Years Later, We Still Love the Iconic Cowboys Herding Cats Commercial
America has changed a lot in the last 17 years. Politics, technology, and popular culture are so different from the turn of the century that it’s almost impossible to compare. However, there’s one thing that we can unequivocally say hasn’t changed: Electronic Data Systems’s (EDS) Cat Herders commercial is still one of the best.
The Cat Herders ad — which debuted during Super Bowl XXXIV in January 2000 — depicts a group of “rugged” cowboys waxing poetically on herding and rustling cats. The commercial’s visuals also show the group herding a large group of cats in the manner of a classic western cattle rush. The cinematography of the ad is heavily reminiscent of classic Hollywood western films.
The concept of the ad is built around that expression, “It’s like herding cats,” which generally refers to trying to control the uncontrollable. The cowboys successfully herding the cats is therefore analogous to EDS’s ability to solve seemingly unsolvable problems.
“Cat Herders” was a highly successful Super Bowl spot at the time. The Fallon Agency-produced spot won numerous awards including a First Boards Award, a Cannes Silver Lio, a bronze Clio, Advertising Age’s Best Visual Effects Award, and a silver EFFIE Award, and received an Emmy Nomination for Outstanding Commercial. In addition, then-president Bill Clinton cited it as his favorite Super Bowl commercial of the year.
The ad’s reputation has only grown over time. In a 2016 piece on memorable Super Bowl commercials, Linkdex said of the “Cat Herders” ad in retrospect:
“It’s all in the details though: from the cowboy using his lint roller on his jacket to the sublime rationale line, “In a sense this is what we do.” It’s the best of what ad agency Fallon was producing — funny, poignant and outsmarting the competition.”
The Linkdex piece also discussed the affect the ad had on EDS’s business, explaining, “Visits to eds.com quadrupled to nearly 2 million the Monday after the game and reached nearly 7 million in the week after the event, per a news release. The company estimated that for every dollar spent on Super Bowl advertising, it garnered a $5 to $7 return in media value.”
While the “Cat Herders” ad’s reputation has only grown over time, EDS itself no longer exists. The company was purchased by Hewlett Packard in 2008, and the name was phased out.