Animals in advertising — Fish — Sharks
Sharks are dangerous. They are killers. Never trust a shark.

Sharks stand for danger, threat, unpleasant surprise. They are in this way the easiest fish to deal with. Their use is straightforward and even when they are shown in a humor­ous way something of a nasty flavour is never far away.

Notice how sharks impersonate a hidden threat. A visible risk, an obvious danger, is usually suggested with terres­trial heavy­weights like Rhinoceros and Hippopotamus.

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

The software suite
of No. 1 is a typical example. The Shark plays the role of unpleasant news lurking below the surface and suddenly popping up. We have related ads where the shark warns against unforeseen costs for your car (leasing brings back your peace of mind) or where the beast makes us aware of the risks in not using the appropriate software to probe our company databases.

The proof print
must be very realistic indeed (2). Look at the operator. He is not sure he has only a print at hand. The writer elaborates about the superb technology, even mentions minimal pollution and closes with Learn how predictable your work could be. Colour proofing is indeed one of the situations where predictability is considered a plus. Observe how the standard triggers for reliable colour are present : a white sheet with colour reference bar. (See [colourful fish] No. 5)

(1) 1996 – … Gives you the bad news before it surfaces — management software
(2) 1994 – Exceptionaly good in predicting the end result. — colour proofing systems

Only a living
photographer is a good photographer (3).
In some situations trust in your gear is everything. Steel is entirely trustworthy to protect you against the number one nasty fish. In this case the shark is a shark and not the symbol for something unwanted.

(3) 2001 – Strenght — steel
(4) 1995 – Success. It's a mind game — wrist-watch

Something if not
everything escapes me in the It's a mind game of example (4). The picture shows four sharks with a competition swimmer and states Success. It's a mind game. I would think that staying ahead in this case is a matter of survival. Or … No, the sharks probably aren't sharks. They are competitors. But even now. Even the strongest conviction to win is nothing without a bit of physical exercise. And it certainly is not a game. Or must we understand game in context of hunting ? I give up. What may have happened in my youth that I fail to interpret any advertisements for watches ? (See [Tropical fish] and [Illustration 2])

Examples (5) and
(6) aren't any better. Both suffer of a spasmodic effort to include the shark and end up only with a twirly plot.
(5) Send him to your ex.
Everybody knows that a nice smile works wonders. Therefore : first film a shark in the aquarium … then download … finally e-mail to you-know-who. What a blow­! Every big shark would be proud.
How good a story writer is needed for this ? The nice smile makes the link with the picture. There is no other connection : the camcorder has no feature in common with the shark, the text says nothing about the product.

(5) 2000 – Send him to your ex — cam corder
(6) 1984 – Learn how daring you are — credit insurance
(7) 2003 – Fiercely independent — paper

Because Sharks are so menacingly wild they are sometimes also used to illustrate courage, or guts. The standard approach in this case is to place a harmless or defenceless creature setting a nose against a Shark. Which is rather foolish instead of courageous, in my opinion.

The shark of
example (6) probably represents customers not paying their bills. The business-man pulls a nose at them. The long text explains why we should take a credit insurance. The caption of the picture says Discover how daring you are which is sloppy work and doesn't fit with the story about avoiding risk, and taking precaucions. A better caption would have been some­thing along the line of How do you outsmart ….

But wait a minute. The man could as well represent the client not paying his bills and turning his nose up at the creditor (the shark). This story is ambiguous. Who is the addressee and what does it means becomes only clear after reading the dull text.

The goldfish of
example (7) is not afraid to take on the competition nose to nose. They have the courage to be independent with a personal and unique approach. The papersupplier is the Goldfish, naturally.

Other sections in
this chapter: