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Animals in advertising – Frogs & Toads
Amazingly, about a third of our samples relate to a charac­teristic of the frog shown! Whether it is colour, size, habi­tat, or behaviour, the product either has it, or it doesn't.

In almost as many cases, the animal represents nature, or the environment.

Most of the rest refers to Grimm's fairy tale and then the frog is used to illustrate escape from limitation, a change for the better, or excellence. There is then a certain resem­blance to the usage of goldfish.

first published: vi.2022

First we have
some explaining to do about Grimm's fairy tales about frogs, and kings, and princes and princesses. The first edition of Grimm's Kinder- und Hausmärchen contained two similar stories: the Frog King, and the Frog Prince (but then in German) . In the former the princess threw the frog against the wall of her bedroom and this triggered the magic. In the latter story the frog became a prince after they slept together for three nights. In 1823 in the first English translation, both stories were combined into one, with the beginning of the Frog King and the conclusion of the Frog Prince. There was still no trace of the magic kiss which is only documented in variants from the end of the 19th century .

It goes without saying that smashing frogs against the wall, or sleeping with them, unmarried, doesn't do any good for a brand's image. So copywriters are happy enough to forget the original and only work with the kiss.

(1) 2003 – Dare to create — picture agency.
(2) 2003 – Changes with a kiss — notebook computer.

Let's start with
an advert which stays very close to the kissing story (1). We are shown a mature princess ready to kiss a frog. The scene is supported with the caption Dare to create, which was the slogan of Zefa at that time. I have no idea how to read this advertisement. Has it something to do with the acquirement, in 2001, of Beneluxpress by Zefa and its mother company? And is Zefa then the princess who will make a beautiful prince of Beneluxpress, now considered a frog? Unlikely, especially since we are in 2003, which is two years after the merger.

Is the image chosen in order to support the slogan? That is not very successful either. In the fairy tale, the princess does not create a prince from a frog. With her kiss she breaks the spell of which the prince is the victim: no creation here, only undoing. Conclusion: could be better for a sector that prides itself on its creativity.

The creators of
the advert (2) for the notebook computer also refer to the kiss. They have it rightly about change and not about creation. The frog changes with a kiss and their computer turns with a twist from notebook into tablet: just like magic.

(3) 2000 – The new prince — large format printer.
(4) 2007 – Kissed enough frogs? — job advert
(5) 1997 – Convince the woman of your dreams — mobile phone.

The advert for
the large format printer (3) makes no allusion to any (magical) metamorphosis. Instead the new prince refers to the exceptional quality of this printer, its speed and reliability compared to other devices. The fairy tale is present, though, because the output shows a giant Red eyed Tree Frog sprinkled with the invitation Kiss me!

In Kissed enough frogs?
(4) the roles of prince and princess are reversed. At least in the image. The first line of the body text provides for both directions: Who wants to marry a prince(ss), needs to kiss many frogs … Although I know about fairy tales where the frog is a princess, or a witch, I am not aware of stories where the prince needs to kiss the frog in order to make the transformation happen.

It is a jobadvert placed by a company which is, says the advert: an extremely creative and refreshing communication agency. They certainly play above my level of creative understanding: I have no idea what kissing frogs has to with creativity and Desk Top Publishing.

The mobile phone
of advert 5 from 1997 gives you 10 hours of continuous talk time to ask Cindy Crawford for her hand and also 170 hours of uninterupted standby time waiting for her answer. The humorous approach continues with: Well, if you can't have the woman most men dream of, you still have the cell phone. So, you, the reader, are the toad. A rather strange statement to a potential customer. There is also no chance that the toad's (i.e. your) appearance will change for the better by a kiss from the princess (role played by Cindy) or by using the telephone. All by all a weird approach.

(6) 199x – Turn into a fairytale prince? — credit card
The next two
adverts (6, 7) refer to the transformation element of the fairy tale.

The credit card on offer (6) has so many advan­tages that the reader, impersonated by the frog, wonders: Can the card also turn me into a fairytale prince?

Follow the right course (7) and you will Trans­form yourself into a ICT power user! Once again you, the reader, are considered a toad. They don't seem to realize that the skills learned in this case (proficiency with software) will not affect one's appearance.

(7) 2005 – Transform yourself
— ICT training for end users.
(8) 2005 – The magic of ICT
— ICT training for professionals.

Discover the magic world of ICT!
(8) doesn't mention transformation and I therefore consider it slightly better than the previous advert of the same company. Question remains: who, or what, is the crowned toad? You, the reader; the quality of the training; the world of ICT which will be yours in all its splendour afterwards? Who can tell?

A short word about the use of magic world. I am not entirely happy with the usage in this context. The world of ICT is indeed full of magic, weird behaviours, and unexpected results. Therefore magic world, meaning a world producing illusions, may very well be adequate, but I would rather prefer a magical world, a world which is enchanting by its possibilities, not by its creations —which should be very sharply defined and behave like expected.

A final word about the colour cast of the toad in 7 and 8. The poor animal changes colour with the text. A clear case of a press operator, or prepress department not quite mastering their trade. Unless, of course, the cool blue is by purpose and meant to appeal more to the professionals. But even then, the blueish of the background should not affect the animal.

(9) 1999 – Break the spell — communications services
(10) 2001 – Seamless communications — communications services

We have another
crowned amphibian (9, 10) in two adverts a couple of years apart, both for the same company which is active in the ICT sector. Again, I have no idea how to read this advertisement. Break the spell seems to suggest that some dark force has made it impossible for you to communicate globally. Kind of like the princely frog who was also limited in his options. But as I see it, unlike for the poor prince, no spell was cast to mess up your contact with the rest of the world. From the body text of the advert it emerges that whatever you wish for your global communications their solutions will make it happen. So to illustrate the link between your wish and we make it happen a magic wand (which does magic and may create) would be better suited than an allusion to the breaking of a spell (which is a reversal of the magic).

In a later run of the advert (10) a second panel was added and an attempt was made at some humour. Long legs in stockings accompanied with Seamless communications and communications that are snag-free. Would they still dare such an approach 20 years later?

(11) 2003 – The growth of your network provider — network solutions.
(12) 2001 – A chance for them and for you — lottery.

With our next
example we are leaving the world of fairy tales and magic. But we stay a while longer in the communication world with No. 11. A small frog is shown with the caption: If this reminds you of how much your network solutions provider can grow, … The text then continues with You'd jump at any chance to make your business grow. … and … make your company hop far enough. We have the keywords jump, and hop, and we have the fingertip sized frog. The frog stands for the limitations of your current telecom possibilities. The idea is straightforward.

The small print however is confusing, to say the least. Occasionally an advertisement tries to learn us something about the species shown (see f.e. Giraffe, Bats, Dolphins). In the case at hand the tiny brown frog comes accompanied with the following information: The Red Eyed Tree Frog is distinct because of the lack of capacity to grow. Even at full adulthood, it can only reach a maximum size of 2 inches for both males and females.

I am not entirely happy with this elucidation.
A quick look-up on any search engine will reveal that females of this species grow about one inch taller than the males. Not that I trust answers coming from the internet with my eyes closed, but still. Also the frog in question undeniably has the capacity to grow, otherwise it would never develop from tadpole into adult —unless the tadpole is bigger than the adult. But then, the tadpole has grown from the egg. And there is more.

The Red Eyed Tree Frog is the frog of choice for many advertisers. The species does appear several times on this page (Nos. 3, 9, 22–26, 32). While it's great to learn interesting things about the live of animals, it is troubling that the species in the picture is not the Red Eyed Tree Frog. I checked with our species watchguard and neither he nor I could find any reference to a brown stage in this frog's life. Also the pupils of the eyes in the advert are horizontal, which is wrong. Let's assume they are better in broadband than in species identification. It is an example of inadequate proof reading for sure.

Next come three
adverts for a lottery (12–14). A chance for them – A chance for you! When you buy a lottery ticket, part of what you spend goes to organizations for the protection of nature and the environment. The frogs stand in for the world with all its creatures.

Notice how the title was changed, probably to adapt to what people find most important. In the first version (12) the title says: buy them a chance (to live) and you will get a chance (to win). Later productions (13, 14) are saying: buy yourself a chance to win and in doing so give them a chance to live.

(13) 2003 – A chance for you and for them — lottery.
(14) 2009 – A chance for you and for them — lottery.

(15) 1993 – acts specifically on edema — medicine.
(16) 1997 – Stuck mucus? — medicine.

Drug manufacturers see
an opportunity for almost every kind of animal in their adverti­sements. We have examples in e.g. bees, bears, elephants, horses, penguins, and more. In most cases I find it difficult to see why a specific species was chosen. I many cases I don't find a clear reason and often I can only find a weak link between the product, its purpose, and some characteristic of the animal.

Our first frog
medicine (15) acts specifically on edema. I presume that the vocal sac of the frog is meant to evoke the idea of an edema.

A frog is expelled
from a saxophone in an obvious allusion on the saying to have a frog in the throat (16, 17) — French people reportedly are having cats in their throats.

Frogs, aquatic creatures
as they are, must have to deal with the occasional unexpected gulp of water. That is the connecting thought between the frog and the drug in the next three examples (18–20). With your stomach upset, even a sip of water may be too much and it is therefore a good thing that you can take this pill without any water. Feeling bloated (19) may be an allusion to the vocal sac (see also 15).

(17) 1996 – Loosens the cough — medicine.
(18) 2000 – When the stomach is upset — medicine.

(19) 2006 – Feeling bloated? — medicine.
(20) 2007 – Heavy stomach? — medicine.

We have already
seen some adverts where the frog stands for nature and the environment (12–14), and here we have some more.

Should I stick to the rules of this site, then A clear view of pure water (21) would not have been included . We humans love a nice splash in clean water, and frogs love it too: so the frog plays the role of a frog. I gladly make an exception for this one, because adverts where animals other than pets simply stand for themselves, are extremely rare.

Advertisements 22–25 show the frog (the popular Red Eyed Tree Frog) as a proxy for nature and the environment: in No. 22 a developing machine with built-in recovery module for silver; in No. 23 a world-leader in forest products has a responsibility – to the world.; and in Nos. 24 and 25 the frog means that the banana is certified by the Rainforest Alliance. The latter two are part of a much larger series with the colourful frog.

(21) 19xx – Frogs love clean water — wastewater treatment.
(22) 1994 – Not just for the graphic industry — developing machine.
(23) 2002 – We have responsibility to the world — paper for printing.

In our last example
with the photogenic frog (26) the frog is not important. Any colourful species would do because the advertiser wants to stress the brightness, the liveliness, the perfect colour of the greeting cards that are for sale (read our [Illustration 5] to learn more about how True Colour is advertised).

(24) 2005 – Banana protects rivers
(25) 2005 – Banana has a vision.
(26) 2002 – Lifelike greeting cards.

In the following
examples the advertisement refers to some characteristic feature or behaviour of the amphibian. As a rule the resulting story is rather simple, because the knowledge of copy­writers about toads and frogs is very limited.

Frogs are green and they may disappear in the real green of your lawn if you apply the right fertilizer (27). ● Frogs jump and with a play of words this car dealer invites you to follow the example of the frog and pop into his showroom (28). ● Some frogs are venomous —His poison makes you crazy (29)— and in, again, a play of words you are warned that the same could happen because of the awesome colour combination of the vehicles. ● Frogs —at least when not sitting in trees— have a frog's eye view of the world. People should look at their career from a different perspective (30, 31). The same picture is used 4 years apart by the same employer but a different selection agency. I suppose that the frog's eye view is the perspective to be avoided, but I am not entirely sure. ● The multimedia projector of No. 32 gets its vibrant green from the Red Eyed Tree Frog. The blue and the red come from a butterfly and a parakeet.

(27) 2004 – Real green — lawn fertilizer.
(28) 1992 – Pop into our show­room — open house days at car dealer.
(29) 2006 – His poison makes you crazy — car.

(30) 2002 – Choose a different perspective — jobadvert.
(31) 2006 – Choose a different perspective — jobadvert.

Our next example
where the copywriter refers to a characteristic is something for connoisseurs (33). In this advert looking for people with a heart for nature we are told about the Yellow-bellied toad. The iris in the eye of this species has a pupil in the shape of a heart. A hint of fairy tale's magic and humour is also present: the chance that you can have a deep look into this enchanting eyes is close to nihil, because the species is extinct in the region.

It may be the time to suggest a small improvement in copywriter training. Almost always, when trying to raise the standard of an advertisement by mentioning the scientific name of an animal, every word is capitalized (as here Bombina Variegata, or here Tursiops Truncatus). Correct would be to capitalize only the genus name: Bombina variegata, in italics naturally. How to write scientific names should be part of the curriculum.

(32) 2008 – Think GAIA … Vibrant, red, green …. — multimedia projector.
(33) 2009 – An eye on nature? — jobadvert.

How slick do you
need to be for success in business? (34) Flexibility and smoothness, rather than pricklyness, will bring you further in business. Using this paper for all your stationary will be a good start. The same brand ran a similar advert where the excellent colour represen­tation is stressed: in that case a colorfull fish was shown, accompanied with the same text, apart from the opening paragraphs.

Our last example
doesn't refer to a morphological characteristic, but to their behaviour. The mosaic in No. 35 alludes to a typical behaviour of amphibians and the other species shown: being on the road at the wrong time. We have discussed this advertisement in detail in the chapter about hedgehogs.

(34) 1995 – How slick is needed for success in business? — paper for printing.
(35) 1997 – The road at night is full of surprises — car headlights.
(36) 1992 – The camera for light travellers.

The camera for light travellers
(36) comes with a stunning picture. The text explains why this camera has everything you need … to make your photos a big success, but I have no idea why this image was chosen. In my opinion the keyword is big success —because this situation of a frog travelling on a snail is really quite something— and not travelling light — because some­one wandering around taking his home with him, is hardly a case of travelling light, less so with a home sized frog on the roof.

The credit broker
of the Nos. 37, and 38, ran a long series of adverts featuring one or more toads in different situations. I cannot see why a toad was chosen nor why his looks are uncannily slick. I must confess that I am not sure about his role: is he the credit broker? Maybe your financial situation? Looking at the other adverts in the series doesn't help. Sigh.

(37) 2007 – Are your finances making a grimace? — credit broker.
(38) 2007 – Money doesn't fall from the trees — credit broker.

 Grimm Brother's Home Page by D.L. Ashliman, visited 09.iv.2022
 In the introduction we have explained that advertisements where the animal is present as itself are not included. Otherwise we would be inundated with pet food advertising.

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