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Virtual Felix was a viral marketing project I designed for Felix, a cat-food manufactured by Friskes Petfoods (part of Nestlee).

In late 1998 when I started work on the project, I was asked to make some kind of Internet advert for Felix that would require no infrastructure or commitment to technical support. That ruled out a lot of things we would normally do like banners and web sites.

Felix had already become Europe’s most successful cat-food brand in the UK, mainly through good product design (cats allegedly love the stuff) and innovative TV advertising. These ads featured a loveable black and white cat called Felix. He who would get up to all sorts of mischief but always be forgiven because he is so cute.

The strap-line of the campaign was “Cats like Felix like Felix”. This worked quite well because the Felix character was so like many real cats. Cat owners could identify with Felix, rather than the regal images of cats portrayed by other cat-food brands.

With such a strong personality on TV, the obvious thing to do was find a way of translating that to the Internet. At the time, Tamagotchi and Furby were the kewl Xmas gifts to get. Virtual Pets were all the rage.

Recently I had met a company called Adtools (now known as Indimi) who had perfected a technology for animating characters on a Windows Desktop. Using the Adtools Screenmates technology we able to build an animated character based on the TV cat. He could walk around the screen and interact with items on the windows desktop.

Our goal was to release it as a piece of Viral Marketing. However before we could make an official release, we learnt that an early beta version had been leaked. Such was the novelty of Virtual Felix, that people passed it on to each other quickly. By the time we learnt of the leak it was already everywhere.

Working on the Virtual Felix project gave me a good feeling, because I would often walk into other offices and see my work on people’s screens. I enjoyed the fact that although it was a commercial, people had chosen to see it. I had encouraged a giant corporation to do something that made people’s life more fun.

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