Talking shelves are cool for cats

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The Independent Online
JONATHAN FOSTER

Supermarket shelves will this month begin speaking to shoppers through new marketing technology expected to send cat food sales through the roof, and those of a delicate dispositionbarking mad.

Any hapless trolley-pusher straying close to a Spillers product will hear voices from stacks of inanimate cans. Psychiatrists may later doubt the accounts, but victims from Peterhead to Newquay will swear they distinctly heard the shelf say: "Indulge your loved one with a can of new Spillers Purrfect. But remember, it's just for cats."

The marketing campaign, to be introduced at 60 Somerfield supermarkets, will not provide jobs for unemployed actors. Instead, pioneering Belgian technology devised a small box equipped with customer radar which begins broadcasting the message from behind an illustration of a replete pet.

Spillers decided it was time for cat food tins to break their silence after an outbreak of anthropomorphic thinking seized its marketing department.

The rationale for the new range is simple: human eating habits are changing, explained Richard Hodgson, senior brand manager. People eat fewer traditional "heavy" meals, more light, spicy meals. Consumption of red meats is decreasing as late 20th century manturns to white meats and fish. Therefore, cat food should reflect those changes in eating habits.

The logic is compelling: next, pine kernel and aubergine roast for the dog, and pasta with fresh basil for the goldfish.

The Purrfect range is being promoted through television advertisements in which a man mistakes the cat's dinner for his own. Recipes include salmon in prawn jelly or chicken in a savoury sauce, available at 49p for a 400g can from the talking supermarket.

Belgian shoppers have already proved obedient to "vox box" promotions.Yoghurt and hair care shelves regularly address monologues to customers. Over on toilet rolls, the Andrex puppy yaps in French and Flemish: "Why don't you take me home this weekend?"

Why the weekend is the time when Belgians are more inclined to use toilet paper remains a mystery, but Belgian bottoms were subsequently treated to 300 per cent more Andrex tissue.

British manufacturers can hardly wait to participate in the retailing bonanza. Jon Cooper, of Instore Marketing, said he had been inundated with inquiries.

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