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Animal Kingdom’s Human Hotline

A study undertaken at The University of Texas at Austin titled; ‘Advertising and The Cultural Meaning of Animals’ by Professor Barbara Phillip, revealed that animals can be catalysts for emotively resonant communication in commercials.

Viewers globally tend to make an instant connection with animals that can surround a brand with associations that evoke many different emotions, all of which can impact positively on the viewer.

The study concludes that animals in commercials = smart advertising.

The Budweiser ‘Friends Are Waiting Commercial’ is an excellent example of an evocative connection with an adorable canine.

1. Budweiser, Friends Are Waiting

Advertising Agency: Momentum Wordwide, New York, USA

This online, Public Service commercial about a young man and his Golden Labrador, was Directed by Gus Black.

Budweiser aimed to target active social media networkers in their twenties with their don’t drink and drive message and it certainly succeeded.

10.8 million online views were motivated in four days and the commercial rapidly went viral inceasing to 22 million views in the next two days on YouTube alone. Additional viewer interest was motivated by coverage of ‘Friends Are Waiting’ on all the major TV news channels.

The insightful use of ‘man’s best friend’ as an emotive message for all friends to employ designated drivers when out partying was powerfully resonant.

The soundtrack, featuring the song ‘When You Come Home’, was specially created for the commercial by Dan Rodriquez.

Animal Analogies and Metaphors

Languages globally abound with animal related analogies, metaphors, figures of speech and expressions that are used in daily communication. Expressed visually, animal analogies can be very effective in communicating a memorable brand benefit in commercials.

2. Mercedes-Benz S-Class, Magic Body Control

Advertising Agency: Jung von Matt/Neckar, Stuttgart, Germany

The complex functionality of the ‘Magic Body Control’ (MBX) suspension is cleverly demonstrated in a chicken analogy that’s easy to grasp and also amusingly memorable.

Superbly directed by Baniel Warwick, the commercial with its Diana Ross soundtrack of ‘Upside Down, Inside Out’ motivated 2 million views, 220,000 Facebook shares and 6000 tweets in 4 days.

3. Jaguar, Cat-Like Reflexes

Advertising Agency: Spark44, Los Angeles, California

To the great amusement of many viewers Jaguar U.S.A. decided to become a fun sparring-partner to their successful brand rival with this mischievously provocative parody.

Humanising Animals

‘Anthropomorphism’ is the academic term for the attribution of human traits and emotions to animals and is considered to be an innate tendency of human psychology. Treating our pet dogs and cats as ‘family’ or as ‘our children’ is referred to as ‘Furry Anthropomorphism’.

It is easy to understand why dogs are called ‘man’s best friend’. They have excellent memories, the ability to learn complex tasks, and an impressive capacity to understand human language, but what about cats? Why are they the single, most popular viewing subject on YouTube with an average score of 12,000 views per video?

According to scientist Nicholas Dodman, at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine in Boston, cats have practically identical sections in the brain to humans that control emotions. Experts may disagree about their depth and range, but they all confirm that our feline friends feel emotions not that dissimilar from people.

Humans connect instantly with all the relatable and personalised emotions of happiness, excitement, anger, playfulness and surprise that cats express or exhibit.

Anthropomorphism Romantics

Viewer reactions to the featured commercials add much credence to the claim that animals in commercials = smart advertising.

Like me, it seems that millions of animal lovers globally are addicted to anthropomorphism romantics and find the commercials as engaging as I do.

4. Cadbury Milk Chocolate, Gorilla

Advertising Agency: Fallon, London

Directed by Juan Cabrai, the Cadbury’s Gorilla commercial took Britain by storm. After it’s TV launch it was released online and six million YouTube viewers downloaded the film in two weeks.

The soundtrack features the great Phil Collins hit, ‘In the Air Tonight’.

According to a Case Study by D&AD, Fallon’s aim was to make the communication feel as good as eating the product itself. Their concept centered on establishing a new positioning for Cadbury as ‘producers of happiness’ by focusing on the benefit of their product.

The commercial went on to receive multiple Gold awards from numerous international advertising award shows including a Cannes Lion Film Grand Prix.

5. Samsung Gear VR, Ostrich

Advertising Agency: Leo Burnett, Chicago.

Directed by Matthijs Van Heijningen and featuring Elton John’s ‘Rocket Man’ as the soundtrack, the commercial is regarded by many industry professionals as one of the best ever to be made for Samsung.

The entertaining ‘Do What You Can’t’ story won 2 Bronze, 2 Silver and 3 Gold Cannes lions in the film craft category for best direction, visual effects and animation.

At the 2018 Art Directors Club of New York (ADC) awards show, Leo Burnett, Chicago, and video production service company AJZ in Los Angeles, California, took home three top prizes for ‘Samsung Gear VR, Ostrich’.

The awards are namely; a Gold Cube in the Online/Mobile Video category, a Gold Cube for Craft in Video/Cinematography, and a Gold Cube for Experiential Design.

6. Thinkbox, Harvey

Advertising Agency: The Red Brick Road, London

Thinkbox is the marketing and research body for commercial TV broadcasts in the UK.

Multi award-winning Andy McLeod directed this charming parody of discovering the power of TV advertising demonstrated by a dog’s home inhabitant named Harvey.

The soundtrack features Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s classic, ‘You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet’.

The commercial was an instant hit motivating 260 million broadcast TV views, a million online views, voted ‘Ad of The Year by ITV viewers and went on to win numerous advertising awards and industry accolades.

Harvey stole the nation’s hearts. His Facebook page attracted over 46,000 fans and for several years he was Thinkbox’s much loved brand personality until his well-earned retirement.

7. Coca-Cola, Share a Coke With Bobby

Advertising Agency: Draftfcb, Santon, Johannesburg, South Africa

Directed by Greg Gray and filmed on location in Johannesburg, the commercial is an extension of the highly successful Australian conceived ‘Share a Coke’ integrated marketing and communication campaign that centered on the personalisation of Coke products by co-branding them with popular names.

The commercial, featuring British garage-punk-pop band Ting Tings’ hit tune “That’s Not My Name” as the soundtrack, was aired in numerous European countries and the UK to hugely popular acclaim. Bobby, the adorable black-and-white border-collie-cross-pit-bull, won millions of viewer’s hearts.

8. VW Tiguan Trailer Assist, Laughing Horses

Adverting Agency: Grabarz & Partner, Hamburg

Directed by Bart Timmer, this amusing and very watchable commercial was launched on YouTube and it rapidly went viral to become Volkswagen Germany’s most successful online commercial debut of all time motivating 40 million views and 69,000 likes.

The remarkable online achievement resulted in the decsion to flight the commercial on TV where it was equally succesful and it went on to win a bevy of awards from The One Show and New York Festivals.

9. Mobile Provider 3 UK, Moonwalking Pony

Advertising Agency: Wieden+ Kennedy, London

The commercial by renowned Film Director Dougal Wilson, features Shetland pony Socks dancing to the tune of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Everywhere’.

It rapidly became an an Internet hit with more than seven million people viewing it on YouTube in the first week.

10. Freeview Digtal TV Service UK, Cat and Budgie

Advertising Agency: Leo Burnett, London

Freeview is a digital terrestrial television platform and the name implies, is a broadcast service that provides free-to-air televison channels to UK audiences.

Excellently directed by Ne-O, this highly popular and lauded commercial features a cat and a budgie singing Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s ‘You’re All I Need To Get By’.

11. Honda Ridgeline, New Truck To Love

Advertising Agency: RPA (Rubin Postaer and Associates), Santa Monica

Directed by Oscar nominated Bryan Buckle, this memorable commercial amusingly features a flock of sheep singing the Queen classic ‘Somebody to Love’ and highlights the Honda Ridgeline’s unique audio system.

11. Air New Zealand, Pete’s Discovered a Better Way To Fly

Advertising Agency: True, Auckland, New Zealand

Crafted by much lauded Film Director Paul Middleditch and featuring the voice of actor Sam Neill, the commercial is part of a campaign that effectively establishes Pete the talking Kiwi, as the iconic spokesperson for Air New Zealand.

Pete charmingly transforms Air New Zealand’s travel information into memorable communication persuasiveness.


13. Volkswagen Golf, Hedgehogs

Advertising Agency: Agence V, Paris

Even though this computer generated, award-winning animation commercial was produced more than a decade ago, to me the romanticised story still resonates with emotive relevance.

Directed by Special Effects Akama Studio’s Alexandre Ada, the soundtrack features ‘Alice’s Theme’ from the ‘Alice In Wonderland’ dark fantasy adventure film directed by Tim Burton.

14. Volkswagen Golf, The Making of Hedgehogs

VFX/CG Supervisor: Stephane Montel

I found this ‘behind the scenes look’ at the painstaking production preparation and development of the commercial from storyboard to final visualisation to be a very rewarding watch.