MY FIRST CELEBRITY COMMERCIAL. VIEWERS LAPPED UP YOGI TALKING TO THE ONLY CAT WHO COULD PITCH WITH A LONG ISLAND ACCENT.
In 1962, Yankee catching great Yogi Berra, a pussycat of a man, starred in a beautifully photographed TV spot talking to a cat doing fantastic exercises on a trampoline, to show how fit he was. Then, shot from behind, the cat talked up a blue streak, bobbing and weaving, as the Yogi listened patiently. "I work out every day. Gym, roadwork, you know." When Yogi questions the source of the cat’s energy, he gets a tome from the cat on Puss ’n Boots, winding up with, "Yogi, you know I was once a five-pound weakling. Then I started eating Puss ’n Boots. Now look at me!" – followed by a Yogi punchline: "Who knows more about cats than Puss ’n Boots?!" The charming juxtaposition of the bearish Yogi Berra engaged in a dialogue with a pussycat was a visual tour de force as the cat’s verbal wisdom convinced viewers that a real discussion was taking place. The voice of the cat, as any real baseball fan knew, was Yogi’s famous batterymate Whitey Ford. (The young actor I used in a test commercial to prove to my client that the visual concept of a TV interview with a cat would be convincing was the then aspiring actor Alan Alda, who was a riot. But as tempting as it was to use the unknown Alda, I knew that the totally fresh use of an unlikely celebrity...sells.)