Andrew Lok
Jan 22, 2014

Cat people or dog people: Which do agencies need?

A possibly too-serious consideration of cat traits and dog traits vis-a-vis advertising agencies.

Andrew Lok
Andrew Lok

British agency VCCP created a charming campaign for telecoms brand O2 encouraging users to 'Be more dog, which explicitly stated that dogs, by their nature, have more fun than lethargic cats. It was a lovely piece of lateral thinking to showcase the brand’s services.

But I couldn’t help wondering if this rallying call to embrace the joie de vivre of man’s best friend falls short of being a sound comparative study. So in the spirit of taking things too seriously, I would like to consider how this dichotomy could be applied to an agency environment. Would cat traits or dog traits be more suitable to the creative ecosystem we call advertising?

Dogs learn to obey easily. Cats, not so much.

Agencies have the appearance of freewheeling arrangements, but underneath that chaos is a necessarily rigid decision-making structure. A creative decision is partly objective (Does it answer the brief?) and partly subjective (Is the answer fresh and impactful?). It’s that subjective part that requires successful agencies to be run like benevolent dictatorships. Lead, follow, or get out of the way.

(Dog – 1, Cat – 0)

Cats hunt. Dogs don’t.

Dogs were domesticated much earlier than cats, so most breeds have lost the hunting instinct. In the wilderness today that is the Internet, any agency person who thinks that daily meals are guaranteed, and that stalking new business is somebody else’s business, is deluded.

(Dog – 1, Cat – 1)

Cats are more mobile. Dogs are earthbound.

The leaping and climbing abilities of cats far exceed that of dogs. Cats, therefore, have more options when opportunities or threats arise. All too often, when a creative person fails to reach an elevated point of view, he resorts to his canine “fight or flee” instinct by getting defensive or simply walking out. Neither is usually productive.

(Dog – 1, Cat – 2)

Cats need meat and cannot fast. Dogs are scavengers and survivors.

Two decades in this industry, working through several booms and busts, have shown me that it’s always the person or agency with the most dogged desire to survive when things are down, who will most likely thrive when things are up.

(Dog – 2, Cat – 2)

Dogs need grooming. Cats don’t.

Cats are also easy to toilet train. Dogs are much less so. I can count with one paw all the bosses that ever groomed me for anything. Advertising is a discipline whereby one learns as much as one makes an effort to learn. No one is obliged to teach you how to think or dress or persuade better, and certainly no one is obliged to clean up your shit.

(Dog – 2, Cat – 3)

Cats can be left alone. Dogs need attention.

Dogs also need to be walked. Cats don’t. The last thing a busy agency needs is a needy employee.

(Dog – 2, Cat – 4)

Both are affectionate, depending on the owner.

What you give is what you get. While it would be nice if my team members adore me, it’s not a must as long as they respect me because I make the work better.

(A tie, add one point for each: Dog – 3, Cat – 5)

Dogs, unlike cats, will guard their owners.

Loyalty is reciprocal. Defend to the death he who feeds and cares for you. But if he should stop doing so, then you owe him nothing. That said, loyalty is a must in friendship, and it’s so much more fun creating campaigns with friends.

(Dog – 4, Cat – 5)

Dogs are social. Cats are not.

Advertising is unequivocally a people business. The aloof loner, however talented, will find it twice as hard as the gregarious go-getter to be a leader of the pack.

(Dog – 5, Cat – 5)

So there you have it. The debate is—as all good debates should be—unresolved.

(This essay is dedicated to Bubu, my devoted mongrel that always behaved like a cat. You were the best dog any boy could have had.)

Andre Lok is the founder of Civilization in Shanghai.

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