Morris returns to make most of his 9-Lives

Material World

September 09, 2001|By Jim Kirk | Jim Kirk,Special to the Sun

Morris the Cat -- one of America's enduring advertising icons -- apparently does have nine lives.

Absent from the small screen for at least six years, the finicky feline, who made his major TV debut in 1969 in ads by Leo Burnett Co., is coming back to network TV. And unlike past comebacks, this time the spokescat will be on the prowl for a good long while, executives at Pittsburgh-based Heinz Pet Products say.

A new 30-second campaign featuring Morris breaks today on network TV as part of Heinz's plan to launch its new 9-Lives canned Gourmet Meals line of cat food and rebrand its line of dry and canned cat foods.

Having spent next to nothing in advertising on the brand for several years, executives say they are boosting their consumer promotion budget to nearly $10 million, which will include a newspaper-inserts and public relations program in addition to the TV campaign.

In the campaign, a sunglasses-clad Morris is reintroduced behind a music-only track of Burt Bacharach's "What's New Pussycat?"

"Morris is an icon that people remembered, and not only just people in their 30s and 40s," said Roz Kennon, general manager of the pet food division. "The awareness never went away."

The 9-Lives brand split with Burnett several years ago. Morris made a brief comeback in 1995, but has been mostly relegated to public relations appearances while remaining on all 9-Lives packaging.

So what do we know about this Morris, which is believed to be Morris IV? He comes from a California shelter, spent the summer getting ready for the shoot and is handled by professional trainer Rose Ordile in Los Angeles.

Jim Kirk is a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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