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Animals in advertising - Introduction
Authenticity. A green and healthy environment where we live. Pristine and private holiday destinations. That's what we want. That's what brands promise us in their advertisements.

We never saw more bucolic or exotic landscapes, weathered people or endangered species in magazines or on our screens than now in this age of genetically modified plants, cows eating their sick brethren, wide open ozone-holes and crammed roads.

published: xi.2000; updated: x.2002, vi.2004, viii.2005, vi.2007

The phenomenon didn't
pop-up out of nowhere just yesterday.
It started some years ago as a consequence of the growing environmental concerns of consumers. Disturbing news about oil spills, dioxine clouds, poison cargos lost at sea and the visible degradation of the environment with ever more noise, roads, buildings and the fast shrinking open space [Illustration 1] did wake up the consumer. The situation was and is still not bad enough to change the everyday habits of most people but it is at least possible to get the attention of people for environment related things.

Advertising is a
lot about getting attention. No wonder that simultaneously with growing environmental concerns advertisers started to play much greener themes than before. From the 1980s on and certainly in the 1990s few things are not good for the environment or don't save endangered species or don't cement our relationship with Earth's wonders. Brands who can't possibly state one of the former try to prove how they learned from Mother Nature and often even succeeded in an improved implementation to enhance our happy feeling. [Illustration 2]

And thus, because
I am so fond of all wildlife (Whales and Elephants and orchids covered with colourful Monarch butterflies) and endless forests and desolated beaches and …
I became a responsible consumer. [Illustration 3]
I do care. I do it all for the Earth and for our children.

The few examples
learn how in many cases advertising differentiates the products not by their characteristics but by some green value attached to them. The examples also reveal how this leads to frustrating contradiction. The forest, the whale, the cow, the beach, the orchid are often the first victims of the consumption instigated by their courteous co-operation.

The least we
can expect is a kind of reverse courtesy (fluffy, no?) where the copy-writer makes sure that the use of the species is appropriate and that the information given is correct. Both points are a measure for the skills and knowledge of the originator of the work. If they can't get the environmental thing right, how can we trust them about the product?

In the next
chapters we will evaluate the generic copy-writer by means of his use of animals. We could have chosen landscapes or plants but one has to focus and animals are always a bit closer to us than the former.
We will try to understand why a species was used in a particular case.
We will evaluate each use. We will also learn how some species, even some individuals, are more often used than others.

Our samples come
from magazines and newspapers from the 1980s on. Most were published in Belgium and are in Dutch, but we have several adverts in English, German, French, Spanish from countries as Spain, South-Africa, Germany, France, Argentina giving us the opportunity to compare several language versions of the same advertisement.

Advertisements where the animal is present in its own right are not included. Thus no cats and dogs puffing up pet-food.

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