Animals in advertising — Elephant
Elephants are heavy-weights. They are powerful and have a remarkable memory. A perfect match with the humble servants on our desk-tops. Elephants on sixty percent of our samples advertise computers or related things like networks, printers and copiers.

Adult elephants also have an impressive size while their young start much smaller. Copy-writers are baffled by this wonder of nature and therefore consider elephants the prefered species to convey right- or down-sizing.

first published: ii.2002, updated: xi.2002, iv.2003, vi.2006

There is no point
in selling oversized computers for the desktop. You want the power, not the size. That is why the elephant most often is used in a play of sizes. The elephant on your finger­tip (1) is a fine example of the immense computer power propped away in a smaller housing every day. The same brand 7 years later (2) again calls in for elephants. Epson scanners open an entirely new view on prepress, says the text. Let's hope that the blue elephant is only meant as an eye-catcher and not as a symbol for a feature of the scanner.

(1) 1986 – Today we need less space than yesterday. — Hand-held computers
(2) 1993 – Some bare facts about scanners.
(3) 2001 – Be ambitious.
A high performance printer for a great price.

Printers, fax-machines and
copiers share many characteristics with computers. Several brands (e.g. QMS, Canon (3), Minolta, Panasonic, Tandy, Brother (4, 5)) in one way or another say it with elephants. Minolta (in a 1999 advert for copiers) looks at it the other way round and illustrates the concept placing head and tail end next to each other. Panasonic (in 1986) reports how an elephant cruised from Brussels to New-York at 500 times the speed of sound abord a miniature device, their fax machine.

The laserprinter of
(4) and (5) is a typical example. The text mentions an elephant's memory, a heavyweight processor and endurance. A bit weird though as both adverts start with The new HL-2060 laser printer from Brother … and are identical except for the footer where we can discern some small differences. This is most peculiar in this business, considering the fact that the first advert dates from 1998 (4) and the second from 2000 (5).

(4) 1998 – We rather call our network printer a sprinter
(5) 2000 – and again
(6) 2001 – Warranty on your notebook NOT on your car.

The easy (and funny)
contrast of big against small is a temptation difficult to resist. The Canon copier (7) reduces to the life. The spasmodic text starts with Zoologists dabbling with genetics, but also Einsteins, Corbusiers and other Edisons can copy to their hart's content with this speed-devil —And make their stingy accountant happy.
QMS printers (in 1995) tell us Heavy weight for a price that doesn't scare you … and place a mouse against an elephant (see Mice No. 3).

The ointment for
haemorrhoids (8) alludes to the therapeutic effect of a mud bath. It is one of the rare adverts relating to the behaviour of elephants. A wild boar, a warthog or a pig all fall for a heavenly wallow in a mud bath but, I imagine, they were considered less appropriate — none the less they are sometimes cast, e.g. [Illustration 4].

(7) 1982 – This copier reduces to the life.
(8) 1996 – Phew! What a relief!

“Young elephants grab
their mother's tail to follow her”, as we learn from a Siemens computer ad in 1990. In exactly the same way the brand's PCs could be linked to servers. In 1992 computer forms (pinfeed for needle printers) also were advertised with an allusion to the tail.
Some products are able to add an extra element to this primitive network. Our large strides in memory have led us into networking of a brand selling networking components and memory upgrades (in 1995) brings in the memory factor. Another brand of memory upgrades (in 1998) underlines the image of an elephant's head with Quality to remember.

(9) 2001 – Features of the best 4×4×far
(10) 199? – Follow the leader
(11) 1999 – You can't downsize everything.

Elephants sometimes stand
symbol for adventure. The South-African Airlines ad (14) is a neat example where the animal means wildlife and safari-adventure.

Small wonder we
will find vehicles in this section. The elephant in the landscape (9) stands for escape, discovery, adventure. Apart from that, the advert is awfully stupid in ascribing features of the 4×4 to the defenseless animal. The next advertisement (10) has a problem built in. The setting adheres to the language but the opener Follow the leader of this brochure isn't exactly a winner if you need to sell escape, standing out of the bunch and adventure. I do agree that the car is shown as the leader of the pack, but still. That is probably why the second page corrects with … felt far away of the herd in an oversized font.

A Panda to dash into the savanna blares a 1983 double page advert for the Fiat Panda. The vehicle is shown with a background of elephant in the savanna. The choice of the species comes as a surprise (the designer probably had a problem linking adventure and energetic to the animal that automatically springs to the mind), but apart from that (I am repeating myself) the advert is awfully stupid. Note: for technical matters car brands often rely on Penguins !

Not on your car
(6) is special in several aspects. First : it is not about cars, but about robust notebook computers. Second : the elephant here stands for imminent disastre. Really a very uncommon casting of pachyderms. Pitty that the supporting picture so clearly is a digital montage.

(12) 1999 – Dishwasher
(13) 1995 – We are working together to protect you
(14) 1987 – S.A.L. your best choice

Most adverts on
this page witness the importance of propping heaps of power and memory and networking in ever smaller boxes. It is more important however to put the right amount into the right package. In other words : rightsizing. That is what we want.
You can't downsize an elephant says the enterprise business solution software of No. 11. Yes you can, says the dishwasher (12). And proves with adult and young how you can save immoderate amounts of water. Yes you can, says Gupta (in 1994) and illustrates with elephants how some systems naturally rightsize while others need Gupta's software.

“We are working
together to protect you” (13) is, just like 14, worth noticing because it is a localized approach of a feeling (protection, warmth) often suggested with fluffy pets. We have a similar approach with a mother bear with young.

(15) 2005 – How to foil a pickpocket — credit card
(16) 2005 – The new bruisers in automation — cable protection hoses
(17) 2005 – Huge size, huge capacity — sheet presses

It is rather
puzzling that copywriters routinely work with size and memory of an elephant, but only rarely try something with the fascinating trunk. We've written already that the dish washer (12) carries the idea of rightsizing. We do care for the environment in using the appropriate amount of water. The idea is supported by the baby elephant generating a water fountain with its trunk. Our sample 15 illustrates a second well known use of the trunk : as a precision instrument. In No. 16 it is the shape of the trunk which is important, not the function.

We started this
page stating that You want the power, not the size. But sometimes you really need the size. That is the case in No. 17 where for once no contrast is needed, not power in a match box, but a huge press like a powerful animal.

(18) 2005 – Larger than expected — hotel with conference facilities
Advertisement 18 plays the usual theme —the juxtaposition of small and large— and normally would not be mentioned here, but I was struck by the odd similarity with No. 11 which was published 6 years earlier.