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Animals in advertising - Horses - Zebra
In the current study we can suffice with simple systema­tics. Horses come in three kinds: with, or without stripes, and donkeys.
Zebras are often used in copy-related situations. They do warn against imitation and illegal copying. They also advertise colour copiers.
Zebras carry stripes; a fact that is noticed by many copy­writers who cannot withstand the witty ideas popping up.
Zebras tend to live in herds and this is the background of many advertisements where any species living in herds could have been used.
first published: x.2005; update: ii.2006

The Zebras of
our first examples (Nos. 1, 2) —both about printers— are shown in a context of imitation, or second rate products. We are told that the market leader is better than any me-too and that we should stay away from any such printer. In both situations the original first class product is impersonated by a Zebra. I wonder why. I can't find any sound reason why it had to be a Zebra. The species was probably chosen just by chance.

(1) 19?? – Our competitors should try harder. — needle printer
(2) 1998 – Don't fall for imitation. — laser printers
(3) 2002 – Think twice before you make a copy. — copyright

That is even
more true in the third example where we are educated about the author's copyright which is all too often conveniently forgotten. A better choice, in my opinion, would have been a parrot which is indeed shown in an advert about copy protection of software.

Our next Zebra advertisements (Nos. 4, 5) are also about copying. The black & white and colour range of copiers are represented by the black & white and coloured half of a Zebra. The Zebra of No. 5 was given colours because he is selling a colour printer and gallopping because the printer is extremely fast.
We have an advertisement for carbonless multicopy colour forms where Zebra fish are doing the work. There must be some connection between Zebras and copy and colour but I fail to see it.

(4) 1991 – Black & White & Colour copiers.
(5) 2002 – At a gallop. Our colour printer is faster than …
(6) 2000 – Paper that's earned its stripes.

Alternating black & white
stripes are the main characteristic of the kind. That is why a Zebra was used in No. 6 for the paper that's earned its stripes. Considering the name of the paper —Black label— a black panter (meaning professionalism, quality) was perhaps a better choice.

Our next example is a bit peculiar because I was surprised to find a Zebra with the caption Stripes don't suit everyone. I would rather expect an edited picture of another species with ill fitting stripes (e.g. the elephant of No. 14). Apart from that, I consider it the best episode of a series of adverts about this banking company. Other captions were Full-bodied enthusiasm and A nose for opportunity each with a Zebra.

Some copywriters prefer to use a Tiger when they need stripes (see Bigger cats).

(7) 2001 – Stripes don't suit everyone — banking group.
(8) 2003 – Different viewpoints make for a broader view.
(9) 1998 – Want to make money?

The Zebras of
advertisement 8 were published several times. Sometimes the image was mirrorred or differently cropped. The text in the red box varied also. First it said Different viewpoints make for a broader view … and later we read Strategic partnerships are broadening the horizon …. I would not pay for the opening lines of the accompanying text. A real partnership means : to discover together nice perspectives and to have an open mind for new opportunities. This is a truth not valid in the animal kingdom only.. Very weak. It sounds like a last minute tweak. The bureau was probably desperately looking for a picture suggesting at least an atom of partnership and the poor copywriter had no choice but to comply. It is obvious that the Zebra is not important in this case. It is the pose that counts. Any species would do. Take a look at No. 18 for a similar approach.

(10) 2003 – Growth, recession, stagnation … what can we do? — management consultants
(11) 19?? – Suid-Afrikaanse Lugdiens Your best choice.
(12) 2001 – When friends get together. — South African Wines

Our next examples
would probably work equally well with other animals showing similar behaviour. Let's take a closer look and try to find the reason why a particular image was chosen.

Zebras are living in herds. Often the herds are mixed thus giving plenty of openings towards partnership and friendship and the like but I have still to find the first advert taking this approach. There are times in the life of a herd when not all noses are pointing in the same direction. Advert 10 captures such a moment to stress the feeling of anxiety towards the future. But this company can help. We have a French and a Dutch version and both texts are not entirely equivalent. In French there is Only one solution. The text in Dutch says There is only one way out : ahead.

The Zebras of Nos. 11 and 12 stand for South-Africa. A country is often represented by a typical species living within its borders. Zebras are used for trade fairs in Cape Town and holidays in Kenia, Tanzania as well. Examples with other species online : elephant ≡ South Africa (see Elephant); tiger ≡ Asia (see Bigger cats).

(13) 2000 – We excell together; Banking — IT and beyond.
(14) 199? – Savanna workstations.
(15) 2003 – Make sure that you can act fast. — ADSL internet

I have already
explained in the chapter about Elephants how they stand for the landscape and also for escape, discovery, adventure. We find the landscape line of thinking in No. 14 where we have both, Elephant and Zebra, in an advert for Savanna workstations.

No product has a closer relationship to the trio escape, discovery, adventure than a 4×4 vehicle. Small wonder that we have an advertisement where a nice car is dropped between a bunch of Zebras (17). Curiously enough the text is all about how well the car will perform in city traffic ! The text only mentions elephants, no Zebra, and sounds like the writer is making fun at our expense : … Designed for the jungle, he isn't afraid of the yearly 5 cm of snow … and … A fuel economy you will certainly appreciate counting the hours you will spend queueing …

A pension plan will bring you a better life in the future. The plan is announced with a picture of Zebras drinking on a well. We recognize the feeling of No. 12 (friends, good atmosphere) but also the notion of safari and the luxury of a holiday.

(16) 2002 – Sometimes you have it in you.
(17) 1998 – 4×4 vehicle

And then we
have the usual guesswork. Advert 13 is about longtime relationship with customers, no-nonsense approach and high productivity and we are shown a picture of mother with child. This kind of image is usually used to convey protection, safety, care (e.g. Penguin, Bear). Why this image, why a Zebra ?

Advert 15 about the ADSL internet connection is part of a series where several wild animal species are shown. The Zebra could have been chosen for the notion of freedom or because they were running out of species. (Read about the Cat version).

The next example (16) is also part of a group of similar advertisements for ICT professionals. Several species are shown and in most cases I can only guess why a specific animal was taken.

(18) 1990 – The advantage of a standard — PC

There is an advantage
in choosing for a standard., says advert 18. This clearly is not only true for the Personal Computer in 1990, but also for the way adverts were built. Standard procedure is to give some facts about the animal (which advert 8 did not supply) and then make a link with the product. So we can actually learn that Zebras (Equus quagga) have a strong community spirit. They live in herds with an eye-catching coherence because of their remarkable standardizing. This is uniformity …. The reader must be ready now for the connecting thought : The animal kingdom is not the only place where coherence means power. The same holds true in our economy. Rings a bell ? You'll find examples of the same procedure in several sections (e.g. Horses, Penguin). The species is not important as long as it is not solitary living.

Other sections in
this chapter:

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