Electronic Data Centers’ “Cat Herders” is one of the best and most memorable Super Bowl ads, even if it only placed 10th in USA Today’s annual Ad Meter popularity contest. And it interested a general Super Bowl audience despite the nature of the client, an information technology giant founded by H. Ross Perot in 1962 that was looking out of step or, worse, invisible as the dot-com revolution bloomed.
Richard Brown took over as CEO in January 1999 looking to update the image of EDS. He and ad veteran Don Uzzi, hired to lead marketing, determined that they would make EDS famous with a Super Bowl ad. Fallon McElligott, which had picked up the account from Bates Worldwide the prior May with an explicit assignment to reinvigorate the brand, decided to play on the expression “herding cats,” the managerial metaphor for the difficulty of aligning team members’ efforts.
"It was an expression that was instantly visual," Fallon art director Dean Hanson recalled for the Washington Post later. But it didn’t make for an easy shoot. The production crew filmed the cowboys on their horses at Tehon Ranch north of California, then recorded the cats separately at the same site and combined the footage later. To create imagery of cats storming the American plains, 20 to 30 trainers used a buzzer as a prod and tuna as a lure.
Another minute-long spot by Fallon McElligott in the same Super Bowl, "Advances" for Nuveen Investments, also sparked a lot of conversation. Three days after the game, the agency announced that it had been acquired by Publicis Groupe.
EDS and Fallon returned for the 2001 game with "Running With Squirrels."
Director: John O'Hagan. Production company: Hungry Man. Producer: J.D. Davison.
Creative director: David Lubars, later to become chief creative officer at BBDO. Art director: Dean Hanson. Copywriter: Greg Hahn. Executive producer: Judy Brink. Agency producer: Marty Wetherall.Send credit info to [email protected].