Animal crackers

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AUCKLAND, Sunday: “Why use animals in advertisements?” wonders Herald on Sunday business columnist Paul Catmur – at his dry best – in yesterday’s edition.

“Animals are often used over people,” he says, “because …

  • They’re cheaper.
  • They’re more fun to have on set.
  • People identify with them better. I know this seems counter-intuitive, but if you cast a human in an ad, consumers will say: ‘That person is nothing like me, what were those stupid advertisers thinking?’ Whereas if you use an aardvark, consumers will say: ‘Oh, what a cute aardvark, I can really identify with that!’

The Gold Standard in advertising: easy to train, fun to work with. Famous dogs include Spot from Telecom and Wilson from Lotto.

A poor man’s dog: hard to train, sulky prima-donnas who tend to get a bit scratchy.

Easy to train when hungry, but lazy buggers the rest of the time. Watching on set as a trainer poked a lion on the bottom to try and make him do something interesting was a nervous moment.

Similar to lions only better looking. I asked our leopard trainer (Doc Antle, who subsequently appeared in the Tiger King doco) whether it was cruel keeping his animals enclosed, albeit in big spaces. Doc believed that the life of any animal in the wild was often unpleasant and dangerous whereas his animals were well fed, had full medical attention and had experiences which their relatives in the wild never would.

Clumsy and monochromatic, but never forget their lines.

Automatically funny owing to waddle and silly beak, they can quack on command; the only problem is then getting them to shut up. They make a great duck à l’orange if things aren’t working out.

Their sinister look combined with a limited acting range means they are usually cast as baddies. Surprisingly easy to handle on set as they can be instantly calmed by placing a wet towel over their eyes. (This technique is probably worth trying on your kids.)

Very hard to work with. Just about everything that moves eats them, which makes them paranoid and rather skittish. It’s generally easier to paint stripes on a horse.

Everyone loves their shiny red bum but the baboon’s propensity to rip the head off anyone who looks at them a bit wrong limits their use.

Gentle giants, but things can go south quickly if they don’t get their way. You’re better off putting an actor in a gorilla suit.

A tricky bunch. Hard to train, demanding, frequently unattractive and inclined to be a little moany on set. Their main advantage over animals is that they’re unlikely to actually pee on the cameraman, although there are exceptions.

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