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Consultants are Like Cat Herders, One of the Funniest Super Bowl Commercials…Ever

By August 5, 2015 April 16th, 2018 No Comments
black and white, 6 cowboy ranch herders all on horseback, smiling at the camera, all supposed to work together like good consultants, like the consultants at EDS

If you are a consultant, were a consultant, worked with consultants, then you will definitely laugh at the EDS commercial from 2000. It is a great metaphor with a great message provided you are looking at with the mindset that EDS intended. The “other” mindset is that of the customer. Would the customer see themselves as cats that only care about themselves?

During my branding and messaging workshops, these videos ALWAYS provide for a fascinating and passionate discussion around messaging, effectiveness, and branding.

What few people know and/or remember is that EDS showed three commercials, as part of a trilogy. They included “Cat Herders,” “Airplane,” and “Running with the Squirrels.” Cat Herders and Running with the Squirrels were aired in Super Bowl XXXIV in 2000 and Super Bowl XXXV in 2001, respectively.

Below is the script of Cat Herders and the three Super Bowl video commercials. Below each of the videos is a brief background on the commercial itself.

Dialogue of EDS Cat Herders Commercial

Opening:  This man right here is my great grandfather. He’s the first cat herder in our family.

Music

Cowboy:  Herding cats. Don’t let anybody tell you it’s easy.

Cowboy: Anybody can herd cattle. Holding together ten thousand half wild short hairs – that’s another thing altogether.

Cowboy:  Being a cat herder is probably about the toughest thing I’ve ever done.

Cowboy:  I got this one this morning – right here. And if you look at his face, it’s just ripped to shreds, you know.

Cowboy:  You see the movies, you hear the stories – it’s…I’m living a dream. Not everyone can do what we do. I wouldn’t do nothin’ else.

Cowboy:  It ain’t an easy job but when you bring a herd into town and you ain’t lost one of them, ain’t a feeling like it in the world.

EDS Messaging

Messaging Text Appears:  In a sense this is what we do. We bring together information, ideas and technologies. And make them go where you want.

(Voiceover) EDS – managing the complexities of the digital economy.

Photography Source:  Wikimedia

Cat Herders

Video commercial for Electronic Data Systems (EDS) shown during the 2000 Super Bowl XXXIV. Created by Fallon Worldwide Agency in Minneapolis.

The commercial includes real cowboys and real cats. The cowboy’s dialogue is what they would actually say if they were talking about real cattle, the longhorns. Instead they are talking about the cats, the short hairs.

Based on a Book
The commercial was based in part on a book by Warren Bennis, “Managing People is Like Herding Cats: Warren Bennis on Leadership (Amazon)“.

From the AdAge site describing the commercial:

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.

Airplane

The second video commercial of three for Electronic Data Systems (EDS). Airplane was shown during the 2000 Thanksgiving Holiday Season following the huge success of EDS’ Cat Herders during Super Bowl XXXV. Created by Fallon Worldwide Agency in Minneapolis.

According to Marketing Campaign Case Studies:

‘‘Airplane’’ depicted a group of mechanics assembling an airplane while in flight. Like its predecessor, ‘‘Airplane’’ was a visual manifestation of a well-known business expression, in this case ‘‘building an airplane on the fly.’’

Explaining the spot’s connection and symbolism, David Lubars, then president and executive director at Fallon, as quoted over the PR Newswire, said, ‘‘This is the second commercial in the series. The first, ‘Cat Herders,’ talked about the importance of aligning a company’s scattered technologies and moving them in the right direction.

The message of ‘Airplane’ is a natural follow-up in that it answers the question, ‘Now I know what to do, how do I do it without messing up my company in the process?’

Running with the Squirrels

Video commercial for Electronic Data Systems (EDS) shown during the 2001 Super Bowl XXXV. Created by Fallon Worldwide Agency in Minneapolis. Developed to capture the momentum of the “Cat Herders” commercial shown in the 2000 Super Bowl XXXIV.

From the EDS Press Release

 EDS created “Squirrels” as the third in a series of metaphoric advertisements, joining the award-winning “Cat Herders” and the “Airplane” sequel. Like its predecessors, “Squirrels” uses humor to demonstrate EDS’ ability to help companies manage the complexities of today’s digital economy.

The commercial was shot on location in Pedraza, Spain with animal actors trained and filmed in California. “Running with the Squirrels” parodies the annual “Running of the Bulls” at the San Fermin Festival in Pamplona, Spain, made internationally famous by Ernest Hemingway’s novel “The Sun Also Rises.” “Squirrels” uses humor to reinforce the brand message launched anew by EDS last year.

“Squirrels” is the follow-up to EDS’ hugely popular “Cat Herders,” the Emmy-nominated commercial that debuted during last year’s Super Bowl, and “Airplane,” the spot that debuted this past Thanksgiving to highlight EDS’ ability to help companies transform digitally “on the fly.” It is a visual metaphor created to communicate that EDS can make its clients faster and more agile in today’s marketplace through the application of the right technologies.

Ira Koretsky

About Ira Koretsky

Ira Koretsky has built The Chief Storyteller® into one of the most recognized names in business storytelling. He has delivered over 500 keynote presentations and workshops in nearly a dozen countries, in more than one hundred cities, across 30 plus industries. His specialty is helping you simplify the complex and when the stakes are high. He is also an adjunct professor in public speaking and storytelling at the University of Maryland's Business School. With over 25 years of experience, he is a sought-after global speaker, trainer, consultant, and executive communication coach.