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Animals in advertising - Molluscs - Bivalves
Bivalves come in 3 kinds: oysters, mussels, and scallops.

With oysters, it's about their content. The pearl can stand for anything, but it is always about exceptional value, quality, performance, etc.

Mussels are the opposite of the oyster. They mean under-performance.

Scallops provide protection. They are usually shown with their shells closed.

first published: xii.2021


Oysters are special.
They are not chosen because of any special feature or remarkable behaviour. They are chosen because of the pearl which is not part of the animal, but formed as a defense against an unwanted foreign object.

The pearl may stand for anything that is superior in its class: a worker, a company, a deal, the quality of information, a service. Strangely enough I haven't found any advertisement where the oyster and its pearl is used for jewelry, or for luxury products: Ants, wasps, sea shells, giraffes, but never oysters.

(1) 2001 – Quality, Reliability and Continuity.
(2) 2001 – The pearl in IT. — IT solutions

Let's start with a company.
We have two advertisements were a company boasts Quality, Reliability and Continuity. The body text is either in English (1) or, much shorter, in Dutch (2).

The latter one (2) starts with The pearl in IT and then continues with a success story of rare pearls that develop sustainable solutions for satisfied customers.

The english version (1) is much more elaborate and convoluted with lines like the following: Are you special? … What makes us so special? Special qualifications, … special customer skills? … Believe us, when it comes to doing that, we're very special. … But what makes you special? … If you are special, then the world is your oyster. And if you are truly special, we'd like you to tell us … Don't be shy, don't 'clam' up. We want you to be very special – like us.

The combination of the spasmodic text with the image of the oyster with pearls suggests that you  special  pearl. But immediately pops up the question why we are shown two pearls, and why are they amber-coloured? Therefore the pearl may very well not be you.

One guess is that the amber may relate to the title which is (partly) printed in the same colour. The pearls in this case would stand for quality, reliability, and continuity. However both advertise­ments don't show the same words in amber. And we have three concepts and only two pearls.

A better guess, in my opinion, is that the pearls stand for the founders of the company. The first paragraph of the text hints in that direction: We know [our company] is special, because we have grown from two to 110 IT professionals in a little over 2 years. And those first two … are still the only owners … The two pearls are therefore likely the two founders (*). This seems to fit with the beam of light () pointing to the pearls. They are, rightly, proud of their realisation.

The oyster may be a symbol for the company, but I don't see how, because in this case the pearls (the owners) are making the oyster (the company) instead of the normal situation where the oyster builds the pearl.

(3) 2006 – Looking for a pearl fisher. —
recruitment agency
(4) 2006 – Everyone happy. —
job opening

The next two examples
are about job openings (3, 4). No. 3 is surprising because the pearl does not stand for the chosen applicant. The pearl represents the results of his work. The new consultant has to query every possible source in order to find the very best candidate, the pearl, for a certain job description. That is why the new employee's title could also be pearl fisher.

An employer is happy
when he finds a pearl of an employee. (4). When that happens everone is happy. So this one is straightforward: the employee is the pearl. A similar straightforward approach is seen in No. 8 where the pearl stands for the strong content of a website. Websites without good content are compared with empty shells.

This car brand
(5) clears the way for special deals during the trade fair. The many pearls stand for the exceptionally good offers you may discover with a visit to the brand's booth. Also quite straithforward. Which is remarkable for a car brand.

(5) 2002 – Clearing the way for better deals. —
cars on a fair
(6) 1992 – The perfect smoothness of a pearl. —
special paint for cars.

Car manufacturers love
to bring more complicated stories. We have seen advertisements with bears, camels, penguins, and several species more. Most of these stories have in common that they follow the Universal Standard for Car Adverts (USCA) (explained here).

No. 6 is a typical example. Have your favourite tranquilizer ready, because here comes the text (translated from Dutch): … The perfect smoothness of a pearl, the brilliance of a bird's feather, … And in every civilization people have tried to fathom these mysteries of nature. The engineers … have … taken a big step towards realizing their dream. … a new painting process that gives our cars an incredibly deep, intense, brilliant colour and makes them smooth like a mirror. They immediately provided shining proof that the automobile has reached a new stage of perfection.() And they close with The dream is the driving force of civilization.

This is textbook We learned from Mother Nature followed by and we did better. An approach warmly loved by copywriters in the automobile industries.

(7) 1984 – We would serve you diamonds. — air line
(8) 2002 – Content is king! — content provider

We would even serve
you diamonds … if we could (7). The diamonds relate to the name of the first class service of this air line. For once there is no pearl in sight. The oysters serve as examples of the mouthwatering delicacies and by extension for the outstanding service on board.

(9) 2017 – Value for your money. — investment banker
(10) 1993 – Targeted protection. — medicine


Mussels are not popular
. We have seen them only once (9). The advertisement of this invest­ment banker comes with the message … you better choose a partner who gives you more value for your money. The image shows a restaurant setting and we would expect a huge mussel pot filled to the brim with delicious bivalves. Instead the poor women must do with less than a hand­ful. The mussels are not important in themselves; it's the quantity that counts. Any serving too mingy would do: a shrimp in place of a lobster, one oyster instead of a dozen, etc.


Scallops play a different role from oysters. In oysters it is almost always the content which is important; in scallops it is the protection offered by the shell when the valves are closed.

The beauty and safety
(11) advertisement for the luxury apartments brings both roles, the oyster and the scallop, together in one image. They took a scallop for the safety and gave the animal a pearl to impersonate the luxury.

Nature packs her valuables
with the greatest care. … Hermetically sealed from light, air and bacteria. Resistant to the roughest shocks (12). This is typically scallop providing safety and protection with its valves tightly clamped. Notice also the reference to Nature as an example.

Our last example (13) is not an advertisement pur sang, but the cover page of a yearly report. The scallop seems to stand for Nature's creatures, the Sea, maybe even the whole earth.

(11) 2005 – Beauty and safety. — luxury apartments
(12) 2001 – Safely packaged — packaging
(13) 2002 – People, planet and profits. — year report

Chapters about Molluscs

* The founders established the firm in 1998 and left the company in 2007, six years after this advertisement.
 A beam of light coming down and seemingly introducing some kind of a godly approval is not often seen. We have it seen once in our chapter about pigs where warthogs are mesmerized by a 4×4 vehicle.
 In my opinion perfection doesn't come in degrees, or stages. Perfect is perfect, or it is not.

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