Animals in advertising — Penguin
Penguins are popular actors in advertisements. That is because they are so cute, so human, so funny. Penguins aren't very good messengers, though. Because unlike lions, horses, owls …, penguins stand for no specific feature. This makes them difficult to cast. Only very few of our samples surpass the takeaway allusions about ice, cold, or heat.

Of the 17 () species of penguins Emperor, King and Adelie are most frequently used, but Gentoo, Magellanic, Chinstrap and two new creations were also found.

first published: vi.2001; latest update: v.2020

Cars can't possibly
adhere to one of the more popular green statements. They are not particularly good for the environment, do not save endangered species and they do not cement our relationship with Earth's wonders either. No wonder they (1, 2) took the learned from Mother Nature path : In-depth research reveals that penguins and streamline are almost synonymous.

(1) 1999 – In-depth research produces our best ideas — cars
(2) 1999 – Innovation is our second nature — cars
(3) 1991 – Room for people — cars

After reading both
versions of the text, my conclusion is that the German text is probably the original that was translated afterwards into English. I consider the German header the best and the text written with more care.

The German text says : … is the body shape of the penguin clearly better streamlined than any known man-made shape. Almost as good is our …
The English text states : … a penguin's curvy body offers nature's best streamlining — a quality it shares with the …

(4) Penguins are not stupid. If they loose footing it is because they lack our traction control. — cars
(5) 2000 – Continuity sometimes requires you to skate on thin ice. — jobs in IT

Other car brands
also ask for a little support by penguins. The Gentoo in (3) is the cover page of a brochure for a monovolume car. Several statements about people are illustrated with the appropriate animal, a technique that is often used and by several brands. Why did they choose this particular penguin ? I guess it is because the Gentoo seems to escape into space. The same approach is used on another page of the brochure were we see the jump of a dolphin.

The “control inteligente
de tracción” of (4) still contains something of the better than Nature design rhyme — penguins wouldn't slip if only they had the car's traction control system — but the funny undertone cannot be missed ().

(6) 2003 – Your car dealer gives you an airco for free.
(7) 2000 – Cool career moves in high-tech IT.

If there is
one single strong trigger for penguin, it is cold (and related words like ice, winter, etc.). Our first example is No. 6 for a car with an air-conditioning system on board. It is a typical setting to suggest freedom. Almost all four-wheeled drive vehicles choose for it. Because cars love to add a touch of adventure, a much better choice of animal would have been a polar bear : see our USCA green book for car adverts. Advertisement 13 also would greatly benefit from a polar bear or two, but for a completely different reason.

(8) 1988 – Electric heating
(9) 1995 – Drug
(10) 2000 – Industrial sensors

These penguins in
Antarctica are not left out in the cold (8). The text then continues about heat and warmth in our homes and ends with Warmly recommended. The story book may be poorly written, the choice of the species is very appropriate. Emperors are the most antarctic of all penguins. This advert is also remarkable because the penguin is used in relation to a heating system while most copywriters tend make the link with cooling systems (e.g. Nos. 6, 13).

The drug lowers
the risk of heart attack by 62 % (9). The line of thinking probably was minus 62 – that is very cold – very cold ? – penguins – got it !. Do not overlook the young bird. Early visitors to the Antarctic didn't recognize the chicks as belonging to the same species. It is possible that the chick was called upon to convey we care. Young animals are often used for this purpose : e.g. No. 21 on this page with penguins, but also with a bear (20) and an Elephant (13).

(11) 1999 – Educational programs
(12) Jump ahead — investment advice

I would not pay
for the extremely sloppy work of advertisements 11 – 14. The first advert (11) is about education and the allusion is just plainly wrong. The text says Zorg dat je bij blijft which means Try to keep abreast, keep your knowledge up-to-date. The image however is suggesting Zorg dat je er bij blijft with the very different literal meaning of Do not fall behind the group.

The Get ahead
with the jumping Adelie (12) isn't any better. Look carefully at the picture. The snow is already trampled where the bird yet has to land. Unless snow shows the same predictive capacities as tea leafs, the bird must be a follower like most of them are.

(13) 2003 – Keep cool at home — air-co
(14) 2003 – Rockhopper — inkjet printer

The purpose of
No. 13 is to direct you to some suggestions to keep the temperature in your home from climbing to uncomfortable levels. The composition of the image is straightforward with penguins and an igloo. I do agree that copywriters need some freedom to do their work, but it shouldn't be an excuse to skip all research. An igloo is a shelter used by people living in the Arctic. Penguins are animals of the Antarctic (§). A good designer would have chosen a polar bear.

Rockhopper 2 is the
name of the inkjetprinter of No. 14.
– Rockhopper ? Does anybody knows what that is ?
– Sure, that is a penguin.
– Let's go for a penguin then. Here that is a nice looking one.
But unfortunately not a Rockhopper.
They didn't do it all wrong however; the Toucan printer of the same brand features a Toucan and their Falcon comes with a nice lady.

(15) 2002 – It's christmas already — shopping mall
(16a) 2002 – He would appreciate a bit of magic
(16b) 2002 – the magic of extremes — printing paper

He would benefit
from a bit of magic, says the first page of a double page advert for printing paper (16a). The name of the product is Contraste because of its excellent qualities resulting in a very good contrast. The idea is impersonated on the second page (16b). But what is the use of the first page ? Out of the many possible ways of showing contrast, why did they fall for the penguins ? Placing penguins in a hot desert, in my opinion, is more about being lost than about contrast. This feeling of being miserably lost is only intensified by the poor penguin in the fridge.

We have seen a better use of a penguin in a desert in an advert published in 2005 : a King penguin on a huge block of ice is talking to a camel (see Camel No. 5). The idea there is that this company is trying just a trifle harder to make the impossible happen.

(17) 2001 – A giant's step — computers
(18) multicopy paper
(19) Money attracts money

It is not always
the penguin who's lost in the wrong landscape. Sometimes humans are dropped between inquisitive penguins. First we have a piano player rather willing to play in Carnegie Hall (18). The inconvenience of playing on the ice could have been avoided using the correct paper for the transport documents. But now this poor pianist is stuck between two species : Adelies at a safe distance and a music loving creature which is a drawing, not a picture.

The same approach
is used in example 22 where a guy in beachwear is stared at by a Chinstrap penguin. The caption says Not every place is right for everyone. The accompanying text continues with This also applies to data in your company and after a long winding road points out that Not all data is equal. Store it accordingly.
The main title is at least a bit unprecise in its use of everyone. In my opinion the place is per­fectly all right for both species. It is only what the person is doing there which is rather surprising, although not impossible : reading a book while getting an ozone hole tan. Everything would have been a better choice.

(20) 2000 – Opportunities letting nobody cold
(21) 2002 – It's natural to want to be cared for — airline
(22) 2005 – Not every place is right for everyone — datastorage

The tooth paste
for sensitive teeth (27) chooses for contrast without placing things in the wrong environment. Instead two scenes are reflecting each other : a cold ice tea followed by a cup of hot chocolate. Your teeth won't budge. Great fun to look at.

“A giant's step
for humanity. A small step for your budget” (17). Rings a bell ? I suppose the penguins are there because it was just the first picture at hand. That is probably also true for the Money advertisement (19).

The dresscode joke
of advertisement 18 isn't the only advert with a funny undertone (see also 4, 6). Advertisement 20 is a rather elementary one which is stubbornly trying to be funny. The text says Opportunities letting nobody cold. No official dresscode. Casual allowed. Come, it will be hot there.

But our other example (26) for a two sided board is not bad at all. It is also an illustration of a trend to edit the pictures available to suit better the copywriter's needs. That is not always an improvement (e.g. [Illustration 2], Elephants ad 6).

Novum species
(23) 1995 – Colour printer
(24) 1994 – Vodka
(25) 2005 – Cut CO2 and it's amazing what you save

The approach of
advertisement 26 is in fact very much the same as our French example (16). Both are about paper with a coating guaranteing excellent colour print results. Notice how penguins, and certainly King and Emperor (e.g. No. 14, 16, 26), are often used in relation to colour. Even black and white species are ready to jump in, often after a bit of image editing. No. 23 is a typical example. We have a brochure about colour copiers (dated 9 years later) where a bunch of black and white Adelie penguins dive (they love jumping, e.g. Nos. 7, 12) into a Sea of Colour and during the flight transform into a colourful novum species. Inside the document King's penguins tell us about the power of colour.

The story telling
in advertisement 25 isn't as straightforward as in our other examples. Reduce emissions and help protect the environment. Cut the carbon dioxide and you'll fight global warming. That will keep the world's climate cool and prevent the melting down of the Antarctic ice shield which would play havoc with the region's ecosystem. The penguins stand for the climate we are used to in recent times and by extension also for the whole Antarctic, even the whole world. I have no other advertisement where penguins are loaded with so much meaning.

(26) 2003 – Bright White Front and back — board paper

(27) 200? – Carefree enjoy warm and cold — tooth paste

Suggested reading about
  • Penguins – Traveling the World by Willy Puchner
    ISBN: 3829014120

 Some sources list up to 20 species, but I am a lumper.
 Less tangible features of cars (power, adventure) are often shown with dangerous animals like Elephants or Bears.
§ While this may be too restrictive and therefore not entirely true, penguins do not live in the Northern hemisphere. At least not North of the Tropic of Cancer, I should say, thinking of Galápagos.