Remembering Grumpy Cat's prolific advertising career—from Friskies to Grumppuccino
The internet has lost one of its most insatiable stars.
Grumpy Cat, known for her permanent grim expression of contempt, passed away Tuesday at the age of seven. The official Grumpy Cat Twitter account announced that she had died due to complications from a urinary tract infection.
The famous kitty, whose appearance comes from feline dwarfism and whose real name is Tardar Sauce, prompted the rise of influencer pets online. Her perpetual scowl helped her go viral on Reddit in 2012, and she has since made numerous personal appearances, including at SXSW, and has appeared in countless memes, commercials and even a movie.
At the time of her death, she had more than 8.3 million followers on Facebook, 2.5 million followers on Instagram and 1.5 million followers on Twitter. Some rankings estimate Grumpy Cat made $100 million from her film, media appearances, sponsorship deals and merchandise sales. An official online shop sells nearly 900 items with her face on it. So, although the face that launched a thousand memes is gone, it’s likely the cat’s image isn’t going anywhere.
At Ad Age, we often post roundups of ads and moments in advertising in remembrance of celebrities who have passed on, and Grumpy Cat, who has won a special place in the history of the internet, is no exception.
Grumpy Cat Grumppuccino (2018)
In 2013, Grumpy Cat owner Tabatha Bundesen partnered with Grenade Beverage to market a line of iced coffees called Grumpy Cat Grumppuccino using the cat’s image. But the company allegedly tried to sell a line of coffee grounds and T-shirts using the cat’s image as well, which was not part of the original deal. For that, Grumpy Cat won $710,000 for copyright and trademark infringement. The case marked an important step in endorsement and merchandise deals with pet social influencers. And yet, as multiple stories about the lawsuit pointed out—the cat was still not smiling.
“The Little Grumpy Cat that Wouldn’t” (2016)
In 2016, Random House Children’s Books acquired the rights to Grumpy Cat for a series of three Golden Books. Grumpy Cat also came out with her own book in 2013 that she wrote called “Grumpy Cat: A Grumpy Book.”
Happiness Finds Grumpy Cat (2015)
BuzzFeed worked with Friskies and PetSmart for a cute video to promote Friskies’ Grumpy Cat Variety Pack. In it, Grumpy Cat meets a new dog friend. She’s not enthused, at all, and says as much in meme form. The title of the video—“Happiness finds Grumpy Cat”—is misleading when viewers find out that the dog’s name is Happiness and Grumpy Cat wants none of it.
A trailer for Grumpy Cat’s Lifetime movie “Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever” shows the meme kitty in all her grumpiness, but this time she talks. In the film, Grumpy Cat is a lonely kitty in a mall pet shop who develops a sour perspective on life because nobody adopts her. One day, a girl comes in who understands her and adventures ensue.
Honey Nut Cheerios (2014)
Grumpy Cat meets Honey Nut Cheerios’ mascot Buzz the Bee in this spot from Saatchi & Saatchi New York, and the two do not get along. Buzz even makes fun of Grumpy Cat’s appearance.
Friskies “spokescat” (2013)
In 2013, Grumpy Cat was hired to be the official “spokescat” for Nestle Purina PetCare’s Friskies brand. She made multiple appearances on behalf of the brand and starred in several social videos and ads. In a 2014 spot “It’s Hard to be a Cat at Christmas,” Grumpy Cat is paired with other popular Internet felines Nala and Colonel Meow. The cats have a miserable time watching people unwrap presents, but the video then becomes about how cats at shelters have an even harder time. Friskies promised that for every view (up to 500,000), it would donate one can of wet food to shelters.
Grumpy Cat won Meme of the Year at the Webby Awards in 2013. To commemorate where all of Grumpy Cat’s fame started, we'll leave you with one of the most famous of her memes.