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Iconic animals in advertising

Following on from Bella the Chicken’s fame reaching dizzying heights (if you haven’t already, see Tim’s “Don’t be a Chicken” LinkedIn post), we felt inspired to celebrate some brilliant advertising campaigns featuring furry friends. Our list of favourites is pretty subjective and partly influenced by how endearing the animals are, as well as how successful the advertising is. From the nodding Churchill dog to that famous gorilla playing the drums, we’ve picked out our favourites for you to reminisce over.

Compare the Meerkat

Who'd have thought, back in April 2010, that 12 years later those funny little meerkats would still be shouting about insurance? In fact, they've currently got a whopping 129 adverts on their YouTube channel. Aleksandr Orlov and his gang must be raking in the earnings from their TV appearances. Their through-the-line marketing campaign in 2009 included digital out-of-home, paid social, PR and influencer marketing. We saw Aleksandr appearing in "Wanted" posters outside, radio takeovers and disrupting TV ads. And not only all of this, but there's merchandise too. The plus toys can be found on ebay for not insignificant prices, and meerkats now seem to be really popular feature at zoos across the country with many offering special meerkat encounters. They might be a little eccentric, but it seems meerkat mania is still in full swing.


The three frogs, Bud, Weis and Er first shot to fame in 1995 at the American Superbowl, and more recently in 2017 when the nostalgic advert was reinvented with a new frog in the swamp – Light – to advertise their more refreshing drink. Dreamed up by copywriter David Swaine and art director Michael Smith at D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, the work won top honours at the Clios and Cannes Lions. Talking animals isn’t a huge novelty now, but those ugly critters became iconic advertising icons of the time.

Cadbury Caramel

Well, she was quite the flirt wasn’t she?! Voiced by Miriam Margolyes, the Cadbury Bunny spent the 80s and 90s enticing her male animal friends and encouraging viewers to “Take it easy” and enjoy Cadbury Caramel. Whilst this approach would definitely raise a few eyebrows today, it’s nice to enjoy the nostalgia that this character evokes.

Duracell Bunny

The Duracell Bunny is all over their advertising, and he can be a cheeky chap too. Maybe he’s been getting tips from his lady friend at Cadbury. Since he was launched by Mallory Duracell in 1973, he doesn't seem to have stopped. And not only does the bunny feature on the popular TV ads that we’ve all seen, they’ve also partnered with big brands such as Disney and Argos, with adverts featuring toys and characters from top films like Frozen and Marvel Avengers – often aired around Christmas time.


Do you remember the time Churchill Insurance got their dog riding a skateboard? Ohhhh yes. Despite the insurance group encouraging viewers to consider “Isn’t this how insurance should make you feel?” fans were divided – they liked the cartoon nodding dog of the 90s, he was fun and felt reassuring. They perhaps still had the mascot on their car’s back parcel shelf (I’m wondering if I’ve still got mine somewhere). Want our opinion? What’s not to like about a bulldog riding a skateboard? We like it.

PG Tips

The loveable PG Tips chimps were regular features on our screens for many years, enacting relatable everyday scenarios. The chimps were rescued and brought to Twycross to be cared for in the 70s and were trained by its founder Molly Badham. The chimps made their last appearance in 2003 by which time Twycross had rightly stopped the agreement. Their legacy lives on with friendly puppet "Monkey" who is much better suited to life in front of the camera, and comedian Johnny Vegas.

Rolo - Too Good to Share

The Dutch Rolo ad is really iconic, we all remember the elephant that got its revenge on the guy that taunted it as a youngster. We cheered and celebrated when the elephant served the man his comeuppance. It's comical and also plays on our heartstrings a little, and won many awards and fought off Nike at Cannes 96, winning the film Grand Prix. From 1980 to 2003 the advert was followed by the "Do you love anyone enough to give them your last Rolo?" campaign.

Dairy Milk

Campaign Live wrote "Rarely is one TV ad so utterly absurd and effective that it touches a nation, reshapes a brand and leaves advertising purists scrambling for the rulebook." It divided critics - was it a brilliant campaign, or was it just one lucky advert? Why is the gorilla playing the drums, why Phil Collins, and what relevance does all this have to chocolate? It seemed to evade all logical rationale. And yet it worked; after two months, product sales were up by 7% and weekly sales increased 9% year on year whilst the ad was on air. And in addition to this success, it scooped the top award in the film category at the Cannes International Advertising Festival.

What can we learn from this? In this instance, creativity won the day. You don't always need a massive production budget or a multi-location film budget, but a creative idea that intrigues your audience, that isn't afraid to make a big statement and have a little fun might just be the answer.


Got an advertising idea you'd like to chat about? Or maybe you'd just like to say hello to Bella the Chicken? Drop us a line, we're always happy to talk.

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