instagram, alongside an image of the Ragdoll kitten in a WHISKAS® promotional Amazon box designed to look like a little cat office. Scroll through the #catsinboxes2.0 hashtag on Instagram, and you’ll also find Scrumpy in a kitty roller coaster box and Louis, the “terrifying beast,” guarding his cat box castle. There are cats in boxes stacked on cats in boxes, four cats in one box, and, if you look closely enough, you’ll notice one of these cats is actually a dog, and another is a rabbit. That’s fine, though, because when it comes to this award-winning advertising campaign from WHISKAS® and MediaCom, it’s fun for cats, humans, dogs, and all pets alike.

In 2021, WHISKAS® worked with MediaCom and Amazon Ads to better connect with tech-savvy adult pet owners under 45 years old. They came up with a plan to turn Amazon’s classic cardboard delivery box into a playground for cats. For two months in 2021, they sent out boxes to customers in Australia with special cat entertainment designs. These custom boxes also encouraged pet owners to share the fun online by using the hashtag #CatsInBoxes2.0.

In 2021, WHISKAS® worked with MediaCom and Amazon Ads to better connect with tech-savvy pet owners under 45 years old. They came up with a plan to turn Amazon’s classic cardboard delivery box into a playground for cats. They sent out 250,000 boxes to customers in Australia with special cat entertainment designs. Amazon Ads sat down with Simon Sadie, Global Lead for Mars at WPP, to learn how his team created the award-winning #CatsInBoxes2.0 campaign.

“The response was beyond what we expected,” Mars Pet Nutrition Category Strategy Leader Georgia Slonim said of the #CatsInBoxes campaign. “The customers who received the custom boxes really made it their own. As a team we’d connect on a Monday morning to see the previous week’s user-generated content, and I don’t think any of us had ever been that excited to go straight into a meeting on a Monday morning. There were cats with crowns on sitting in the ‘cat castle’ and working cats hiding out in their ‘cat office’ with humorous comments on the talk box. We even had some #rabbitsinboxes and #dogsinboxes. My absolute favorite though was a video that was shared, a cat in his ‘cat rollercoaster’ rolling along on a light-up skateboard to a catchy soundtrack. I reckon I still watch it weekly.”

Out of the box thinking to connect with cat owners

WHISKAS® has been evolving in the cat food industry for more than 80 years. But in 2021, Slonim said the brand wanted to “shake off nostalgic perceptions” and show that WHISKAS® “truly understands cats, especially with our younger adult audiences.” They teamed up with MediaCom to be the first supplier to participate in Amazon’s on-box advertising in Australia.

“What we found was with that more time spent at home, cat owners were spending more time with their pets and they noticed cats were turning basic delivery boxes into a world of play,” said Sophie Price, Chief Strategy Officer at Mediacom Australia. “It’s a behavioral thing that comes back to cats’ natural instincts. They hide in them, they pounce from them, they sleep in them. During lockdown all these boxes would arrive and the happiest inhabitants of the house were the cats.”

Knowing that customers were ordering boxes for home delivery and that cats loved playing in boxes, MediaCom and WHISKAS® saw an opportunity to create specifically-designed boxes for cats that also featured advertising for the brand. They came up with three options: The Cat Castle, the Cat Office, and the Cat Car.

“We wanted to make sure that the campaign wasn’t just a box,” Price said. “So, obviously the cats play in the boxes, but through a QR code on the box, we made the box participatory and sharable because when customers scanned the QR code on the box they were sent through to a brand page within the Amazon store. And on that page was product information, how to make your box, and share photos and videos of cats playing in their boxes. We wanted to create a community using digital touchpoints.”

The award-winning combination of cats and boxes

In June of 2021, the WHISKAS® cat boxes began getting shipped out to Amazon customers in Australia who received orders in mid and large size boxes. “Very, very quickly we saw customers using the QR code and visiting the custom landing page,” Price said. “As cats started to play in the boxes and the sharing started we saw some ridiculously cute stuff. My favorite was someone in Australia had taken our box template then added a roller skate on the bottom. They added Christmas lights and created a video with music and their cat rocking out in the box. It was amazing.”

Pet owners were having a blast with the boxes, and the campaign proved to be a success for WHISKAS®. Following the campaign launch, WHISKAS® observed a 70% uplift in ad-attributed sales on Amazon as compared to the control time period prior to the launch of the campaign. According to independent sales lift studies by IRI, the campaign had an ROI of $3.79, compared to the control.1 This translated to an ROI increase of 4.6%, which is above the 1.8% industry benchmark for pet food advertising campaigns.2 Surveys of customers who received a WHISKAS® promotional Amazon box also showed a 5% increase in brand consideration compared with a control group.3

“The campaign was really successful,“ Slonim said. ”But honestly the best part for me was hearing personally about how excited customers were getting. You could tell from all the user-generated-content just how much pet owners loved having fun with their cats, and to see WHISKAS® play a role in that was really special and exactly what we were aiming for.“

In May, the #CatsInBoxes campaign took home three awards at the Festival of Media Global Awards: Gold for Best Engagement Strategy, gold for Best Event or Experiential Campaign, and silver for Best Direct to Consumer Marketing Campaign.

Cats in various boxes during #CatsInBoxes campaign

#CatsInBoxes campaign

“I’m just so proud of the team and the recognition this campaign is receiving,“ Slonim said of the honors. ”We had about five months from the time we started building this campaign to launch, and it went by in an absolute flash. It’s great to see the hard work paying off and I’m just glad that customers think #CatsInBoxes is as great as we do.“

Slonim said the success of this campaign shows that there are creative ways that brands can work to build a connection with customers.

“It’s also about making sure you connect all of the elements together to make a full-funnel marketing strategy,” Price added. “For us it was the box, the QR code, the advertising on the box, and the social elements. You need to make sure that consumer journey is connected in a seamless way.”

Going forward, Slonim said the brand will continue to work to show the meaningful role that WHISKAS® can play in the lives of cats and their owners.

“And how could we say no to the cats?,” Slonim said. “We know they are the real boss of the house after all.”

1-3Amazon Internal insights, 2021, Australia