Cat Lovers Deserve To Die (Hipsters and Crazy Aunts Too)

Having recently seen the tasteless Jezebel post “Fuck You, Cats,”*  I expected the article in my Google Alerts titled “Cat Lovers Deserve to Die,” to be a similarly poorly written rant of a post.

Instead, I found a tasteless campaign for the Lung Cancer Alliance by advertising agency Laughlin Constable that attempts (poorly) to convey the message that”Lung cancer doesn’t discriminate, and neither should you.”

Lung Cancer Alliance

In addition to being offensive, it’s bad advertising. The ultimate case of good (?) idea with bad execution. And being both a cat woman and an advertising executive, I feel the need to explain my point-of-view.

1) Chose your stereotypes wisely. Cats are actually tortured and killed for sport every day. Cat lovers are maligned every day.  Let’s not give assholes encouragement they don’t need. Not to mention it muddies the communication. “Waitresses Deserve To Die,” while equally offensives better conveys the idea of random and baseless discrimination.

2) Get your stereotypes right. The point of using a cliché or archetype in advertising is to telegraph something quickly. So if you must use one, get it right. The (hipster) advertising agency creatives clearly never googled “Crazy Cat Lady.”  Because instead of casting for this…

…they cast for Stepford-Wife-Meets-Cheer-Leader (on drugs).

3) Get to the point. People look at and listen to ads for seconds (often against their will).  The campaign makes the public work too hard. Advertising doesn’t have time for deep involved dialogue.

ADVERTISING:  Cat Lovers Deserve to Die.

PERSON: No they don’t. Why would you say that?

ADVERTISING: Well, they deserve to die if they have lung cancer.

PERSON: That’s stupid.

ADVERTISING: You’re right, it is stupid. But hose with lung cancer are stigmatized because people think they brought the disease upon themselves. 

PERSON: Well, according for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer

ADVERTISING: But they were lied to for decades and told smoking wasn’t addictive.

and so on, and so on….

Lung Cancer Alliance  campaign

David Kiefaber said it much more succinctly in Ad Week when he wrote, “(it’s) a bold and socially complex message, one that’s tough to decipher from any ad, much less one that says ‘a modern social archetype’ deserves to die.”

4) Why ya gotta be so negative?  A visit to the Lung Cancer Alliance website reveals compelling facts that effectively get the points across without the shock-value.

“It’s the deadliest cancer, claiming more lives than colon, breast cancer and prostate cancer combined.”

“1 in 14 Americans will be diagnosed with lung cancer. That’s 12 of the average FB users 172 friends.” 

Laughlin Constable

5) All PR is not good PR.  Marketing professor Ken Wong from Queens University summed it up best when he said, “Nobody’s talking about the plight of cancer patients. Everybody is just talking about how offensive the ad is.” Well, I guess it could be considered good PR for a previously little-known advertising agency. Wait, what were they called again?

What do you guys think? Am I being too harsh? Is everyone being too sensitive? Did I lose you after I stopped talking about cats?


PS – While I have your attention, will you vote for Kip so that he can be a famous TV star (and marry a dog?)? Plus, if he/we wins, I’ll donate $500 to a rescue or two! You only need to vote 1 time EVER (not an everyday type thing!).

As of this morning, he is in the top 15 and we just need to get him into the top 10 by Monday!

Just follow the directions below.

1) Click on Wendy And Lucky Diamond’s Pet Wedding of the Century FB page.

2) “Like” the page

3) Scroll down the page

4) Vote for Kip

PPS – It would also be pretty hysterical to see two single, professional, New York City ladies having their pets marry before they do! Ha!

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  • Everycat

    You aren’t being too harsh at all. In western culture there is far too much reliance on crude stereotyping. In the UK we are awash with it in the form of a constant drip feed to the tabloid media denigrating the poor, the sick and disabled, the unemployed and the overweight.  People tend to just go with the headline of articles and advertisements, rarely looking further to the issues behind the headlines. Insight appears to be a dreaded disease for the masses. They shun it. Advertising can reinforce that belief. 

    One aspect that crops up again and again in advertising, soap operas, drama et al is the use of “the crazy cat lady” this device is often use used not just to perpetuate finger pointing and mockery but to unwittingly promote cruelty to animals and misogeny too

    Thank you for highlighting these issues. Good post 🙂

  • Nope – you are right. If the website is No One Deserves to Die, then use that tag. But don’t target groups and make it impossible for people to figure out what the heck the point of the ad is. I certainly don’t normally take the time to read these print ads – and was just insulted by the tag line. I am a cat lady – and not crazy (at least not because I have cats).

  • Rena

    Your analysis is right on!  This definitely belongs in the “What were they thinking?” category.  

  • I agree with you.  Fat tails and hisses to this campaign!

  • Utterly stupid campaign. I’d love to be a fly on the wall of the ad agency conference room as they’re talking themselves into this idea. …let alone talking their client into it. So many campaigns try to win by shock value. This one needs to lose.

  • I agree – it’s stupid. If the point is “No one deserves to die” then say so! People aren’t going to stick around long enough to determine they’re being clever (because they aren’t).

  • concerned_citizen

    I agree, 100%. As someone who’s a lung cancer advocate, I find the whole thing a waste of time and most importantly, a waste of money that could have been better spent helping patients fight this deadly disease.  Makes me question the cancer organization that got talked into this awful campaign by a small-time agency that was just looking to create a calling card for themselves.  This campaign isn’t going to make a dent for anyone but the ad agency. Terrible shame. 

  • As someone also in the biz…you are ABSOLUTELY RIGHT ON TARGET. This campaign is one of the most poorly executed I have ever seen! It breaks so many basic rules, it’s textbook for, well, the next Copywriting 101 textbook on “what not to do”. 

  • Wow, very disturbing and offensive. Really bad advertising. 

  • Marilia Bavaresco

    Great post.

  • Jmuhjacat

    Yes, great post, Tamar, and no, you’re hardly “too sensitive” — but this society is callous, insensitive and boorish, and the ad agency that thought this “gem” up must be comprised of sociopaths.  SICK to here of anti-cat (and anti-cat-loving) media, which can be found in ever greater frequency in this bottom-of-the-barrel society.  Give ’em hell!

  • sharon

    Agree with your assessment – a very intelligent and insightful explanation on why this is terrible advertising and terribly offensive. 

    As a former advertising person, I personally appreciate shock value in advertising– when it’s appropriate and smartly done.  The shock value in this ad is neither.

    Hope they get bad reviews and lots of backlash.

  • Mar Arslanian


  • Macbarbie

    For being an ad exec I happened t notice a few spelling errors…thought you should know in case you can correct. I happen to be a Stage IV lung cancer victim, non-smoker. And to my amazement this campaign shows that people care more about cats then human beings. Yes I believe the campaign is edgy, but lung cancer is the least funded and the #1 killer of all cancers. The 2nd leading cause of lund cancer is radon exposure. So I believe before you criticize the campaign talk to to lung cancer victims or to their families since many are already diseased. As a lung cancer patient I have been treated with disdain when the medical personnel believed I was a smoker, when they find out I haven’t their attitude changes completely….hmmm? Talk about discrimination. And does it really matter? No other cancer is treated like this. Even drug addicts are treated with more respect and often given free treatment. Lung cancer is 40 years behind in research…kills more women than breast, colon, and all other female cancers combined.  200 women die each day…. and I don’t see any celebrities fighting it as they do the other cancers. Why? Because they don’t want to be labeled with the smoking stigma nor to they want to fight the tobacco companies. It is political, and a tragedy….especially when lung cancer attacks children, and young women in their early twenties that never smoked.  My personal feeling about the ad….finally people are talking. If you are offended…Get Over It! Of course no one deserves to die, and yes you have to search for the meaning of the ad but that is the point….get educated. Because anyone with lungs can get lung cancer.  Even medical personnel do not know the symptoms of lung cancer in non smoking women….I was misdiagnosed for over a year….even when I told the Dr. I thought I had cancer…..but he refused to believe it since I was a non smoker. Two years later he still does not know the symptoms….so I applaude the campaign, maybe now there will be some real change and lives will be changed. I believe human life is worth more than a cat’s life….just sayin. Thank you for taking the time to read.

    • xcxv

      Thank you for advocating for lung cancer patients.  I actually learned about how lung cancer research gets the short end of the stick from a great recent radio ad.  I can’t recall it’s approach off the top of my head, but the message really stuck.  And I didn’t walk away thinking, “well, I guess I need to google why some company decided it was a good idea to put an incredibly incendiary charge and threaten the lives of a massive population of cat lovers.” 

      • Mac Barbie

        Hi, thanks for reading my post. I am not sure what you heard, but many law firms advertise how they can get $$ for lung cancer victims. And their ads are very powerful. I am sure you realize Lung Cancer Alliance does not want anyone to die. But because of lack of research, lack of funding 200 women die each day for lung cancer. I don’t know why you would think that is okay? That is the purpose of the edgy campaign, not to threaten lives of cat lovers…..that is a little overdramatic. Many people seem obsessed with the cat poster but not so much with the other posters….find it rather interesting.

  • Mac Barbie

    Just curious for those that have posed on this site, have any of you been affected by lung cancer? Smokers or non smokers?

    • Emm

      My cousin, a non-smoker died from lung cancer. He was a circus carnie.

    • Gammame

      Yes Mac Barbie, I have been affected by lung cancer. I’m a nurse who cares for people everyday with the disease, I’ve also lost two close friends. So please don’t assume that people need to “get over it” if they seem offended by the campaign. It’s not just cat lovers who are offended, and if you read my last post to you, the poster said nothing about the Lung Cancer Alliance, NOTHING! It was very misleading, and my family and I thought it was some sick joke. You tell people that they need to research what it’s about, but the truth is, there are many people who are not able to do such research. Furthermore, you say it gets people talking, and you’re right, but don’t feel it’s for the right reasons. I’m sorry you were mis diagnosed, and I wish you well, in your recovery, but please don’t belittle those who “criticize the campaign”, It’s not about cat lovers, it’s about getting a message across to a larger population without making people wonder what it even means. Again, not everyone has the ability to decipher such a “clever” campaign.

  • Ah! I saw these ads on the sides of phones along Amsterdam Ave. but I was on the bus and I couldn’t get out to see what the heck they were about. They just seemed pretty mean and in poor taste and I didn’t even get or understand a reference.

  • Mac Barbie

     Many of you surprise me that you seem to care more about cats than human life. Many of you are calling this great non profit organization stupid, when in fact they have saved lives, and support many lung cancer victims, and changed legislation to help save more lives. I think it is more offensive when the medical personnel of America do not know the symptoms of non smoking lung cancer victims. We are misdiagnosed….because of the stigma of smoking and lung cancer. Please do your research before you say these things about Lung Cancer Alliance. Why do you wish bad things for them and the lung cancer victims….smoking or non. 200 women die a day from this horrific disease. Lung cancer is 40years behind in research… it seems many people think we should die. If it was you, your child or other relative you would possibly have a different opinion…because no one has been listening. Thank you for your time.

    • Gammame

      I understand the importance of how dangerous lung cancer is, and how tragic it is when any of us lose a loved ones to the disease. I must tell you though, the advertisement I saw had zero reference to the Lung Cancer Alliance, nothing, just a little symbol. I couldn’t figure out who would create such an advertisement. I was very confused to say the least. So I DID do my research, and found out who was behind the campaign, and have to say I became even more baffled. My point is, be it cats, hipsters, smug people, etcetera, they really needed to put at least the name of the organization on the poster to help people out.

  • Emm

    No, I think you hit the nail on the head. I went to art school and have several friends who wanted to get into advertising art but ‘settled’ in graphic design…
    So, I agree. The point is NOT well conveyed in these ads. They just make me ask, WHAT? And what is the point, cos I’m missing it!

    • Glad to hear most folks agree, though many of the comments I’ve seen on other articles/posts have been positive. Even from those who have had loved ones suffer from lung cancer….interesting…

  • Hello:

    My name is Keith Richard Radford Jr

    I have the most wonderful kitties and have done the best we can for them. We just lost one a 10 1/2 years old orange long haired beauty which was so sad to watch this long haired dear named Pumpkin” go. He had liver damage and for what ever reason from birth being a shelter rescue this cat had no fear and in the years we were his stop for food, threats and water while we were graced with his presence and knew him I watched him stare down a cat four times his size and win, be the catalyst for the others well being and hold on for as long as he could. His brother Lumpy is the one with the diabetes, a short hair oriental smoke talker with a love for all things in life and when a person pets this incredible wonder of nature from front to back his is pitch black and shines like a new Mercedes in the night on Sunset Boulevard or a Hudson parked in front of the Whisky on a Saturday night in May. When stroked from tail to head he is as white as the sand of a warm Fiji beach in October and loves being stroked as much as his sister NutMeg who has no time for for him most of the time but will kiss him just before lashing out, an amazingly beautiful green eyed dragon lady Calico that is our little spy, always in the windows of the house watching everything and reporting like we give a dirt clods worth what is going on out that window she finds everything important like a window seal sitting old lady telling the street sweeper they missed a spot and has never given us a moments trouble except when she decides to kick one of her brothers backside for something which for the life of us there seems to be no rhyme or reason for her choice of time for doing this. Watching her for 11 years+ now she would lick the poo right out of Pumpkin’s butt when he was not feeling well and rip the eyes out of Lumpy the younger by one year for being Lumpy for and for why we just don’t understand everything but they are who they are? We can’t figure it out but this fat doll of a kitty does what she pleases whether we are on the celling pleading with her or brushing her and giving her treats, she is always the same independent green eyed Devia monotypical genus we are just glad we have had the opportunity to know since they are all shelter kat’s. Enough with the background because if one of the two we now enjoy were to knock over a book shelf and and lose a leg or find out and understand how sin tax really puts a nations wealth in the pockets of clowns in other nations they would be different for sure the next day.

    Lumpy the loud black guy is now hooked on insulin as much as much as some guy down an ally with a big cushy chair and apartment full of dime bags of Heroin and a DEA badge handing out 1st time feel good hits to awaiting NY residents some he can get names to fuel a war on drugs and a nations people. This loud handsome old boy now likes his water with ice and won’t drink it without fresh ice in the cup or bowl. He likes a schedule and if he could get an apposing thumb would probably keep a white board and clock above his poo bin. We can’t understand why there is no other method of dealing with diabetes in kitties! I have diabetes and am not big on letting it stop me from living but I know it’s made me grumpy and short tempered, much like him so we are honored to be the ones to get him ice for his water like a nurse in a ICU helping someone knowing when delivering a cup of shaved ice to someone they are worthy of relief and someone cares, giving them a reason to hang on and heal. I mean we know it’s our fault to because we do give him food, right? We could just stop feeding him and his diabetes would go away right? WE could take him in and have him put down and some quite kill shelter right? We have added time with him he deserves because he was always watching NutMeg and Pumpkin take up all the lap time from a place at our feet on the floor while asking for nothing and often getting less. We have added 6 months from the time we almost lost him and took him to our Vet for diagnoses at the VAC animal hospital 2723 West Olive Avenue to see a specialist in the field of diabetes. She and her staff we amazing. Every day has ben an adventure. Retrospect~fully speaking isn’t that what some people do? We are sure they do but every day that he plays with his MaMa on the bed and everyday he asks for ice in his water and every day he chooses to grace us with his return of love, no mater how strange it may seem to us we know if he really wanted to go he would crawl under a house and die. We know his existence is is going to be a very short time and everything we can do to make up to him for him being the odd one out for so long is our duty. Pumpkin was always on my lap like a two golden eyed laptop kitty with his long flowing orange hair and his loving nature he spot with his eyes and a long vocalizing series of coos and purrs and just before he went he had the longest stare of commuication telling me goodbye and I spent the night with him in a box which we called him box kitty which was his choice to be in when ever there was one for his warmth then growing cold to find a place in a big city to take what was left it was a sad drive. Ever since his brother another shelter wonder Brack name after the Brack show cat on adult swim who was the gray sugar footed friend who came home with Pumpkin died of kitty aids (yes they get aides too) about ten years ago Pumpkin and NutMeg got all the attention. Now it’s our Lumpy boy’s turn for a while. NuttyMeg has her MaMa all the time and Lumpy’s got us to make up time he missed out on now till he decides like his friend Pumpkin to go. They are our little friends in the stream of time from the feline world of life. Ever day is our plus knowing these plush balls of fur and love. They tell us whats next with their eyes and by the looks of things he will be around for some more happy days which we treasure more than gold remembering Pumpkin’s eyes of gold more precious than a blue moon and his brother now alpha Lumpy now in the catbirds seat doing his best be our friend in life he makes me late to move the vehicle on street sweeper day with his need for a shot and his crying we would rather pay the ticket than let him down. Sure the pressure of his existence is real but so was Nixon’s and he died of old age. doesn’t Lumpy deserve that? We love our kitty’s no matter what. My wife can’t administer the shots. Heck she won’t even drive for the anxieties that she experiences having trauma in her life, and ever time Lumpy calls we answer the best we can in love.