Mexican student Ana Mariá Villalobos is proving that academic research can be far more eclectic then one might assume – her final research topic explores why cats are the most commonly used animals in commercials.
Ana joined Wittenborg University of Applied Sciences in 2015, gaining direct entry into the final phase of the IBA programme in Marketing & Communication. Before coming to the Netherlands, she had a colourful career in Mexico, including being an entertainment writer interviewing celebrities like Bradley Cooper and Robert Pattinson on the red carpet!
Why did you choose to study in Holland?
I like the education system a lot. The Dutch are very open-minded, always prepared to do things differently and think outside the box. They are known throughout the world for being innovative.
How does the education system differ from the one in Mexico?
In Mexico there is always someone guiding you closely through your studies, someone holding your hand so to speak. Holland is more individualist. What you put in is what you get out. Here you need to do things through the proper channels and on time!
What do you think about life in Apeldoorn?
If you want to experience the real Holland, Apeldoorn gives you the perfect opportunity. If you stay in Amsterdam, half of the city is international. Apeldoorn is also quiet, so it’s the perfect place to focus on your studies. I want to graduate in February 2017. My heart says I will.
Mexico is often portrayed by Hollywood as a type of Wild West. How true is that image?
Of course it is not like that! In most parts of the country people just go about their daily lives peacefully.
What do you think of Donald Trump’s promise to see to a wall being build between Mexico and the US if he’s elected American president?
I feel very sad about that. Not because of Donald Trump – he can have his own ideas – but about the people who support him and this idea of theirs that they are superior to other nations like Mexico. They think just because we are different from Americans, we shouldn’t be allowed to go there.
And compared to Trump you have a very hot president!
You are writing your final graduation assignment (thesis) on why cats are the most commonly used animal in commercials. How did you come up with the idea?
Well, I’m a cat-lover irrespective of my chosen field of research and work experience. Some time ago I saw a video on YouTube about catvertising – the use of cats in commercials. I liked the idea, because it made sense – cats are very intelligent and have a pronounced sense of individualism. When I came here, I found an agency in Amsterdam called Catvertise which is an animal casting agency that trains cats, dogs and other animals to appear in photography, commercials, TV productions, films, theatre or visual arts. I did my internship with them in the summer of 2015.
Afterwards, I started looking into the status of cats through the ages and saw that they have alwaays been held in high regard. Of course, they were also associated with witchery at some point, but when the Black Plague hit they were used to get rid of the rodents causing the plague and people saw they could also do good. They are seen as noble creatures. In modern times, commercial agencies quickly caught on to how people project certain human characteristics on cats and today they are used to sell everything from jewellery to cars and even condoms! That is how I decided on my thesis topic.
What was your job at Catvertise?
I worked mostly on the website, translating text from Dutch to English, and updated social media platforms. I was not involved with any training of animals but it was a nice experience. I think we need more companies like Catvertise – they care about the animals and are carving out a new role for animals. A starring role. That’s why I love Holland. In other countries they put animals in shelters and that’s it. It’s a new way to see the world, a new kind of entertainment.
Do you have a cat in Mexico?
I have 3!
Do you miss it all?
You know what, when you come here everything is wonderful, but no-one talks about what you sacrifice and what you are leaving behind. On the other hand, I came here because this is what I wanted and I will try to get the best out of the experience.
Would you like to stay on in Holland after your studies?
I would love to.
by Anesca Smith
©Wittenborg University Press