Let me level with you: I’m a dog person. In the age-old dog/cat debate, I will forever be cheering for dogs. I am the person who stops dog owners in the street in order to pet them (the dogs, not their owners); the girl who actively struggles to maintain adult conversation when there is a dog nearby.
The flip side of that, of course, is that I don’t really like cats. I find them to be aloof, haughty, and disconcertingly mysterious. They pale in comparison to the ever-loyal, cuddly, affectionate dog.
And yet, last weekend, at Clapham Common tube station, I found myself face-to-face with 68 adverts made up entirely of cat pictures. Unsure what to think? So was I. So I did what any reasonable person would do in such a situation, and googled it. Turns out that, thanks to a kick-starter campaign by Citizens Advertising Takeover Service (CATS, in case you missed that), £23,000 was raised to take over a tube station with pictures of rescue cats.
There’s so much that could be said about this: the people power behind the movement; the desire for change in advertising it represents; London’s borderline-obsession with cats… But the thing that really struck me was the power of adverts. I guess being confronted with 68 large pictures of cats will do that to you.
Even as I walked past all these cat pictures, you see, I found myself thinking that some of the cats were actually quite cute. This is not a thing I often consider, and I almost felt as if I was betraying my trusty Labrador back home. But if this short walk through one tube station had even slightly changed my perception of cats, what are the thousands of adverts I see every day doing to my perception of myself, my life and my consumer habits?
Jesus tells us that what we look at affects the health of our entire beings (Luke 11:34). In a culture which daily bombards us with thousands of adverts, how can we live distinctively in a way which doesn’t involve raising £23,000 and taking pictures of cats? There’s no denying that it’s a tricky line to tread. But imagine the powerful witness of acknowledging the effects of the consumerist, overly-sexualised and individualistic advertisements whilst also living out the better story of the gospel, which works itself out – at least in part – through contentment, community and grace.