Animals in advertising – Giraffes
Giraffes are choosen for their appearance, not for their behaviour or because they radiate some kind of emotion. Copy writers stick to the facts: giraffes are tall and have a long neck and extremities. They behave somewhat awkwardly and they live in Africa.

Giraffes are therefore very suitable to enrich an advertise­ment with some mild humour, or a soupçon of exotism. But their contribution seldom makes for a dazzling display.

first published: xi.2008; updated: v.2017, v.2021

Our first examples illustrate the main lines of giraffe usage. Firstly, Giraffes are used because they come with a touch of adventure, or strangeness, or exoticism (1). Secondly, they are called upon because of their extremely long neck (2) or extremities (3). Sometimes only their general appearance, i.e. that they are tall, is important (4–6). When an advertisement cannot be assigned to one of the three lines, the giraffe may stand for Nature, or it is impossible to deter­mine why a giraffe was chosen.

(1) 2006 – Bring adventure to your home — furniture
(2) 2019 – Looking for a suitable house? — real estate agency
(3) 2007 – Giraffes get dropped 6 feet at birth — management software

Enhance your home
with a bit of adventure (1). The cheesy text mentions adventure, escapism, exotism, simplicity and beauty, humming citylive, love for a modern livestyle and design all in one short paragraph. The giraffe is the adventurous sugar on the cake. The ceiling is too low, so he has to lower his head, but I wonder what he is thinking. The poor animal must be worried because the floor is covered with a Zebra hide (Read our section about Zebras).

The real estate
agency of No. 2 is using a similar setup of a Giraffe colliding with the ceiling. The approach is entirely different, however, and adventure and the like are not mentioned. It is the length of the neck that counts and this agent will find you a new home suited to your needs whatever they may be.

Giraffes get dropped
6 feet to the ground at birth. They can't avoid rude awakenings. But you can (3). By using the special software that warns before it is too late. This is an approach based on the long extremities, and also on a fact of life for the species. Notice that the Giraffe is giving a warning for unpleasant surprises : a task often trusted to Sharks or Wasps.

(4) 2002 – Double your bonus — savings account
(5) 2004 – Folding is of the past — large size printers
(6) 1996 – Real Big Color — digital printers

Every new installment
on your savings account will double your bonus (4). Your money will reach the sky in 1–2–3. Yeah, sure. Other animals which are used to sell the performance of a savings account are Hares, and Ants where their frantic activity is important. In the case of the giraffe, it is only size that counts. Exactly as in the next advertisements.

No need to
fold yourself in four are we told in No. 5. This colour printer dimensions your project to its true size. The choice of a giraffe accentuates this sizing aspect. It is therefore a bit unexpected that the remaining text elaborates only on the technology and the colour realism, which is a subject normally trusted to Colourful Fish (See also [Illustration 5]).

Although true colour
is mentioned (6), it is the size of the print which is most important and stressed several times. However the text concludes with … You get the highest productivity without the need to stick your neck out. Suddenly a reference is made to the neck. The connection with the text earlier on is not clear and neither is the meaning of this sentence.

(7) 2007 – Really away — travel agency
(8) 2010 – Never seen this in your home — satellite television

Usage type: strangeness and adventure

Really away from
home (7) is a very common approach and is not in the least restricted to Giraffes. The image combines a dash of exotism with contrast and a drop of humour. It is a strategy often chosen by firms who deliver services instead of goods. Because there is no need of a link relating a feature of a product almost any species would do. The method of choice, however, is to take a species of a tropical habitat and place it in a cold environment —or the reverse— see f.e. Camels, Penguins.

You had never
seen this in your living room (8) and Tomorrow's television is even more High Definition. Satellite television brings the world with all its wild an exotic places, represented by the giraffe, into your home.

(9) 2004 – Soon with landscape selector — car
(10) 2002 – Enter for adventure — train company

Our first car
advertisement (9) shows a rather intelligent approach. Selling a car is often selling a feeling of escape from everyday greyness into adventure without risks. The roadsign shows that we are still in our familiar environment but the Giraffe strikes the explorer in us. There is also a touch of wit : one of the options under development is called ALS or automatic landscape selection.

Another brand takes a more common approach (11). Long live your children. Because without them you would probably never have discovered the unexpected driving pleasure of our monovolume cars., we are told. An average house is surrounded by a rather static display of animals the average reader associates with travel and adventure. Other species we have seen selling cars are elephants, penguins, bears, or horses and they are often better at it than giraffes.

Two Giraffes are
garding a railroad crossing (10). Certainly an advertisement where few other species could perform better. Because of their long necks the Giraffes can stand in for railway barrier and because of their exotic flavour the guardians relate to the company's motto that travel by train induces a feeling of adventure and excitement.

(11) 2006 – Unexpected driving pleasure — monovolume car
(12) 2004 – More trains to Antwerp

Usage type: long neck and extremities

Advertisements hinting to the long neck of giraffes come in three flavours. The first group refers to the neck which is literally long (e.g. 12, 16). The second group (e.g. 18, 19) refers to the expression to stick one's neck out which means willing to take a risk. The third group (e.g. 20) refers to the expression stay head and shoulders above … which means being significantly better than …

More trains to
Antwerp (12) assumes that the reader is aware of the situation in the vicinity of the train station. Next to the station is the Zoo of Antwerp. Now that the major improvement works are coming to an end many more trains will pass the Zoo. This will not escape the animals living there, and, says the advert … the animals will be all eyes. The Giraffes, curious as they are, will turn the head to follow the trains for as long as possible and will hurt their neck as a result. A pinch of humour is always welcome.

Look further. We
are your flexible partner for digital printing (13). This writer excels in an approach supported by fact. It really is possible to look further away from a higher viewpoint and the Giraffe's neck really is very flexible by the peculiar build of the vertebrae.

The text about the forklift truck (14) never mentions giraffes, but a forklift is used to lift objects up and down and reminds people of a Giraffe's neck. Giraffes can reach high to graze fresh leaves and exactly so will this forklift lift your productivity to new heights.


(13) 2004 – Look further —
digital printing
(14) 2005 – Reaching new heights — forklift truck
(15) 2002 – Every week — osteoporosis threatment

The giant's packet
of No. 15 contains 12 tablets of a product curing osteoporosis. If you are equipped with long legs and a heavy neck then solid bone is an important issue. That probably explains the Giraffe. But the smallprint states the importance of a quick arrival of the tablet into the stomach. I would therefore rather dissuade a Giraffe from taking this particular drug.

It must be terrible for a giraffe to have a persistent cough and an irritated throat (16). It must be worse even to suffer from heartburn and feel like your entire throat is on fire (17). A giraffe is definitely a good choice.

Do you love
to stick your neck out? Then you may be our new office manager (18). Other desirable characteristics are dynamism, drive, flexibility. Since those features are not associated with the giraffe, it must have been the neck that made the writer choose that animal.

The strong neck giraffe twin is also present in No. 6 where we are promised high productivity without any risk. And again in No. 19 where the neck giraffe idea is present in the title, but not in the image. They start with we gladly stick our neck out. The body text then takes of with You do want to reach new heights, don't you? and after some twists concludes with Visit us and discover why we are glad to stick our neck out for you. That is a combination of two flavours of the long neck meme: risk and excellence.

(16) 1993 – The cough wiper — cough drops
(17) 2020 – Protection against heartburn
(18) 2011 – Willing to stick your neck out? — job vacancy

(19) 2003 – We gladly stick our neck out — HR management
(20) 2007 – Head and shoulders above the rest — job vacancy

The association between
the long neck of the giraffe and the idiom head and shoulders above … is very strong and using it doesn't require any real knowledge about giraffes. Nor is any similarity of characteristics between animal and product necessary. Probably therefore that this third flavour of the long neck theme is found in advertisements about job vacancies (20), or about best managers (21), magazines, awards (22), etc.

No. 20 is remarkable in its fluffy content. Be strong, it's only a handful of lines, but very dense: Are you head and shoulders above the others? Professional. Ambitious. Driven. Tenacious. … We also are head and schoulders above … certainly compared with other recruter companies. … Talent that is on the same level as our sky-high ambitions. Talent that stands out. With head and shoulders. … No doubt, this is a job for a giraffe who likes to stick its long neck out.

(21) 2008 – Congratulations to the best manager
(22) 2019 – Find the best professional

Usage type: giraffes are tall; they need space

Giraffes are not at their best with cars. But what can you do as a copywriter if you have nothing that enables you to reach for a Horse, an Elephant, or a Penguin like everyone else ?

The family car
with spirit of No. 23 is remarkably spacious and amazingly flexible. The ad is part of a series where each model is linked with a species: a dog, a penguin (see also Penguins where another brand in 1991 followed the same path), a flamingo, an ostrich, and now a giraffe. They are just ornamental, the copywriter didn't even try to make a connection. The author of No. 24 at least stressed the fact that there is plenty of leg and head room. A feature greatly appreciated by a Giraffe.

(23) 2006 – Remarkably spacious — family car
(24) 2003 – More head- and legroom — car

It is a challenge
to be named the most challenging employer of the year (25). Knowing that the company's name is Giraffe we are not surprised that the challenge is illustrated with the animal in question: folding such a tall animal with such long extremities in such a small space is a challenge. Notice that they are confident to win: the bottle of sparkling wine is already within reach. Maybe they needed it to calm down the poor animal.

(25) 2008 – Challenging? — IT company
(26) 2008 – COnnection for life — renewable energy

Usage type: nature and environment

Almost any animal species can be used to refer to nature, or the environment. Giraffes are no exception.

The same company
which already used Rabits to tell us how careful they are with their oil refineries, is now (26) selling their efforts for renewable energy to supplement fossil fuels. The message is underscored with giraffes and a matching landscape.

Advert No. 27 is rather difficult to read. The company proudly announces that they were chosen the energy supplier of Antwerp Zoo. Zoo Antwerp opts for our green energy and clean air and Together for less CO2. They don't bring clean air to the zoo, do they? Is the clean air only available high in the sky above the clouds? Is this clean air therefore only within reach of the taller animals, the giraffes with their long neck? What is the giraffe doing here: playing the role of nature, the zoo, itself?

(27) 2009 – Together for less CO2 — energy supplier
(28) 2014 – Wildly elegant — jewelry

Safari is a line
of jewelry (28) which is wildly elegant. This collection contributes to the conservation of wildlife parks under the management of African Parks., says the text. Also, one of the items in the Safari collection is the Giraffe ring. The use of giraffes is therefore entirely appropriate. They must stand for themselves and for the wildlife parks in Africa. The Safari line is still sold at the time of writing (May 2021), but at the jeweler's website nothing can be found about support for wildlife in Africa.

(29) 2002 – How close is your contact? — direct marketing
(30) 2002 – Think before you copy — honour copyrights
(31) 2000 – ICT professionals have IT by nature

The remaining advertisements
(29–32) have in common that I don't see why exactly a Giraffe was chosen. In many a case any other species would be at least even adequate.

A Mother with child
composition (29) normally means We care where the young represents the reader who will be pampered by the advertiser (e.g. Elephants 14, or Penguin 21). The approach of a mar­keting association in How close is your contact? (29) turns this convention upside down. It reads: In a world of ruthless competition, only the fittest survive. A close relationship with your clients can make the difference. The reader is the business owner who must look after the customers (the young) for his own survival. But every mother with child would do, it doesn't have to be a giraffe.

Advert 30 warns against
unauthorized copying. A similar message was brought with a Zebra — This was much better in my opinion, although I don't see why they choose a zebra. Our example at hand consists of two parts (click on advert 30 for a complete picture). First comes a scanner draped with an original carying a Zebra. Next to the scanner is a printer spitting sheets. But the copies feature a Giraffe! Are they suggesting that an unauthorized copy is inferior to the original?

Example 31 is part
of a series of similar advertisements for ICT professionals. You can find them in several sections. Different species are shown and nothing in the text gives a hint about why that particular animal is called upon.

(32) 200? – a thin layer makes the difference — adhesive labels
Advert 32 has it right
that in the African land­scape behind the cars being inconspicuous or not is extremely important. It can save your life or your lunch, it all depends where you belong in the food chain.

Notice the pattern on the car. The whole setup complies with the common practice of car adverts: people will look at you if you emanate power and a sense of adventure. Giraffes are like people. They are rubbernecks. But again, almost any species would do.