Animals in advertising — Mice
It is amazing what we can learn about mice. They love cheese and are loved by cats. Mice are small, yet strong or smart. They do not make any noise, are used for test purposes and gave their name to a computer device.

Mice are extremely versatile. A bottle of beer, a printer, a bank account, a scanner, a spread sheet, human resource management, you name it, all most likely have something in common with a mouse.

first published: iv.2003; updated v.2020

Sometimes, not very
often, our neighbour's cat brings home a mouse. The kill is always grey. Mice in advertisements are almost without exception white. Somewhere a bias must be at work : or the cat prefers grey prey, or the advertising people fall for white. It is probably the latter : white laboratory mice are much more easily to come by.

One of the
more popular approaches is to work with contrast. We have seen it with the Elephant where the enormous power is squeezed into minute objects and the same technique is applied here, at the other end of the range. Mice are very able sellers-by-contrast. Even a mouse can carry the 50 cl plastic bottle with beer (the idea !) of No. 1 : Lightweight and easy to transport – preserves the flavour.

(1) 2000 – Plastic beer bottle
(2) 1991 – Spreadsheet software
(3) 1995 – Heavy weight printers

Unbelievable what an
ordinary mouse can do with our new software, yells No. 2. The mouse juggles the huge box (contrast) and the text —we are in 1991, the age of the 33 MHz PC— elaborates on how you can combine keyboard and mouse to work better. A clever combination of two mouse ideas.

The contrast of big against small is very clear in our third example (3). The performance of this printer is elephant and you'll have it all for a price that is mouse. Text (Heavy weight for a price that doesn't scare you …) and image are based on the mouse scares elephant joke theme.

Both ads also show a feature often present in Dutch advertisements : the English closing shot. It is meant to impress the reader : With L. you can expect to succeed (2), Printers for professionals (3), The essentials of imaging (8).

(4) 1990 – How silent is your printer ?
(5) 2002 – Not tested on animals — banking

Example 4 is straightforward
How silent is your printer ? but No. 5 is stacked with ideas. Mouse is the name of a computer device which is forcing you to keep at least a small part of your desk paperless. The advert is about banking from your computer — internet banking in 2002 !—, hence the mice. Laboratory mice. They are the link to the bold statement Not tested on animals giving way to the smaller print but on Dutchmen. The message comes from a Dutch banking company and is directed to the Belgian reader. The Belgians know for sure that the Dutchmen are skinflints. If the Dutch people consider the proceeds good enough, why wouldn't the Belgians (known as blockheads) try it as well ?

Two more examples
of the mouse ≡ computer ≡ internet line of thinking are shown in Nos. 6 and 7. The first (from 2001) announces an internet site selling real estate : Find a home that really fits you. That is not going to work without a mouse. Very predictable and a bit easy-going a white mouse was chosen. But look carefully. The nesting box hangs on wires which prevent access from visitors without wings. And yet, there is a mouse at the doorstep. Could it be done by purpose ? To stress the superior matching results of the site ? Congratulations.

(6) 2001 – find a house that fits.
(7) 2002 – worldwide the biggest banking site
(8) 2003 – minute colour laser printer

A virtual mouse
in No. 8. It is the same brand from No. 3. In 1995 it was about the price being small and now it is the size of the printer. Although the message is obvious, it is unclear how compact the printer exactly is. The cable disappears into the wall. Are we supposed to read the cable as the tail of the mouse ? Then mouse ≡ printer meaning that the printer is as small as a mouse. Or is the cable simply the cable meaning that a mouse took the printer away ? Then obviously the printer must be smaller than a mouse, or at least manageable by that rodent.

(9) 2002 – Sharper. Faster. Smarter scanner
(10) 2002 – Do you love colours ? — paper stock
(11) 1992 – The heat is on

I don't understand
the mouse in the advert for professional colour scanners (9). Is the colour blue hinting at the brand's colour ? Is it a coincidence that another scanner also shows an animal in blue —see Elephant No. 2 ?

Central heating creates
a cosy atmosphere. No doubt about that after No. 11. The image is much stronger than the creaky text.

(12) 1991 – How can you manage without us ?
The most important
element of (12) is the maze. The maze stands for the complex legis­lation and the mouse is you, trying to make sense of it. It is always risky and the choice of a laboratory mouse is very apt. Notice the cheese in the corner top right. It will become yours if you let the advertiser help you out. Interesting usage, because mouse with cheese is more often used to signal Good image quality — see [Illustration 5] – True Colour.