Why anthropomorphism is so effective in television advertising?

Animals are a part of our everyday life. They may be pets, part of our occupation (vets, farmers), or just the local wildlife we observe outside our window each and every day. We have a close relationship with these creatures, and whether these animals make us feel overjoyed or make us infuriated, or somewhere within that range, our emotions are caught up.

Currently, more and more frequently we see animals used in all types of media. Movies, TV shows, books, and smart-phone applications all have had an influx of animal-related content.


In a marketing sense, animals are heavily used in advertisements to attract us into purchasing a product. We see features in them that we see in our own human lives. Related or unrelated to the topic or theme of the product, animals are used to make the consumer find common ground with the advertisement.

This is heavily due to the strong bond humans have with animals, and the increasing trend of pets as loveable, surrogate family members (Tomkovick, 2000). In the 1990’s it was reported that, in America, 1-in-6 Super Bowl commercials featured some form of wildlife (Tomkovick, 2000). Tomkovick also concluded that a positive relationship exists between the inclusion of animals in Super Bowl advertisements and advertisement likability.

Recently we’ve seen the “Compare the Meerkat” ads use a delicate play-on-words to place meerkats in a foreign and bizarre business environment. However, these ads serve their purpose and have been successful over a number of years. In fact the ads follow a pattern now where a new story line is introduced after a few months of presentation of the current ad. The audience’s attention becomes very focused again: intrigued to see what the new story lines will add to the continuing narrative.

So why is it that anthropomorphism is so effective in television advertising?

Our close relationship to them

 Our close association and appreciation for animals is one of the biggest factors in determining our likability of an advertisement. When we see an animal in an advertisement, we are immediately drawn to it.

Most families around the world have a pet, or have previously had one, so they immediately relate to the advertisement in a nostalgic way. By including animals in advertisements, it subtly illustrates the ways in which humans love pets, treat pets as family members, and deeply mourn pets when their lives end. Advertisers often attempt to tap this human–animal bond when they use animals in persuasive messages (Lacendorfer, Atkin, Reece, 2008).

As an audience we love to be able to relate to the content we view. Anthropomorphism is another method used by marketers to blur the lines between animal and man. When an advertiser dons an animal with, for example, human clothing, a human smile, or eyebrows, that animal becomes anthropomorphised (Spears, Bowen, Chakraborty 1996).

Marketers have long used anthropomorphism widely to create awareness or to maintain a relational connection and belongingness between the product and the consumer (Stone, 2014). Anthropomorphised animals are commonly used for advertising in two different ways;

  1. To act as a metaphor for the product itself.
  2. To help people associate with the animal by anthropomorphising it, which will in term help relate the company to the audience.

Examples of this include; the ‘Cadbury’ drumming gorilla, the ‘Bridgestone Tyres’ gecko, and the ‘M&M’s’ chocolate.

Stone notes that the animals that evoke loyalty, friendliness, and human-pet attachment are commonly used in advertisements. These emotions are considered as interactive and pertain to relationships. Thus, it is predicted that these emotions will spur the viewer to buy the product/service which otherwise may be overlooked at the store (Stone, 2014).

Forming an identity

If animals are successful in the initial advertisement, marketers of the company can build on this knowledge, featuring the animal numerously in future ad campaigns. The animal’s continual presence in a company’s advertising helps it symbolically act as the face of the company. A prime example of this is the ‘Kleenex’ toilet paper advertisements featuring a Labrador puppy.

Through years of advertising with these dogs, Kleenex has been able to build a reputable brand that uses the Labrador as a metaphor for its product, suggesting it is soft, luscious and comfortable- some features of which, similarly relate to the puppy.

Another aspect about this idea is that when animals act as the identity of the company, they act as a scapegoat for any misdemeanours associated with the company. For example- to use Kleenex again- audiences would associate the brand with cute puppies, and soft tissues. However, they would not generally associate Kleenex as a company that causes mass deforestation to produce their product. Even if this did cause a concern for the public, they wouldn’t lay the blame for this on the head of a golden 8-week-old Labrador?

Brand identity suggests consumers are more likely to remember the product and be expected to purchase it in the future (Kanungo, 1969; Brown, 2010).

Cheap Labour

Another point to touch on is the financial efficiency of using anthropomorphism in marketing. For a small business, which may not be able to afford a big personality or high quality production in their advertisement, using animals to illustrate your idea to a large television audience is a cheaper and successfully proven method of advertisement.


Advertisements that bring out some form of emotional connection from the audience are always going to be successful. One of the biggest reasons anthropomorphism works in television advertising is because of the strong historical attachment between animals and humans.

Some of these ads may not necessarily leave a positive impression on us; sometimes the marketer’s objective is to leave us feeling jarred.

As for the biology: “When you touch and look at your pet, it makes your brain release chemicals that make you feel good,” Herzog said.

Obama dog

Photo Credit

As for the need for affection: That boils down to the fact that pets offer unconditional love. And unconditional love feels good.

Indeed, the human fascination with animals is so ancient and so widespread that it seems to be a cross-cultural trait.



Chuck Tomkovick , Rama Yelkur & Lori Christians (2001) The USA’s biggest marketing event keeps getting bigger: an in-depth look at Super Bowl advertising in the 1990s, Journal of Marketing Communications, 7:2, 89-108.

Lancendorfer, Karen, JoAnn Atkin, and Bonnie Reece. “Animals In Advertising: Love Dogs? Love The Ad!”. N.p., 2008. Web. 30 Mar. 2017.

Spears, Nancy, John Mowen, and Goutam Chakraborty. “Symbolic Role Of Animals In Print Advertising: Content Analysis And Conceptual Development”. Journal of BusinessResearch, 37 (1996): 87-95.

Stone, Sherril. “The Psychology Of Using Animals In Advertising”. (2004): n. pag.

Kanungo, R. N. (1969). Brand Awareness: Differential roles of fittingness and meaningfulness of brand names. Journal of Applied Psychology, 53(2), 140-146.

Brown, S. (2010). The Penguin’s Progress: A Mashup for Managers. Marshall Cavendish: London.

Anderson, Emily. “This Is Why You Care More About Some Animals Than You Care About Humans | Bdcwire”. BDCWire. N.p., 2015. Web. 30 Mar. 2017.


Why is society so jarred by images of death?

In the real world, opposition to an idea can sometimes question your own appreciation of that idea. In every walk of life, there are always individuals, or groups, who will resist an idea or belief. Their outlook can be directly opposite to any popular belief.

In the media industry, the beliefs of audiences are challenged all the time when viewing different forms of media. What makes this content special? What story is it trying to tell? Does this affect us positively or negatively?

Viewing this art is exciting for us as it gives audiences the chance to observe the media and self-reflect on how it emotionally impacted us.

However, in a world of political and social correctness, many different forms of art can be suppressed due to the concern of moral panic. The decision not to publish this art, warranted or not, undermines how we consume media.

I did some research into banned or controversial photos. I scrolled through image after image of those criticised for public display. After a while I recognised a common theme: death.

It seems that many of these criticised or banned photos have a close relationship to death, or they in fact are photos of death. So what is it about photography of death that makes it such a delicate taboo?

Embed from Getty Images

Before I start, I wish to outline that I will not be discussing the issue of whether or not it is morally justified to take and publish these images? I know there are many issues, both legally and ethically, surrounding the publication of these images. I will not discuss this in detail, but rather ask the question why do we, as an audience, become so disturbed by images of death?


It surrounds our lives every day.

We hear news stories recalling it, we read books describing it, we see movies commercialising it, and we may even become a witness to it. We live in communities where people we know do die, that is part of life.

As adults, we can become used to it because we have been exposed to it regularly. Sure, it still affects us: although maybe not as profoundly as in the early years of our lives.

Despite an increased tolerance for death within the media, society seems to be jarred by images of death.

Maybe this pain can have something to do with the context of the image? There may be an aspect of the photo that has a special relationship with the audience. For example, a photo of a dead soldier might emotionally affect someone who may have family members who have been in the military.


Photo Credit

Roeder, a WW2 photographer notes that “the longer the war went on, the more futile it seemed to suppress harsh pictures. Casualties within families or communities confronted more and more people with evidence of war’s capacity to kill and maim” (Roeder, 1995).

What about what is not seen in any photo.

Howard Becker notes in his book, ‘Visual Sociology’ that “If we think there is no context, that only means that the maker of the work has cleverly taken advantage of our willingness to provide the context for ourselves” (Becker, 1995).


Photo Credit

The above image helps illustrate Becker’s argument. We don’t know any additional information outside this image.

Is her mother just out of shot? Maybe the vulture is stalking another animal! Do we truly know this small girl is in immediate danger?

We don’t know any of this information, thus our mind generates our own series of events. When we manufacture our own context of the story we tend to assume the worst, making us have compassion for the subjects in the image.

One of the biggest issues of these photos is the suffering it causes the audience. They may be raw images that are confronting and evocative, forcing the reader to peer for only a mere second before having to turn away.

Although, there is an underlying paradox in how we digest these images.

The negative effects of death force us to feel sadness and have empathy for the subjects in the image. This sadness can at times, however, fill us with slight fulfilment. We recognise the bounds of our humanity, the ability to feel empathy for those depicted in the images, and their very confronting circumstances.

This does not mean we necessarily still welcome the image- as it still causes us suffering- rather we appreciate our ability to empathise.

When we petition against publishing images of death, we take away their true target. By saying certain images cannot be published, because of a fear to offend or anger individuals, we are identifying the audience as the sufferer and not the subjects in the image. This filters and blurs the story trying to be told by the photographer: and certainly the narrative of the deceased.

Think of it this way.

Might we be doing the victims a disservice if we do not publish such hard-hitting photographs?

If you had died a violent and unjust death, wouldn’t you want the world to know all the details surrounding that death? (Tooth, 2014)

Extra insight into the world of being a photo editor




Roeder, George. “The Censored War: American Visual Experience During World War Two”. Google Books. N.p., 1995. Web. 30 Mar. 2017.


Becker, Howard. “Visual Sociology, Documentary Photography, And Photojournalism: It’s (Almost) All A Matter Of Context: Visual Sociology: Vol 10, No 1-2”. Tandfonline.com. N.p., 1995. Web. 30 Mar. 2017.


Tooth, Roger. “Graphic Content: When Photographs Of Carnage Are Too Upsetting To Publish”. the Guardian. N.p., 2014. Web. 30 Mar. 2017.


Dabbing grandmas to cancer hoaxes. How online identities are polarizing in success.

What is the weirdest, most bizarre thing you’ve seen online? Maybe it was a webpage? A video? Or maybe even an individual; partaking in strange behaviours, bound to evoke interest from an online audience?
Do you remember how you found it? What you were doing at the time? And, why you found this particular thing so perplexing?

Let me put you in my shoes for a minute. Now this is nowhere near the category of ‘strangest thing online’, but it is quite weird!
She’s an instagrammer.
She’s a grandma.
And she’s a cannabis advocate.

Dabbing Granny’ is her name, and she uploads intriguing videos to her Instagram: smoking bongs, skolling beers, and testing out new varieties of marijuana.
Lame? I know! Ridiculous? Definitely!
However, her content is so compelling; its like you’re barracking for the underdog. ‘A grandma surely shouldn’t be able to do that,’ you may think. So every time you view her uploads, it’s as if you’re willing her on.
Her branding is unique, but entertaining, enthralling and engaging.

In an online context, we see people like this each and every day. From fitness bloggers, to amateur social commentators, to videogame reviewers, individuals moulding their identities in various internet-based platforms.
Image is everything!
How you present yourself to the world around is everything.

Daily, knowingly or unknowingly, our interactions with the world around us subtly shape our identity. ‘The Pygmalion effect’ suggests that identity is not something you create for yourself by yourself; rather your identity emerges through interactions with other people.

This is certainly true in a real world sense, although in this modern world of new and developing technologies- where we can create completely new identities online- this idea is outdated. More digestible is the idea of a ‘splitting’ identity, where particular facets of our identity can be concealed in the real world, and other facets nurtured in the online world.
The distance between performer and audience, that physical detachment makes it easy to conceal aspects of the offline self and embellish the online self. (Bullingham, 2013)

This is illustrated through the example of the ‘Dabbing Granny’, who’s content on her Instagram shows none of her personal life; she only uploads videos which stick to her brand, her online identity.

However, with the opportunity for these identities to become globalized and popular, many individuals can become immersed in the continued interactions with their audience. People consciously seek media for obtaining specific gratifications. The choices people make when consuming media are motivated by their desire to gratify a range of needs (Krishnatray, Singh, Raghavan, and Varma, 2009).

Belle Gibson is an infamous Australian figure who exemplifies this idea.
Many may be familiar with her blog, ‘The Whole Pantry’, which wooed the nation with the miraculous notion that ‘healthy eating cured her brain cancer’. After releasing consistent blogposts her popularity soared, and by late 2014 she was in discussions with major book dealers and even Apple.
It was revealed subsequently in early 2015, that her claims of having multiple cancers were actually fabricated. She had deceived a naïve nation and the world.
This revelation not only brought down the hope of cancer victims, but it showed, in no uncertain terms, how easily individuals can hide behind their online identity and present false information.

Photo: Brent Parker Jones

Belle’s determination to market her brand, and an addiction to gratification and adulation from an audience forced her to fabricate one of the most immoral stories ever presented.

In a study done on ‘Internet Gratifications and Internet Addiction: On the Uses and Abuses of New Media’, the authors note that people become addicted to the pleasurable outcomes associated with a behavior (or identity). After the gratifications are sought, the continued success of the behavior becomes a goal in itself (Song, Larose, Eastin, Lin, 2004).

The opportunities within the Internet are immeasurable. It allows us to develop our identity online; and embrace things we wouldn’t wish to show in a real world sense.
These identities can be weird, quirky, niche: even empowering.
Gratification is an addictive entity and a growing desire to impress online communities can lead us into actions we wouldn’t normally do in the real world.

Initially our foray into a juxtaposed identity online would begin with a subtle understanding that we can be “ found out” as case after case is reported worldwide. Success brings with it gratification that can lead to addiction, that then can lead to the false belief that you can hide your online identity. Hard to sometimes accept, but no, it all comes out in the end.
Tall poppy syndrome- take that successful person down!


Oloo, Frederick. ““Instagratification”: Uses And Gratification Of Instagram By University Students For Interpersonal Communication”. (2013): n. pag. Print.

Petersen, Deborah. “Social Media Redefines Mental Gratification”. The Sydney Morning Herald. N.p., 2013. Web. 30 Mar. 2017.

Song, Indeed et al. “Internet Gratifications And Internet Addiction: On The Uses And Abuses Of New Media”. N.p., 2004. Web. 30 Mar. 2017.

Krishnatray, P., Singh, P. P., Raghavan, S., & Varma, V. (2009). Gratifications from New Media: Gender Differences in Internet Use in Cybercafes. Journal of Creative Communications, 4(1), 19-31. doi: 10.1177/097325861000400102
Bullingham, L. and Vasconcelos, A.C., 2013. ‘The presentation of self in the online world’: Goffman and the study of online identities. Journal of Information Science, 39(1), pp.101-112.

Bullingham, L. and Vasconcelos, A.C., 2013. ‘The presentation of self in the online world’: Goffman and the study of online identities. Journal of Information Science, 39(1), pp.101-112.