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Animals in advertising – Rabbit & Hare
Many adverts make allusion to the reproduction capacities of rabbits. They count for about half of the adverts which relate in one way or another to a feature of body or beha­viour of the animal. The rabbit then stands for efficiency and perfor­man­ce. Therefore cars love rabbits, as do finan­cial products. But also electr(on)ic devices like computers, copiers, or CD-players. They do it sometimes for the perfor­mance, but often for other aspects of their way of life also.

Rabbits may also stand in for Nature and Environment.

first published: vi.2020

A doe rabbit
can have three to seven litters a year and this really fascinates copy­writers, it seems, because many adverts relate to this exuberant procreation. This is remarkable because the same doesn't happen with mice which perform even better than rabbits. Not a single advert in our section about mice hints at the reproduction rate of these rodents. With rabbits, however, almost half of our sample advertisements relating to features of body and behaviour alude to the reproduction. The reason may be that mice are considered a pest and one should therefore avoid the risk of induc­ing nega­tive vibrations in the customer's mind. Presumably rabbits do not evoke this negative connotation (). Indeed a hint to their capacity of multiplication is often used in an attempt to make us chuckle.

The personal copier
(1) is always ready to make a copy and has many features which are demonstrated with rabbits : warmup time is not needed (two rabbits together); 12 copies a minute (a fast rabbit with the winning number 1); front loading cassette (rabbit with carrots; the end where food enters is the front, per definition); friendly for the environment (BLO in the grass between flowers); etc. ().

The computer management
software of No. 11 takes a similar approach with a couple of rabbits which are glad to alleviate any performance issue : How do I deal with these performance issues … and … peak system performance, maintain user productivity, …

(1) 1995 – Aways ready to make a copy. — personal copier
(2) 2003 – Now is the time to make children. — family car
(3) 2003 – Enchanting technology. — monovolume car

Now is the
time to make children (2) is a straightforward reference to the productivity of rabbits. The advert ran in 2003 and opens with the teaser that if you buy a car of this brand then the more children, the more you save. The text then explains that with two children you might receive 600 € but with four the amount could reach 1800 €! The closing words are Moms and dads. It's time to make children. Do it now. The reference is so direct that it becomes almost uncomfortable.

Let's assume for a moment that you feel like taking them on their word. Then you definitely should read the small print: The number of children that qualifies is the number stated on the latest tax return. Which means that you are too late, already. You could go for new offspring (preferable twins) anyway and then wait for the next tax return and then shop for a new car and run the risk that the promotion has already ended. And by the way, the offer is limited to a maximum of 4 children and only for certain models of the brand.

More car brands
call a rabbit for support (3 – 5). Three different brands and each from its own angle. The advert (3) for the monovolume car is titled : Enchanting technology. They do a play of words with enchantment and magic, which sound similar in Dutch (). The car in question is equipped 1° with electrical gliding side doors which can be opened from a distance, just like magic and 2° things like airbags and ABS and much more. With that many reasons for enchant­ment it's only small step to the saying to pull a rabbit out of a hat by magic. Hence the white rabbit appearing in the door opening (3).

(4) 1991 – Any car can avoid the rabbit … — car with superior suspension
(5) 2003 – The Golf Rabbit is back — car

Any car can
avoid the rabbit. A Primera also avoids the truck, says our next car advert (4), dating from 1991. The rabbit which is only vaguely shown is present in two incarnations: 1° as a possible road victim and 2° as an animal mesmerized by a strong light source. Below the picture a breathtaking story is told : … Blinded by the inescapable beam of your lights. … You twist the steering wheel. … Just then you are trapped by the lights of a huge truck, storming in your direction … But all ends well thanks to the advanced suspension system of your car. In this story a lighter touch is not forgotten : … You realise how the rabbit must have felt. and the … suspen­sion obviously wasn't only made for your comfort.

The car advert
(5) with the rabbit howling at the moon is difficult to understand. Is it an allu­sion to one of the Moon Rabbit tales or does it mean that we are wasting our time and energy in trying to get Golf Rabbit ? The accompanying text may give a hint where it states … In one word: a dream. The car you waited for. …. It is therefore probably the latter meaning and they must be telling us that our impossible dream may come true.

No. 5 is also from 2003. It is remarkable that 3 out of our 4 (that is all we have) car adverts with rabbits stem from that time, moreover that it concerns also three different brands.

(6) 2003 – Perform in complete safety. — savings account
(7) 2004 – Increase your savings performance.
(8) 1999 – Discretion in the art of asset management.

The fable of
Aesopus about the hare and the tortoise taught us that slow and steady wins the race. But in the adverts Nos. 6 and 7 the story has changed. Both animals are merged into a chimera and speed has become important : perform in all safety (6) and increase your savings performance in all safety (7). The performance is provided by the hare and the safety by the shield of the tortoise. It is ironic, however, to see returns fall in the consecutive years, certainly in combination with the concepts of performance and increase.

Aesopus is also present in No. 17 which is about a diabetes treatement. I am not sure which species is important here. My guess is that it is the tortoise which is suggesting a sustained en regular effect.

We have another
hare in No. 22 about a frequency convertor. The hare stands for lightning fast changes of direction and rapid response characteristics in common with the advertised device.

Rapidly growing savings
may also be illustrated with rabbits like in No. 9. Contrary to the case with hares, where performance is about speed of movement, we are back in the familiar situation where speed and performance is about reproduction.

Our last example
in a financial atmosphere is also with a rabbit but —what a relief— does not fall back on procreation. Discretion in the art of asset management. In one way or another a rabbit whispering in the ear of a sculpture must mean something thrustworthy and discrete.

(9) 1993 – Savings formula with rapid growth — life insurance
(10) 1999 – Irresistibly attractive — LCD projector

Some copywriters manage
to stay away from reproduction and refer to other features of rabbits, like their teeth, ears, or eyes, and their diet.

The Nos. 10 and 12 are for the same brand of electronic equipment. In Irresistibly attractive (10) a bunch of rabbits is hypnotized by the strong light of this LCD projector. They are caught like a rabbit in the headlights of a car (see also 4 and 5). It is less convincing though that only one of the rabbits is looking to the beam.

Sound cannot be
more perfect are we told in No. 12. Even the rabbit with its long and sensitive ears listens in amazement. It is the only advertisement we have with an allusion to the ears of leporids.

(11) 1990 – Vax performance. — tuning your computer
(12) 1990 – Sony amazes even the most sensitive ears — CD player

Rabbits carry impressive
incisors and they are living in pipes. Someone connected with this interim bureau knew this and both adverts (13, 14) start with Do you like to sink your teeth into challenging assignments? and the first one continues with then leave your pipe and become …. In the remaining part of the text no rabbits, or their behaviour, are mentioned.

Stay at home
in a major industrial accident says the message of No. 15. Why exactly a rabbit with its pipe were chosen is not clear. It is not the only case where a rabbit is brought in connec­tion with house and home. In No. 16, by a company selling floors and carpeting, the cosyness of a home is emanated by a girl holding a pet rabbit. Cats are also very good in transfering this idea of homely warmth (see Smaller cats).

(13) 20?? – Come out of your pipe. — job advert
(14) 2011 – Like to sink your teeth into challenging assignments ? — job advert
(15) 2007 – Your home is the best protection. — chemical disaster

(16) 2015 – Floors and carpeting.
(17) ???? – Diabetes treatement.

Rabbits love carrots.
Rabbits (Nos. 18, 19) which are running a good business will have them in abundancy. I am not sure why a rabbit was chosen. The animal of the year when this advert ran, was Rat, and then Ox, so the time is probably of no importance. Looking around on the web I have found that the rabbit in China is told to be a symbol of the wit and caution of men and happiness and good luck among many other things. Therefore the rabbit probably is you, over­whelmed with success in business as a result of attending this fair in China. Notice that perfor­mance here is measured in carrots and not in offspring like in the examples earlier on this page.

(18) 2008 – Do you like to do good business ? — trade fair
(19) 2009 – More opportunities — trade fair

In former times
red eyes could, and often did, ruin that otherwise perfect family picture. With this pocket-sized camera with autofocus and a Smart Flash, red eyes are a thing of the past, except —and here comes the recommended wit— for when the eyes of the subject are actually red.

Angora underwear. Twice
as warm as wool (21) is our last example with allusion to a feature of the rabbit. The advert is remarkably straightforward. Turn the thermostat down and then we learn about types of underwear, where to find it, maintenance suggestions and this all is under­lined with a picture of both the rabbit with long hair and the product enveloping a nice body.

(20) 1990 – Put an end to red eyes. — camera
(21) 1983 – An end to the need for thick sweaters. — angora underwear
(22) 1998 – The smartest wins. — frequency converter

Rabbits may also
stand in for Nature and the Environment. Firstly we have an example of greenwashing (23 – 25) where an oil refiner is telling us in different layouts and languages : we apply a very strict code to limit the impact of our activities on the surrounding air, water and soil … The rabbit stands for the environment which quietly undergoes the pressure of the actions of humans.

(23) 2004 – Respect those who make no demands. — oil refinery
(24) 2005 – Respect those who make no demands. — oil refinery
(25) 2005 – With respect for those who make no demands. — oil refinery

In Just beep
me up. (26) and in the hidden nature of the city (27) the rabbits represent nature, or wildlife, more than the environment. Before mobile networks covered the world beepers, or pagers, were an indispensable tool for people like service engineers who did not wanted to be chained to their landline. Thanks to this service (26) he can enjoy a refreshing stay in the middle of nowhere surrounded by wildlife and still be on duty.

In No. 27 the rabbits are curious to learn more about city jungles. Come to the exhibition and be surprised about plants, animals and people in a city.

(26) 1997 – Just beep me up. — pager service
(27) 2004 – Discover nature hidden in the city. — exhibition

 It certainly depends on the background of the reader. People in Australia or on the Kerguelen Islands are not likely to befriend rabbits anytime soon. On the Kerguelen it is considered very bad taste (criminal even) to say the R-word — it's an L-word in French. You should talk, if you must, about BLO, which is short for Bête à Longues Oreilles — animal with long ears, un lapin.

 This advertisement is also discussed in the section about copiers and how they are advertised : [Illustration 4]

 In Dutch the words for enchant and magic are betoveren and toveren respectively.

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