You’ve Cat to be Kitten Me: A Quick Lesson on Cats in the Media

I recently switched desks, moving to another section of the office.

As I broke a sweat hauling a bookshelf, client folders, pictures and knick-knacks to my new space, I realized how much of my stuff is cat-related.

Cat butt magnets.
My day-by-day tear-off calendar.
A sticky note dispenser.

(Mind you, these things were given to me. Okay, except the cat butt magnets.) But it isn’t just the tangible “stuff” that’s cat related, it’s also my social media feeds, news sites, emails, TV news segments, GIFs and more.

We all know that dogs are America’s favorite pet. But, IMHO, cats are the ones that are dominating digital media… search algorithms and Google crawlers aside. Nearly two million cat videos were posted to YouTube in 2014 alone, resulting in almost 26 billion views. That year, cat videos received more views per video than any other content category.

For example, since being posted in 2007, Keyboard Cat has received more than 48 million views (and counting) on YouTube. These countless hours of watching cat videos have led to some interesting research.

In a survey of nearly 7,000 people, the Indiana University Media School measured the relationship between watching cat videos and mood. Overall, participants reported fewer negative emotions such as anxiety, annoyance and sadness after watching cat-related online media than before. They also felt more energetic, and the pleasure they got from watching cat videos outweighed the guilt they felt about procrastinating (#preach).

These views, videos and memes eventually led to the world’ first CatCon, held in Los Angeles in June 2015. Modeled after ComicCon, the “cat convention” attracted 12,000 people that year. This year, the crowd topped 30,000, plus 162 cats.

In the media, cat-related stories tend to go viral. Per BuzzFeed’s “Beastmaster,” the average feline story gets almost four times the viral views as canine. That’s not even going into the social media behind it.

Hashtagify reports #cat having a popularity score of 76.2 (never fear, #dog is right up there at 75) on Twitter. However, it looks like cats aren’t spending as much time on Instagram. On the platform, #cat has a mere 124 million posts, compared to #dog’s 147 million.

hashtags data by

So, what’s a marketer to do with all of this information?

  1. Cat content works – well, really anything furry and cute works. Users can’t resist liking and sharing animals on the internet. Even in terms of B2B social media, don’t be afraid to break through the clutter with furry content. A cat GIF is sure to spark more engagement and produce more smiles.

  1. Cats are your competition – there are thousands of memes, GIFs and videos out there competing for attention. Use this as a way to challenge yourself to think outside the box when it comes to your strategy. At EMA Boston, we do our best to surprise people. This GIF was sent agency-wide to express this idea… it’s the perfect example.
    1. Animals trigger the emotional appeal of your brand and there is a direct connection between sales volume and the emotional connection your consumers have toward a brand. Build a friendship with your audience by using good humor or a soft story – remember this Super Bowl commercial?



    1. Millennials love cats (or cat content). If your brand is looking for a way to reach millennials, a good cat-themed campaign may do the trick. According to a survey by Mintel, 51 percent of Americans in their 20s and 30s have cats. Just sayin’.


    1. Marketing can be fun, people. Do we need another super-serious graphic filled with stats about the user journey or decline in white paper consumption? If you enjoy your own company’s marketing, guess what? Others probably will too.


    1. As the winter grows darker and colder, and SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder – Google it) begins to kick in, start watching cat videos. It’s cheap therapy. In the meantime, enjoy this cute picture of my feline friend.


Advertising is the art of making whole lies out of half-truths. -Edgar A. Shoaff

When thinking about camping, a landscape of beautiful lush green trees and gathering around a fire comes to mind. This was very true for the first leg of our trip.

Last month, we set off on a family adventure from New England to Williamsburg, VA towing our 23’ hybrid (Big Roo) camper. The thick woods of Williamsburg were absolutely beautiful. In one week we visited Historic Jamestown, the Yorktown battle fields, Colonial Williamsburg and Bush Gardens. Everyday was a relaxing excursion.

For the trip home we decided to stop off in Pennsylvania and chose a campground after doing some research on the Internet.

As we approached our destination, the GPS guided us down a narrow road that had a HUGE power plant on one side and lead us over cargo railroad tracks. Thinking we must have made a wrong turn when suddenly, just ahead, we saw the campground sign. My husband laughed and said, “This is going to be fun!”. Thankfully it was only a few nights after leaving the beautiful woods of Williamsburg.

We set up in what looked like a field of campers – we could reach out and touch the camper next to us. The smell of cow manure was in the air on the hot summer evening. The grounds looked like we had entered a flea market – old mirrors thrown up at the end of the water slides, trash cans with cut-out gas tanks as a lid, common area buildings falling apart. Behind the pool was a foam pit (sounds like fun!) but upon exiting the pit, the staff sprayed everyone down with a massive hose. Think of a prison scene when the inmates are getting deloused…yes this happened and our son had blood gushing from his arm after falling in the pit. (That didn’t stop the spray down!)

As evening approached, we sat by the fire looking back at the website for the campground in disbelief. They hired a great firm because the photos online looked beautiful and nothing like the grounds. The agency should win an ADDY for pulling it off. In the eyes of my eight and nine year-old, “We had a lot of things to do, but the campground was a dump! Why would anyone come back here?”. Well kids, it’s all about the advertising!

How to Survive a Tradeshow on a Broken Foot

The sun was shining. There was a crisp bite in the air that signaled winter was soon approaching. I rounded the corner on Heath Street (riding my beautiful mint green 2016 Genuine Buddy Scooter), on a mission to get to a couple of media meetings, when suddenly… I flipped.

After a brief five seconds on the ground, facing oncoming traffic, the adrenaline kicked in. As people started to crowd around me and help move my scooter away from the Green Line train tracks, I jumped up.

Do we need to call the ambulance?!” one guy shouted at me.

No! Please don’t. I’m fine.” I said.

Luckily, my scooter was unscathed. I hopped back on and very carefully (at 5 mph) got myself to the media meetings and gave the reporters walking tours of two large hotels.

After a weekend of limping around, two x-rays and an MRI, I learned that I fractured four bones on the top of my foot and was sentenced to six weeks in an air cast.

Six. Weeks.

Stephanie Ross sits on her scooter at RSNAWhile the boot put a damper in my wardrobe, it also put a damper in my schedule. I had a tradeshow in Chicago in two weeks, and not just any tradeshow – the largest radiology meeting in the world, drawing 58,000 attendees annually. I was worried I was going to miss it. It was an opportunity to meet face-to-face with my Sweden-based client and a first experience for me with tradeshow media interviews.

I had to go. And where there’s a will… there’s a way.

My colleagues, client and family were reluctant to see me go. Trade shows are on-your-feet, exhibit hall-giant, evening event experiences. Still, I made my way to Chicago and spent three days with my crutches and my client. Was it tiring? Yes. But was it worth it? Absolutely.

Here are 5 tips for how to survive a tradeshow with a broken foot:

 1.     Triple check with your airline about special assistance.

Call your airline ahead of time requesting wheelchair service on both legs of your trip. Make sure they will have a wheelchair waiting for you at the gate when you arrive. Then, call again to make sure everything is set – wheelchairs, pre-boarding and arrival. Sometimes, they forget to enter it or there is some sort of miscommunication that forces you to not get pre-boarding and hobble alongside the inpatient passengers (I’m looking at you, American Airlines). Pro tip: remember to carry cash to tip the employees who wheel you around – it’s not an easy task.

2.     Rent a scooter or wheelchair

Ahead of your tradeshow or conference, check the website for accessibility services. Most of the time, these large venues allow you to rent a scooter so you can zoom around. The rental was $50/day and it was extremely worth it. I was able to scoot around the tradeshow floor to meet with different reporters and exhibitors (and I was never late, since the scooter was wicked fast).

3.     Wear a comfortable shoe

That’s right. Shoe – singular. You depend so much on your healthy leg when you have a broken foot, it’s important you wear a shoe that’s comfortable. Learn from my mistake: that cute black, Italian leather heel that you thought would even out your lopsided stance doesn’t.

4.     Identify spots for you to sit during slow booth time

Similar to locating the nearest emergency exit when boarding a plane, you should locate the nearest chair, bench, table or clean floor for you to sit. Tending to a booth at a trade show is tiresome – you’re on your feet for hours at a time. If the healthiest feet need rest, you better believe your broken foot will need some too.

5.     Use the boot to network

As I stood at my client’s booth, my foot and I were met with sympathetic glances that soon turned into friendly introductions. I can’t tell you how many times I had to answer the question: “how did it happen?” However, one of the positive outcomes was how many booth visitors we engaged with because of the ugly, gray boot.

Can you wear the boot again next year?” my client asked.

“Sure,” I said, “Maybe.”

(Disclaimer: I’ve been boot-free for 46 days and counting. The boot, however, was unable to introduce me to or attract potential boyfriends. Bummer.)

The Tom Brady Suspension To-Do List

Dear Tom,Tom Brady

We know it’s been a rough week for you and the Patriots. As it stands, you’re looking at a pretty lengthy time-out when the season starts. And since you won’t even be allowed into the stadium to watch, you’re going to have a mountain of free time. What’s a multi-millionaire quarterback to do?

Well, here at HB we know a thing or two about being under pressure, so we pulled together ideas for you to pass the time and keep yourself pumped up during your suspension. And don’t get too deflated at the prospect of not playing for a few games – have a read of our thoughts and get a gauge on your interest.

Let’s start with the obvious: the PR lessons from Deflategate. Our Spring 2015 Intern (and native New Yorker) Ryan Yuffe had some thoughts about how the team could recover from the scandal. It might be time to revisit these – perhaps before the bosses decide to write another 20,000 word rebuttal.

Maybe you’re so disillusioned by the entire affair that you’re considering a career change. Chuck Tanowitz’s thoughts on your old resume might help when you’re refreshing that CV. Your brand has changed a little bit, Tom – you might want to focus a little more on the four Super Bowl rings rather than on the golf club experience.

If you’re thinking of kicking back and remembering the good times with a replay of this year’s Super Bowl, might we suggest including the commercial breaks? They’re usually just as enjoyable as the football (more so if you were a Seahawks fan at Super Bowl XLIX), and this year Julia Bucchianeri reckons we saw some pretty amazing shifts in Super Bowl marketing.

Spring is in the air, Tom and some fresh air could do you some good. Especially if you’re not playing for a while. Why not do some gardening, or volunteer work, or both? We tried our hand with the crew from City Sprouts, and it was a great chance to dig in and do some good. Plus, you might run into your buddies from the Patriots locker room – I heard they’re on gardening leave!

I jest, Tom. I imagine you’re sick of all the attention, and feel like getting out of the country for a while. We can help there, too. If you ask Catherine Ahearn, she’ll probably suggest London, where she spent a whirlwind few days earlier this year with our IPREX colleagues. But if Blighty doesn’t suit you, we can get recommendations from almost anywhere else, thanks to our huge network of IPREX partners in more than 30 countries.

If you just can’t keep your head out of the game, and want to mentor your replacement, we have something to help there, too. Why don’t you share my 6 tips for joining a new team with Jimmy Garoppolo to make sure he’s as ready as can be? (Pro tip: I think Gronk would make a GREAT Patriots Buddy.)

So there are a few ideas to consider during your time off. But Tom, if you’re really not into any of these ideas you can always intern with us this summer. We love it here, and that’s not a load of hot air – here’s a Buzzfeed post outlining just how cool it can be to work at HB.

Yours, with tongue firmly in cheek,

Alex Jafarzadeh

Newly converted fan of the New York Jets,
and stubbornly persistent football* fanatic.

*alright, soccer.

Beers, Burgers and Boillot

Here at HB we’re thankful for a lot of things. From our colleagues who make us laugh everyday and push us to be better, to our family and friends for their love and support, and for our clients for their partnership, we’re so grateful for the amazing people in the HB community.

We’re also thankful for some not-so-typical things like music in the office for creativity and healthy debate, hats and gloves for our California transplants and burrito blankets. Watch our video to see what else we’re thankful for this year.

Wishing you and yours a very happy and healthy Thanksgiving!

It’s OK to say “No”


The Pontiac Aztek remains a perennial punchline. So much so that when the writers of Breaking Bad wanted a car to exemplify just how much of a loser Walter White is at the start of the series, they gave him the Aztek. The Aztek checked all the right boxes.

As Former General Motors CEO Bob Lutz said in a recent Road & Track interview, the Aztek was born in a company committed to innovation and was a “vehicle that achieved all its internal objectives.” Yet, it still landed on Time Magazine’s 50 Worst Cars of All TimeThe truth is, the Aztek wasn’t a result of bad thinking, it was a result of never hearing “no.”

Says Lutz:

The guy in charge of product development was Don Hackworth, an old-school guy from the tradition of shouts, browbeating, and by-God-I-want-it-done. He said, “Look. We’ve all made up our minds that the Aztek is gonna be a winner. It’s gonna astound the world. I don’t want any negative comments about this vehicle. None. Anybody who has bad opinions about it, I want them off the team.” 

This isn’t just a problem for a major company like GM, it’s a huge problem in the world of communications consultants like HB. We pride ourselves on our collaborative method of doing business. We want our clients to say “HB is our partner and a valuable extension of our team.” It’s also why we often say “no” when a client wants to walk down a path we think would be harmful. Nevertheless, we all easily fall into the trap of doing things just because the client asked. After all, clients pay the bills and if they want it, we do it, right?

While there are certainly times when we can easily say “yes” to a request, we can serve our clients better if we pause to ask smart questions. Who are you trying to reach? What information is this supposed to communicate? What behavior are you hoping to change? How will you measure impact? More importantly, how can we make sure the initiative achieves its goals.  In these cases, diplomacy is key. So is integrity and the willingness to earn our keep by increasing every investment’s likelihood of success.

Maybe the Aztec should serve as a warning to agencies that want to foster a collaborative relationship. When collaborating just means saying yes because the person on the end of the line is “the client,” bad products and even worse marketing campaigns can be the outcome. When we foster a collaborative relationship with our clients where we can feel comfortable saying, “No, but we have an alternative,” award-winning work is likely to result.

#HBerTakeover: Get to know the names, faces and personalities behind HB

Check out how our HBer’s live their daily lives – whether it’s standing on the sidelines cheering for the QB, mastering the Bo Staff as a black belt, or kicking back with Brad Garrett on a Friday night…HBer’s never have a dull moment.

Over the course of the next six months, the HB team will show our followers what happens in our lives, both in and out of the office.

Each week, a different HB team member will take over the HB Instagram. Think of it like an all-access pass to HB and our people (with a Valencia or Hefe filter for special effects).

Check out some of our photos posted so far @hb_agency or #HBerTakeover!



PR Advice for April Fools and Beyond: Lighten Up, But Keep it Real

"Ceci n'est pas une pipe bomb." by oztenphoto

“Ceci n’est pas une pipe bomb.” by oztenphoto, a tribute to Boston’s overreaction to a too-clever marketing campaign

Well, it’s that time again: time to sift through your inbox and tweet stream, figure out what’s real and what’s not, and maybe laugh a little in the process. Yep: it’s April Fools Day, the national holiday of marketing professionals (even for us no-frills Bostonians).

To prepare for today, I’ve spent the last couple of days reading up on hoaxes, hacks and hilarity. I also re-read my copy of Ryan Holiday’s Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator, the bible of all modern prospective media hoaxters.

Holiday earned quite the reputation after coming clean with some of his bigger, more underhanded media campaigns. This 25-year-old marketing pro reminds every would-be viral marketer that competition in today’s market for attention comes from every possible corner. Or, put more concisely by Holiday in an interview with Chase Jarvis, “porn is a click away at any given moment.”

Making a headline-grabbing April Fools campaign is a lot like becoming the center of attention at a large, noisy social gathering: you have to use everything at your disposal. The two most important assets at a cocktail party are looks and voice. Let’s explore each.


Humans evolved to respond to visuals. If it moves, we tune it in. Once we’ve tuned it in, if it’s visually pleasing, we stay tuned in. Magicians take advantage of it to amaze us. Marketers have known this since the dawn of advertising. Our fascination with visuals is what makes YouTube the number two search engine in the world. It’s what leads Facebook’s “EdgeRank” algorithm to favor images over links and text when deciding what to show in you news feed.

The more popular of today’s hoaxes will have a visual element. A few of my favorites from recent years included clever visuals, including these two from Starbucks and Google:

Google, by the way, isn’t slacking off this year. Fresh off of the furor around killing Google Reader, it has announced it’s killing YouTube next…

However important sight is, we’re easily distracted by shiny objects. If you want to keep our attention, you have to use your voice.


The next most important thing in a cocktail party is your voice. Loud voices carry, but humans are damn good at tuning people out. In fact, there is an entire area of study in science devoted to studying this so-called Cocktail Party Effect. Volume might help at first, just like sight does, but if what we hear doesn’t interest us, we’ll move on quickly.

Finding your right voice takes a lot of time, but focusing on stories — and more specifically on the “why” — is an important step toward figuring that out.

When it comes to April Fools, you must ask yourself whether your corporate voice has room for playful or dark humor. And you must have a very clear sense of the risk tolerance of your organization and industry.

Lighten Up, But Keep It Real

My advice for anyone considering jumping on this bandwagon next year? If you want to get seen, find the right imagery. If you want to be remembered, find your voice. And if you want to be remembered for the right things, lighten up and keep it real.

Lighten up by allowing some use of humor. It grabs us. And it helps us remember you. Try it out today. See how it feels. If it fits, use it again next year. If it was effective, think about ways in which you can deploy humor throughout the year. But be careful!

Keep it real. Everybody knows not to trust news releases on April 1st. But when April 2nd rolls around and you’re still in a laughing mood, make sure that you’re laughing with your community, not at them. Humor comes at the expense of someone, and that someone should be yourself. Laughter makes us human, and companies that can laugh — especially at themselves — feel real.

Smell you later!

Google Smell